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. 

frightful weather .jpg

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! 

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.





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.

Thank you to all pink yarn buyers

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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, 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.


New Colors, and a very silly sachet

by Sarah Lake Upton in

New colors of the Bluefaced Leicester - DK weight spun from the luminous fleeces of Two Sisters Farm are now available over on the sale page.  (I may have gotten a bit carried away....).  All profits from the sale of the pink colorways will be donated to the ACLU.

And speaking of getting carried away, a bit of crankyness over having to spend an exorbitant amount of money for a tiny little bottle of bay leaves from the grocery store, rather than the sensible price when buying in bulk from our old co-op in Midcoast Maine, ultimately led to the creation of lovely little sachets full of things that the internet assures me moths dislike.   (Because it turns out that a pound of bay leaves isn't actually that expensive, but what home cook needs a pound of bay leaves? And then the next thing I knew Sam had a design in mind for the stamp, and once one has a stamp in mind, one must make the thing).



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.

Selling yarn in person 7/22/16

by Sarah Lake Upton in

I will be vending yarn at the Tidal Tours Island of Wool yarn retreat on Friday, July 22.  I'm bringing most of my inventory including knitting kits and BFL DK weight, so if you've been eyeing any particular color way just a heads up that it may not be available after Friday morning.   (The lovely BFL fleeces from Two Sisters farm are off to the mill, and 2016 BFL should be arriving by the fall, so if you do miss out on a colorway  let me know and I'll make sure to dye more once I get the base yarn back). 



I Wish I Was in Cordova, Alaska.

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

We are alongside in Petersburg, Alaska today and I have taken advantage of my morning off to run to a coffee shop and catch up a bit on all the Instagram postings from participants in the Net Loft's Fiber & Friends: Fisherfolk 2016 gathering . Much as I love Petersburg, and my job, I am so very bummed that I am not in Cordova this week sharing in all the gansey knitting, indigo dyeing, and general crafting. 

So, hello to all of you in Cordova at the moment.  For those of you on Instagram #cordovaganseyproject is full of gorgeous ganseys, and #fiberandfriends2016fisherfolk is likewise a tag to check out. 

The Net Loft commissioned a run of my Straw's Farm Island Sheep Gansey yarn.  If you are interested in working with gansey yarn spun from Maine island sheep, please buy through the Net Loft first, but if you have a color way in mind, or the color you want is sold through, please get in touch - I have a bit more of undyed yarn at home, which I will begin working with again during the middle of July. 

Spring is for Farm Visits

by Sarah Lake Upton in

I spend much of my winter in Central America (very warm, when my New England raised self should be cold) and much of my summer in Southeast Alaska (requiring long underwear and wool hats in July) and every six weeks I get to go home and experience the seasons in the order I expect them to be in, before six weeks later I head back to the opposite climate.  The effect is a disorienting strobe light of seasons.   I leave home when the leaves have fallen and the first snows are nigh, spend six weeks with near constant sun, ninety per cent humidity, and an oppressive heat, then return home to find feet of snow.  Later I will leave home just as the leaves are spreading new green in the first breath of summer, only to work in a place where my knitwear will find heavy use, and return to find the leaves exhausted in the heat of high summer.   I never realized how much I was conscious of the turning of the seasons until I stopped being subject to them.  My major seasons are not longer “fall, winter, spring, summer” but “Columbia River, Central America, Baja, Alaska”.  The Maine farm calendar acts as counter point to the rhythm of my new style of year, at least as it pertains to sheep and wool.  Spring and early summer is the time for shearing, and therefore the time farm visits and wool buying.  

Because of my boat schedule I often miss the actual shearing day, but as soon thereafter as I can manage I appear on the farm, shipping boxes in hand.  ‘

This most recent rotation home I visited two farms.  Next rotation home I will visit two, or possibly three, more (and maybe even more than that, depending on how ambitious I feel and how much money I have left in the fleece buying/yarn processing account after the second two visits). 

