One knitter's battle to conquer the intended gauge . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yarn Along: Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer's Co-operative and Qiviut

Guess what? SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION! I can't say I'm excited about my girls being gone all day and I'm anxious about the time commitment I'm making to homeschool my kindergartener, but I am THRILLED to be back on a regular schedule after a summer of vacations and exciting visitors. It has been wonderful to finally get my children and me in bed at a regular hour so I have my early morning quiet hours to myself again. Yay!

And hopefully I'll have time to write all the blog posts I've been meaning to all summer. We will see about that. :)

But here is one to start. I've been wanting to post this since this summer when I returned from Alaska. While I was there I went to downtown Anchorage and visited the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer's Co-operative shop.  It is a small shop that is mainly for tourists but the idea of the Co-operative is fantastic. It has been around since 1969 and has produced amazing Qiviut knitted items, (pronounced "kiv-ee-ute") which is the downy-soft underwool from the Arctic Musk Ox. On a side note as a child my father hunted a Musk Ox whose head currently hangs on their living room wall (check out my Instagram photo of that). Now that I know how expensive Qiviut is and how amazingly soft it is, I REALLY wish Dad had kept that fiber for me. Didn't he know 25 years later I would be a spinner?!?

Anyway the Co-operative is owned by 250 Native Alaskan women from villages all over Alaska who knit and sell the items to help with their subsistence living in remote villages. Each village has a signature pattern from traditional aspects of their village life and Native culture. The women don't design but just knit the patterns and the Co-op only sells the finished goods or yarn kits, no fiber. Mostly they sell scarves, smoke rings, hats, and one tunic ($625).

They had a board up at the shop with swatches from every animal product you can imagine and Qiviut is BY FAR the softest, most amazing fiber there. But considering that the kit for a baby hat was the cheapest thing in the shop at $90 I couldn't really buy my Alaska souvenir there, only these 2 postcards above.

I wanted to take pictures in the shop but it felt awkward because it is so small and personal. You walk in and there is a front counter where you place your order and one table off to the side where a woman was blocking a smoke ring. So I didn't whip out my camera. But I did take this blurry photo from their brochure because I thought it was a brilliant way to block a cowl, on one of those dress making boards that my mom used when I was a child, only a smaller version. I'm not sure what those kind of boards are called. Mom use to measure and cut her fabric on it but it can't be used as a cutting mat with a rotary cutter because it is kind of made of cardboard like material. I want one to block cowls.

I talked with the man working the counter at the Co-op about the Musk Ox. He said they have a Musk Ox farm in Palmer, an hour from Anchorage, where they get about 50% of the fiber they need. And there are also a few wild Musk Ox herds in Alaska out by the villages where the woman can get fiber. He said that some women chase the Musk Ox into the woods on 4-wheelers and then stop and pick up the fiber that sticks to the trees as the Musk Ox run by. Quite an adventure. The whole place was really fascinating. Someday I want to buy a smoke ring there, when $185 doesn't seem like too much money to spend on a piece of amazing clothing for myself. :)

I've been finishing up a design this week and I finishing Julie of the Wolves. It is a Newbery Medal Award winner, which I am interested in reading these lately as they are clean, easy, but interesting reads. Julie is a young Alaska Native girl and it is about her experience living alone on the Artic Tundra. I thought it was really good. And a fitting book for me this summer.

My design is a cowl, in the beautiful Dyeabolical yarn in the colorway King of the Pond. It is really a fantastic yarn. It is a single ply aran weight but I am using it held double and loving how soft it is. It will be nice and warm for snow sports this winter. My pattern is currently with the test knitters. I am planning to release it next week. As always there will be a discount code here for readers on the release date. Stay tuned!

Sharing with Nicole and Ginny and Andrea.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spinning Straw into Gold: Navajo Plying



Here is the free fiber I received from the yarn store in Homer. The dyer didn't like it but I think it is fun. It is mostly wool but I think she told me it had some nylon and maybe tencel too, I can't remember. It has such different colors I wanted to protect that and not muddy the yarn together so I learned to Navajo ply or chain ply instead of making a barber pole-ish 3 ply. I really like the result.

Here are some Navajo plying tutorials I found useful:

Sarah Anderson's youtube video
Lee Juvan's article in Knitty
Knotty Gals picture tutorial for Navajo plying on a drop spindle
Simply Notables picture tutorial for Navajo plying on a drop spindle

I found Simply Notables to be the best for me. It help me finally understand what I was trying to do. I still need a lot of practice but I'm pretty pleased.

I really want to see how it knits up. It is only about 36 meters but I thought that it could make a fun accent to a hat if I used it with some similar weight mill spun yarn. We shall see. I have two projects that have to be finished before I can cast this yarn on.

Have a great weekend. One more week until school starts again here. I'm not thrilled about the early mornings with the kids but I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine again.

