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). 


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!


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. 

IMG_2677.jpg

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).

DSC_0192.jpg

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

IMG_2728.jpg

 

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.  

 


Shop Update!

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


New yarn posted! 

After several delays due to weather and/or life events, the yarn hand-off between Sam and my mum has finally occurred (in a parking lot in Portsmouth NH near a large mural of a whale, which has become our traditional meeting place for yarn hand-offs). I have two new yarns listed, a 3-Ply Cotswold light fingering weight, designed to replace my 3-Ply Cotswold x Romney fingering weight, and a 3-Ply Romney > Cotswold fingering weight.  

Life on the Sea Lion continues to be lovely and uneventful.  We are in the midst of moving the boat, without guests, up to Baja California where we will have a short spring season. The weather has been perfect and calm (not always a given on these positioning trips - there is a reason we don’t have guests) and the dolphins have been plentiful.  The dolphins are clearly doing their own thing this time of year, which seems to involve lots of very high leaping and splashing, but every now and again a group will take a break from whatever it is they are doing and come ride our bow.  

And, a reader, M., has very kindly identified the moth in my previous blog post. It is a lovely Urania fulgens known more commonly as a swallowtail moth. These day-flying moths live as far south as Bolivia and migrate at seemingly random intervals.  I did a bit of research in our shipboard library (I should have just asked a naturalist, but we work opposite schedules and I always hate to bug them when they are off work) and found a journal article, sadly from 1983, about them.  As of 1983 the best guess as to the random timing of their migrations had to do with the plants they lay their eggs on.  Apparently  they only lay their eggs on one kind of plant, and over the course of successive groups of urania fulgens caterpillars eating its leaves the plant increases the level of toxins in its leaves, until it no longer tastes good/is good for the caterpillars, at which point the moths decamp for someplace where their preferred brood plant isn’t producing quite so much of the toxin. But again, this was published in 1983.  We may now have a more nuanced understanding of their reasons for migration. 

 


And the Dyeing Commences (also, Hello)

by Sarah Lake Upton in


Hello to all of the new folks who read about my yarn in the recent Interweave Knits article!  I had a wonderful two days talking about yarn and dyeing with the author of the article (Selma, who in turn keeps a great blog here) but I must admit that it is a little surreal seeing what otherwise felt like a lovely visit with a fellow fiber enthusiast written up in a major knitting publication. 

To all of you stopping by for the first time, I work with small batches of yarns spun from local fleeces.  My stock is a little low at the moment, due in part to the time of year and also because I just recently came home from working on the boat.  I have some dyeing to catch up on.  I have been home for two weeks now, but as I always do (and always tell myself I won't do this time) I lost a week sitting on the couch catching up on dumb TV and knitting (and cuddling with Nell).

This is Nell.  She wishes the snow would go away and the squirrels would come back. In the meantime she wishes that I would stop bugging her with my camera and go back to rubbing her ears. 

This is Nell.  She wishes the snow would go away and the squirrels would come back. In the meantime she wishes that I would stop bugging her with my camera and go back to rubbing her ears. 

But, this last week I braved the snow (and there has been lots of it) to start working with my new 3-Ply Cotswold fingering weight yarn, which very conveniently returned from the spinning mill a little before I returned from the boat. 

 

The fleece for this yarn comes from Liberty Wool Farm in Palermo Maine.  This is the same flock that in years past provided a lovely group of fleeces from Cotswold Romney crosses.   Last spring there were fewer fleeces from Cotswold Romney crosses, but a lovely group of pure Cotswold fleeces, so, anyone who has been knitting with my 3-Ply Cotswold x Romney fingering weight, please consider using the pure Cotswold version instead.  Hopefully I will have a new batch dyed up in the next week or two. 

Yarn comes from the mill on cones - therefore the first step of dyeing is skeining, and skeining, and skeining, and then building a fort with all of the piles of skeined yarn. 

Yarn comes from the mill on cones - therefore the first step of dyeing is skeining, and skeining, and skeining, and then building a fort with all of the piles of skeined yarn. 

I am always adding new colors and yarns.  One day I am going to be truly organized and start sending out an email newsletter.  In the meantime, If you would like to be added to my hypothetical email newsletter list, please send me an email at uptonyarns@gmail.com with "newsletter" or similar in the subject line.   I am "uptonyarns" on Instagram, and "puffling" on Ravelry.  Upton Yarns also has a Facebook page, which I am terrible at updating but always resolving to be better about.  I am not terribly consistent in my social media presence, but I am trying to be better about that, and I love hearing about what other people are up to knitting wise. And I love photos!

Happy Knitting,

Sarah 


Yarn! Lots of New Yarn (and now I am back on a boat).

by upton in , ,


My time at home was lovely and cold and way too short.  It was also very productive (on the yarn front, though not on the blogging front…). I returned home to find the fleeces I sent off to the mill in the fall returned to me in the form of lovely yarn on cones.  A storm of dyeing ensued.  Yarn took over every available surface in the house, the bathtub was pressed into service for drip-drying, and a giant drying rack took up the prime space in front of the woodstove (much to Nell’s annoyance).

I experimented with new colors and dyed new lots of older colors (which sometimes resulted in new colors).

Pinks and Reds

Sky Blue, Medium Blue, and Indigo

 

Tans

Above, “Light Butternut”, “Rosewood”, and “70% Cacao”.   70% Cacao is actually a fleece from one of Liberty Wool Farm’s Romney rams (he is or will be responsible for the “Romney” portion of the “Cotswold x Romney” yarn).  I had his fleece spun to the same weight as my other 3-Ply fingering weight yarn.

This is “Aspen”, a lovely, lively green, but not quite the “Cress” that I was aiming for. (Natural Dyeing is not an exact science).

Aspen

I am back at my “day job” on the boat.  Last night we finished our transit of the Panama Canal and currently we are bound for Isla Iguana for a bit of snorkeling.  As my very slow internet connection allows I will be updating the “yarn” section of this site to reflect the work of the last few weeks.  In the meantime, if you would like to order any yarn, please email me at uptonyarns (at) gmail.com.  My internet connection is sometimes a bit spotty on the boat, but I can usually check it at least once a day.  Yarn is being shipped out in my absence.