First up, mere days after I arrived home, were the luminous Coopworth fleeces of Buckwheat Blossom farm.  In a very real way I owe the existence of Upton Yarns to Amy and her fleeces.  Years ago, when I was just settling back onto land (for the first time, or possibly the second depending on how one counts these things) and proudly joined the Buckwheat Blossom Farm Winter CSA (because that is the kind of thing people who live on land get to do) I came across a skein of Amy’s two ply Aran weight Coopworth yarn, in natural gray, sitting on the CSA pick-up table between jars of her home made kim chi and jars of whole milk yogurt from a nearby small dairy herd.  The yarn had a texture and color unlike anything I had ever seen, luminous and silky, with a strength in the hand. It was so unlike anything that I had ever seen before that I couldn’t even immediately identify it as wool.  Eventually I bought enough to knit myself an aran which has only improved with age and wear (original photos on Ravelry, where I go by “puffling”).  Her yarn inspired me to throw myself into researching breed specific yarns, which led quite naturally to natural dyes, which led to a crankiness as the dearth of local yarn (much easier to find now - I think a lot of us in Mid-Coast Maine were feeling a similar frustration at the time, and reacted in similar ways) which led me to experiment a bit, and then buy a couple of fleeces from Amy and start Upton Yarns.   

So it is with a sense of gratitude and pride that I return every year to buy her fleeces, which I then send off to Stonehedge Fiber Mill to be spun into gransey yarn, and occasionally a 3 Ply DK weight.  Every year I find her flock a little larger, and her fleeces even more beautiful.   

 Each of these bundles contains an individual, magical, fleece. Amy usually includes the name of the sheep that grew the fleece somewhere in the bundle as well, but most of the time Amy doesn't have to look at the name tag to recognize the former wearer. 

Each of these bundles contains an individual, magical, fleece. Amy usually includes the name of the sheep that grew the fleece somewhere in the bundle as well, but most of the time Amy doesn't have to look at the name tag to recognize the former wearer. 


I went to the farm intending to photograph the whole fleece choosing process, but I was quickly overwhelmed by fiber enthusiasm and completely failed to be a proper photographer.  I arrived to find that Amy had already set out a selection of fleeces she thought might interest me, which of course they did.  

I managed one photo for Instagram purposes, which I also then sent to a friend of mine (Sarah of FiberTrek) to see if she wanted to share a fleece for handspinning, which we almost did before both of us remembered the size of our respective stashes.  (I added the fleece to the darker brown gansey yarn pile).  

Once the fleece had all been weighed and boxed up I went to meet her flock, who were clearly enjoying their summer hair cuts.

Amy still makes her own incredible aran weight yarn, which she sells at the winter farmers market in Brunswick.

  photo credit - Sam Upton   Willy of Two Sisters Farm (on the right) and myself with a stack of boxes soon to be filled with fleece (on the left). 

photo credit - Sam Upton  Willy of Two Sisters Farm (on the right) and myself with a stack of boxes soon to be filled with fleece (on the left). 

Wise to my own failings as a photographer when fleece is involved, I brought Sam with me on my visit to Two Sisters Farm.   Willy keeps a large (by small farm standards) mixed flock of BFL, Northern Cheviot, and Scottish Blackface on one of the most quintessentially beautiful Maine farms I have ever had the pleasure of exploring.  I learned about her Scottish Blackface through the Maine Fiber grapevine, and initially approached her last year hoping to make use (somehow) of such interesting fleece.   I still haven’t quite figured out the best use for her Scottish Blackface (I’m working on a second experiment this year) but while I was looking at the Scottish Blackface I fell in love with her BFL, which makes a really lovely 3-ply DK weight.  

  photo credit - Sam Upton

photo credit - Sam Upton

  photo credit - Sam Upton

photo credit - Sam Upton

  photo credit - Sam Upton -  Not all the fleece makes it to the wool boxes - sometimes the sheep can't wait until shearing day to start getting rid of their winter coats. 

photo credit - Sam Upton - Not all the fleece makes it to the wool boxes - sometimes the sheep can't wait until shearing day to start getting rid of their winter coats. 