Sharing with Andrea, Linda, and Tami.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Finished Object: Vanilla Socks with a Plaid Twist

This may be the only socks I finish during my Summer of Socks but at least I have 3 more cast on and in progress...

I've talked here before about how I don't like following patterns for socks. It is a portable project that I prefer to not have much thinking involved so I can use sock projects as social knitting time. But I also want the socks to be interesting and not just stockinette or ribbing. I really like the Vanilla Latte pattern but with this tonal yarn I wanted a little more design going on.

So here is what I did:
  • Every 9th row (or so I just eyeballed it) when the pattern called for a knit and purl row, I did a row of purl stitches to make that square plaidish look. 
  • When I got to the foot I had three columns of squares still going down the foot. About 4 inches from the end I stopped doing a purl row on one column. Then I knit another repeat of the 9 row square ending with a purl row and then stopped knitting a purl row in that column. One more repeat ending with a purl row in the last column and then ended the purl rows. So the last 2 inches of the foot are just straight stockinette. On the second foot I alternated the columns that I ended the purls rows with first so that the socks were not identical but mirror images. It makes the pattern a little more exciting but didn't require much thinking. 

So now look at the left big toe on the last picture. See that row of ladders that look like a dropped stitch but isn't? Why does that happen? What am I doing as I decrease for my toes that causes those gaps on the stitches? It is annoying and I can't figure out why it is happening. Any suggestions?

I gave these socks to my sister, Michelle, the crazy photo bomber from my last post and the foot model here, for her birthday. It is challenging to give away something that took weeks to make. But I purchased the yarn with her in mind 2 years ago so I wanted to stick with that. You better wear them Michelle!! :)

Sharing with Linda, Tami, and Andrea this week.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer of Socks and Apricots, Vacations, Family...

Remember when I use to blog regularly? Before I left on an epic adventure driving to Alaska and taking pictures of half knit socks and sock yarn in the most beautiful places? (You know it has been awhile since you last posted about knitting when all your sidebar ads are about Alaska now.)

Yarn: Candy Skeins Spearmint
Pattern: Vanilla Latte Socks with Modifications (come back Friday for finished photos and modification specifics!)

My Alaska souvenir: Fingering weight yarn from Knitty Stash in Homer, AK.
Colorway: Chugach Forest (except that it was labeled "Not Quite Perfect" so it was discounted!)
And mysterious fiber (mostly wool) that was on the free shelves left behind by a dyer who was less than pleased with it. I love it!

And then I came home to a gigantic apricot tree full of ripe apricots.  I mean FULL. I was buried in apricots here for a week or two or three. I gave them away to everyone I could. I preserved them in every form I could think of. Jams. Syrup. Leathers. Puree. Dried. The syrup is really amazing. I just used some to sweeten by peppermint tea. So good.

And then I played with my family as they came to Utah for a reunion. Hiking to Cecret Lake in Alta to see the beautiful wildflowers.

And hosted a cousin party for my 70 cousins (okay only 30 came) as part of our family reunion weekend.  There is my sister Michelle photo bombing my picture of my favorite cousin, Larry (in the middle), my little sister Suzanne, and my cousin Ben, who miraculously survived a heart attack in his 30's. It is so fun having a large family!

And that is it. That's why I've not been around here a few weeks. Now I have 3 weeks to get my life back into some recognizable order just knit before school starts. :) (And read my new book, Julie and the Wolves. It is a Newbery award winner and really interesting so far.)

Joining with Nicole, Ginny, and Tami.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Postcard from Homer Alaska

We celebrated Independence Day in Homer, Alaska. It was beautiful playing on the sunny beach. We are headed home tomorrow morning -- 3300 miles! But the husband is driving with me so lots of knitting time. Lower 48 here we come!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Postcard from Rabbit Lake

It has been raining here most of this week. It is hard to really appreciate the beauty of Alaska when all the mountains are covered by rain clouds. But this Saturday the sun came out. Yay! We celebrated by going on 12.5 mile hike from the trailhead of Rabbit Lake to McHugh Creek. It was more than twice as long as any hike Adelle has done. But she was a trooper and did it with very little whining. Isn't it just beautiful? We hiked past the tree line through the taiga and onto the tundra. Tundra is spongy and fun to walk on. I love hiking to Rabbit Lake!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Postcard from Beluga Point

Driving along the Turnagain Arm from Anchorage to Girdwood is the most beautiful drive on a clear day. As high school students with new drivers licenses we use to come to this place on the inlet, Beluga Point, take photos, hike around, watch the sunset, kiss boys, you know the usual high school activities. :) In fact as a child when my parents left on a date and told us they were going to watch the submarine races I really thought this was where they were going!

I'm passing on my love of Beluga Point to a new generation. But hopefully not encouraging them to be kissing boys there!