 Kate Davie’s Epistrophy, knit with the BFL DK weight yarn spun from 2015 fleece,  in Aspen (lighter green) and Tongas (at the yoke). Buttons from Fringe Supply Company

Kate Davie’s Epistrophy, knit with the BFL DK weight yarn spun from 2015 fleece,  in Aspen (lighter green) and Tongas (at the yoke). Buttons from Fringe Supply Company

I'm looking forward to my next most favorite time of the year, when all the fleece that I mailed out to Deb at the mill comes back to me as yarn.  I'm already dreaming of the colors I will get to play with. 

edited because I am "puffling" on Revelry, not "puffing" as autocorrect would have it. 

One new dye lot

by Sarah Lake Upton in

 3 Ply Romney > Cotswold fingering weight, Northern Forest

3 Ply Romney > Cotswold fingering weight, Northern Forest


As a bit of an experiment I am listing the above yarn from now until Friday morning (10:00 am Friady May 20 to be exact).  I'm heading back to the boat on Saturday, so all packages will be mailed out Friday afternoon.  The long story is that I spent my of my time home dyeing more yarn for the Cordova Gansey Project or on other projects, which means that after six weeks home this dye lot is the sole thing I have for direct sale through the website.   There are 28 skeins in this dye lot. Skeins are 105 yards, dyed with natural indigo and weld.   I'm eyeing it thinking of knitting Kate Davies Fantoosh  or maybe a cardigan, which is half of why I am listing it now - I can only keep so much yarn for myself, and this is a dye lot I could very much talk myself into keeping!

What I Got Up To Whilst Home Part 2: scads of gansey yarn

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

I have been looking forward to this project all year.  First, if you haven’t yet read Dotty’s amazing posts about her Cordova Gansey Project and all that inspired it, you should go to her blog post haste.    Cordova, Alaska,  is a fishing town, and Dotty and her family are fisherfolk.  To very briefly summarize her wonderful eleven part series of posts; while attending Shetland Wool Week she was drawn to the knitting traditions of a culture of fishermen and inspired to bring them to her modern day (though not that different) fishing village in Alaska.  To that end she has created the Cordova Gansey Project, bringing together people interested in all aspects of gansey study, design, creation, and wear.  This June (date) she will be hosting a week of classes and yarn adventure in Cordova in celebration of ganseys and fisherfolk.  The list of teachers reads like a who’s who of the knitters and dyers I am in awe of.

I love everything about this project (history! boats! complicated forms of traditional knitting!) but the bit that I am personally honored by is that a special batch of my gansey yarn will be at the Netloft for this event.  The fleece for this gansey yarn comes from Straw’s Farm, in Newcastle, Maine.  Or rather, the farm is in Newcastle, but the sheep themselves live year round on an Island in Penobscot Bay.  The island has been occupied by sheep for the last two hundred years or so; whatever breed they started as has been lost to time (hence the unwieldy yarn name, “Straw’s Farm Island Sheep”).  The moment I learned about this flock I knew that I had to use their fleece in some project, and when Dotty got in touch about her Gansey Project I knew that it was the perfect match - heritage island wool from Maine going to a gansey project in Alaska.

There are a variety of different fleece and yarn buying models for small yarn producers. Some have their own flocks and sell yarn only derived from that flock, some buy fleece from wool brokers or wool pools, some buy base yarns from a third party, and some, like me, buy fleeces directly from small farmers.  The time needed to get from fleece to yarn to finished yarn varies, as one might imagine, depending on the source of the fleece and the mill that does the spinning.  I tend to start planning my fleece buy in February, buying fleece as the sheep are sheared (the timing of which depends on the farm in question).  Then it’s a matter of getting fleece to the mill, and the mill getting the yarn back to me.  If I send fleece in June I sometimes get it back in August, or sometimes I get it back in January: a lot depends on the size of the job and complexity of the yarn.  This is a long way of saying that I have been planning my part of this project since last February, and finally during my last rotation home I got to work with the yarn.  

Last June Sarah of FiberTrek was good enough to help me pick up 172 lbs of island wool from Straw’s Farm (contributing her Subaru to the cause).

(For anyone who has ever been curious about what 172 lbs of fleece packed into the back of a station wagon looks like.)

Shortly thereafter it was off to the mill, and then all I could do was wait. And wait. And wonder. And plot.

And then in January the boxes started arriving back from the mill.

And I started turning coned yarn into skeins for scouring and dyeing.  And once I had enough yarn ready, my world become all indigo all the time.

(The pot on the left is for scouring. The shorter pot on the right is my indigo pot.)

For all of my plotting and planning, once I started dyeing I left a lot of room for serendipity.  Natural indigo is a funny thing.  Sometimes a certain batch is just a little more gray or a little more blue than the preceding batch, and sometimes really amazing colors just appear for no predictable reason.  So when I was lucky enough to get a really unique batch I let it stand rather than continuing to dye it to a dark blue.

I let the batch on the left stay as it was.  Ultimately I ended up with a few more lots this color - Child’s Glacier

And the finished yarn started piling up;

And piling up;

And eventually I had five colors.

And then it all went out to the Netloft.  Anyone interested in this yarn, or in the Cordova Gansey Project, should get in touch with Dotty.  

And then waaaaay too quickly my rotation home was over and it was back to the Sea Lion for me, but I took a bit of my gansey yarn with me to swatch.  

I swatched without any project in mind, just trying out motifs that I’ve been curious to see in person. I need to tuck ends and block it a bit harder (this yarn has spirit!) but already I am in love with the result.

I have always thought of my ganseys as armor against bad weather and the world; portable, fitted, security blankets for adventure (because in my experience Adventure! is generally cold and wet).  My ganseys are not for wearing indoors when the heat could be turned up a few degrees; I bring them out when I am working outdoors or doing slightly scary things in cold weather.  In my earlier life that meant sanding and painting small boats in a barn heated just enough so the paint would kick, or sailing a schooner in bad weather, or parking cars on the deck of a ferry in a Maine winter, or chopping firewood; now that I am a bit more domesticated these days they come out for cold mornings on deck in Alaska and winter walks with the dog.  The Straw’s Farm Island Sheep gansey yarn is perfect for this sort of gansey, dense and tough, but with a little bit of elasticity.  From an artistic standpoint, the spinning is ever so slightly irregular which combined with the slightly uneven dyeing lends a depth and texture and personality to the stitches.  There are occasional small bits of kemp, which I was at first a little surprised and annoyed by (I didn’t even notice the kemp in the fleece!) but I have come to love, because it is a reminder of island sheep turning their backs to a cold Gulf of Maine wind and just going on about their sheepy business because there’s no point in getting upset about the weather.  Which is exactly how I feel wearing a gansey.
And for those on the Coopworth Gansey yarn wait list, the Coopworth sheep of Buckwheat Blossom Farm have been shorn.  As soon as I get home from this rotation on the Sea Lion (middle of April) I will be visiting the farm, catching up with Amy, and selecting fleeces.  

Engineer’s Armwarmers Kits and DK weight BFL, or: What I Got Up To During My Last Rotation Home.

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

Now that we are in Costa Rica for the winter and the engine room thermometer measures 100 degrees it seems impossible that only during my last rotation (when the boat was in Alaska) I was thinking about what to layer under my coveralls to stay warm, but I really was, and my solution was a pair of armwarmers in a random rib inspired by the geological formations of the Endicott Arm in Southeast Alaska.  


With a little bit of shaping for the forearm and the simplest of holes for the thumb they are lovely and simple to knit.  When I wrote up the pattern I realized how little yarn the three accent colors actually required and so I decided to make up a few kits.  And once I decided to make kits, I got a little carried away, but in a good way.  

I talked Sam into drawing a crossed pipe wrench and set of knitting needles, which I then turned into a block print. 


And on a lazy Sunday morning printed flour-sack muslin bags.  

And once there were bags, there had to be stitch markers.  So I got in touch with Wendy at Blue Dog Workshop (a fellow Mainer) who has made lovely stitch markers for me in the past, to see if she might have any charms that fit the emerging theme.  She had the perfect charm in mind, and was happy to pair it with a light blue bead the color of glacier ice.   (I wish I had taken a better photo of just the stitch marker before I left - I could not be more pleased).


All in all, I had a lovely time putting the kits together and am really pleased with the results.  



In addition to working with my Romney > Cotswold fingering weight yarn for the kits, I also got to dye this year’s worsted spun DK weight Bluefaced Leicester from Two Sisters Farm in Woolwich, Maine (I feel like I earlier mis-identified the farm as being in Waldoboro, which is one town over).  

The yarn is lovely and lustrous and soft and also the perfect weight for knitting Kate Davie’s Epistrophy, which has been on my “to knit” list ever since Yokes was released.  I will admit that I dyed the Aspen and Tongas color ways with my Epistrophy in mind. 

Sadly, I had to return to the boat before I gathered my courage to cut the steek, but it is almost finished, and I really enjoyed the pattern and am very happy with how it is turning out. 

The remaining BFL (that I didn't hoard for myself) is currently listed for sale here. 

I will be on the boat in the sweltering heat until mid-January, dreaming of colder climes and knitting. 

The sunsets are lovely here though.

    Flamenco Anchorage, waiting to head into the Panama Canal, Caribbean bound. 


Flamenco Anchorage, waiting to head into the Panama Canal, Caribbean bound. 

n Which I have been Home for Five Weeks and Many Things Happened, or, New Yarn and a New Apartment!

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

First, the big news:  my husband has been accepted into a graduate program at Clark University in GIS.  On the positive side, the program is one of the best in the country in this field, employment potential post graduation is very high, and he is genuinely interested in the subject and the actual work.  On the down side, Clark is in Massachusetts, and so I spent much of my time home anxiously refreshing Craigslist Worcester trying to find the elusive perfect apartment that is near Clark and also accepts dogs (of the two of us, I am far pickier about where we live, so the apartment hunting falls to me).  We finally succeeded in finding the right apartment, though I am superstitious enough about such things that until we have actually moved in I will not say for sure that we have the apartment, and I will not fully relax about it.  Neither one of us want to leave Maine, but it will only be for a few years, and then we will be back (fingers crossed).  In the mean time I will continue to buy fleece from the same Maine farmers who have supplied me with such lovely fleece in the past, and explore the potential of flocks in western Massachusetts, of which I hope there are many.   Astute observers will notice that I no longer list “Maine” after “Natural Dyes, New England wool” on my yarn tags.  I have left that space blank, because I can’t bring myself to list “Massachusetts”.  I mean no offense to folks who are from Massachusetts (my dad grew up outside of Boston) but New England is full of regional chauvinism, and folks from Massachusetts are the first to understand that to other New Englanders “Massachusetts” carries a certain something.  That said, I am looking forward to getting to know a new city. 

 3 Ply Coopworth Sportweight 

3 Ply Coopworth Sportweight 

Astute observers will also notice that I mentioned new yarn tags, because while have been home I have also been dyeing up a storm.  My 2015  3-Ply Coopworth Sportweight is available in a very purposeful looking color run, which is one of those happy accidents of natural dyes since the only color I actually planned was the deep red Pomegranate, and everything else followed.   This batch of yarn was spun to a slightly lighter weight than my previous 3-Ply sport weight which was itself on the heavy end of the spectrum for sport weight, so people who have worked with my 3-Ply sport weight previously may want to swatch again.  The yarn is available here.   

Spring is also the time to pick up fleeces.  This year I am exploring fleeces from a couple of new farms (to me).  Currently at the mill is Blue Faces Leicester from Two Sisters Farm in Waldoboro, Maine, which is being worsted spun into a light Aran weight yarn, and on Sunday the intrepid Sarah Hunt (of Fiber Trek) was good enough to lend me her time and her Subaru to transport 172 pounds of Straw’s Farm Island fleece from Straw’s Farm in Damariscotta, Maine to my workspace, from where it will be picked up on Wednesday (hopefully) to go to the mill.  The island wool will be spun into a 5-Ply Gansey yarn in support of the Cordova Gansey Project, masterminded by Dotty of the Netloft in Cordova, Alaska.  I will make a proper post about it in the future (because it deserves its own post - or series of posts) but for now, please go check out Dotty’s amazing posts of the subject.  She has managed to put so many of my very inchoate feeling about knitting and history and ganseys and the  sea into very eloquent words, and she has done in so well that the next time someone asks me about my feelings of connention to gansey knitting I may just point them to her posts. 

I return to the boat this Saturday.  I will be meeting the Sea Lion in Sitka, Alaska.  As always my time home has passed way too quickly, but I am looking forward to our Alaska season.  


Back to the Day Job, New Yarn will be Listed Soon (thank you for your patience)

by Sarah Lake Upton in , ,

As advertised, I am back in my blue coveralls, at work aboard the Sea Lion.  Returning to the boat requires just as much of a mental shift as returning home does.  I’ve spend the last week pausing every so often to wonder if that thing has always made that sound, and is that rattle new, and does this space normally smell like that?  

Just as I apparently lose the first week home to the couch and my dog, no matter how well I plan or how strong my resolve to do better this time, I lose the last week at home to last minute dyeing/preparing to leave home for six weeks (or eight weeks this time).   This time I lost a whole day during my last week home to a week-earlier-than-I-expected shearing at Buckwheat Blossom Farm, which led to a lovely farm visit and a lot of fleece off to the mill (for my 2015 gansey yarn, and the return of my 3-Ply Coopworth Sport-weight) but also meant that I did not have time to meet up with my mom to give her my new inventory.  So, until my husband can coordinate a trip to Portsmouth,  which will hopefully happen soon, new yarn will remain unlisted.  This is probably a good thing, as the other item on my “to-do” list that I failed to tick off was the whole posting-new-items/newsletter business. I will now be designing a newsletter and posting yarn via the ship’s satellite internet system, which is a bit slow for photos.  I apologize for the delay, and am grateful for your patience. 

To offer a preview: 

I will be offering two yarns, one fingering weight and one slightly lighter fingering weight, both spun from mixed flock of Cotswold and Romney at Liberty Wool Farm in Palermo Maine.  My 3-Ply Cotswold fingering weight yarn is meant to replace the 3-Ply Cotswold x Romney fingering weight yarn of previous years.  I have dyed it two shades of blue, lots of pine green, and a dark gray, as well as leaving a fair amount an undyed natural cream color.  The second yarn is from a group of sheep with slightly more Romney than Cotswold in their lineage (hence the name “Romney > Cotswold” - naming yarns is difficult).  The fleece is a bit shorter and a bit crimpier than the more even Cotswold x Romney fleece, and the resulting yarn has a pleasing smoothness and bounce.  The yarn is spun to a more traditional fingering weight.  These fleeces were mainly mid-brown, and they blended to a dark gray/brown color that I am calling Bark.  Because the undyed yarn is dark, I could only create darker colors when dyeing, but using a darker yarn as my base added quite a bit of depth to the resulting color. I am quite happy with the forest green, dark indigo, deep brown, and oxblood red that the yarn achieved. 

On a slightly more boat related note - while fixing the hinge on the door to the laundry storeroom I noticed this lovely creature keeping one of the stews company.