63) Not-ro

Posting in advance…  woooo!!!

As this arrives publically on the Interwebs, I will just about be arriving in Cockermouth, avec parents, to visit the utterly inimitable (though there have been attempts) Woolfest!

I had hoped, before I left, to finish the Noro-like spinning experiment.  Well…  I have spun one bobbin full of singles, and a second is on the wheel:

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The singles are looking a lot like genuine Noro singles, too:

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The biggest question in my mind is: how are the singles brought together to look so much like a single ply?  Normally, the two plies of a yarn do not merge into each other so well as they do in Noro Kureyon, which I think is the single biggest reason people have for failing to believe it's a two-ply.  It just *looks* so much like a single.  The ply angle on Kureyon is very shallow, so it is only lightly plied; I think the singles must be correspondingly lightly spun, but how that can be done without the wheel pulling them apart, I don't know.  It will be very interesting to see how my plied yarn stacks up.

62) Rewinding

One of my favourite parts of dyeing yarn is the bit where you get to re-wind the skeins.  Not only does it untangle all the strands so that they lie straight and smooth and sleek again, but it also breaks up any obvious patterns left by the dyeing process.

This is three skeins of 'Flow', in colour 'rosewood':

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The two on the left have been rewound; the one on the right is still waiting.  The skein that hasn't been rewound still looks pretty awesome, but the final transformation into the finished skein is like magic, and it 'gets' me every time.

 

61) …and I haven’t even made it to Woolfest, yet!

After a fairly heinous mix-up last week re: holidays and work and other stuff, I'm grabbing a couple of days of holiday in the sunny North East, staying with my parents.  Who live conveniently within reach of Cockermouth, aka Woolfest.

Today, though, was Whitby and Staithes, where we witnessed the locals paddling:

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and cycling:

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Hmm.  Well, I suppose if it's good for horses, it's good for cyclists.  Maybe not so good for the bike itself, though.

Whitby is home to Bobbins, a very lovely yarn shop where I typically browse for an hour or so and then leave empty handed.  Today, though, I may have bought yarn:

Yarn

Two skeins of Noro Silk Garden lite/sock, in beautiful soft, pale neutrals.  I'm not actually sure I can remember the last time I bought pretty yarn for myself, just because; I'm planning a lacy, garden party-style shrug with this little lot.

60) Labels!!

Yes, you've guessed it (at least, some of you).  I'm going to be selling my own hand-dyed yarn, in the very near future.  I'm incredibly excited to have my sticky little paws on the first batch of labels, right here:

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I've been building up to this for a while.  I've been gradually, methodically, learning my dye craft for over a year.  I own a domain name, http://www.yarnscape.co.uk/, though currently it only points to my Etsy store, which is empty.  And all the time, I've been too shy to say anything.  Clearly, hiding behind a bush at the back of my garden, quietly whispering "sssh!  don't tell anyone, but i have some pretty yarn for sale…" isn't really going to work out in the long run.  The last thing I want to do is turn into one of those bloggers who only ever post to say, "Hey!  Shop update!", or "Hey! Sale!", but I really am, genuinely, very excited about this.

And I can't say how blown away I've been by the lovely comments I've been receiving on my sneak previews.  Thank you, everyone!

59) First fruits roots tubers

I noticed yesterday that some of the early potato tops are starting to die back.  After my first thoughts ("Oh noes!!  Not enough water!"), I remembered that they do this when ready, or at least nearly so.  So we dug up a couple of plants.

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Spuds!!  Now, I know that this is hardly going to be knocking chunks off my grocery bill (I've thrown out more potatoes than this in one go, because they were sprouty/weird/wrinkled), and hell, this shouldn't be major news to me because I think Dad has grown his own potatoes every single year since I was born, and yeah, we definitely need to learn how not to stick the garden fork right into the biggest potatoes of the bunch, but, DUDES!!  These are potatoes!  From my garden!!!

I also happen to know that home-grown new potatoes are one of the tastiest things ever.  With mint.  And butter.  NOM!

ETA: That really isn't many potatoes; I have *tiny* hands, especially for someone who is 6ft tall.  That ring you can just see on my little finger?  It's a toe ring.  Yeah.

58) Quality time with the drumcarder

Sunday saw an unexpected lull in the crazy merry-go-round that has been my life over the last couple of months, so I spent much of the day lazing around and playing with wool

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The dyed fleece from a last week made a whole bunch of fluffy batts, which co-ordinate very well with the lusciously flowering lavendar bushes.  The waste from the drum carder was incorporated into a final mixed batt, somewhat neppy and badly photographed:

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But where's the pink, you ask??  Ah, yes, the pink:

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It really is quite pink, isn't it?

You see, this is my first attempt at using Rod, Jane and Freddy to re-create a Noro-Kureyon style yarn, all of my own.  And it seems traditional – if not downright mandatory – to include a somewhat crazy colour in each skein – why not pink?

I have, actually, spun most of a bobbin full of loose, fluffy singles already, and have started on the second.  Kureyon, despite popular received wisdom, is actually a two ply yarn, so I'm weighing carefully, and hoping that my colours will line up when I come to ply the stuff.

57) Riverford, scalability, and balance

There has been a lot of discussion on Lesley's blog, recently, about good environmental practice, ethical practice, buying local, buying organic, and selling out.

Riverford organic boxes are one company that's been hotly debated.  They have garnered flak for selling out, for putting thousands of 'food miles' on the roads every year with their lorries, and even for having noisy and inconsiderate drivers.

On the other hand, they were introduced into the conversation because they were one commenter's best chance of getting fresh, organic produce in the middle of London.

As a Riverford customer, I read the discussion with interest, surprise, amusement and, at times, indignation.  I wouldn't say I'm a staunch advocate of Riverford, and they are definitely now a 'big business', but I honestly think they are doing a good job, right now, in the world as it is, right now.  And they are a really good example of the sort of business that will have to grow and flourish before ethical consumerism can become a mainstream choice instead of the niche preserve of the few.

Is it perfect?  No.

In our perfectionism, we get dangerously close to doing nothing at all.  Yes, ideally perhaps we should all live in small, self-sufficient communities where we can trade strawberries for fresh milk over the garden gate, but we don't.  And we can't.  England is not self sufficient  There are too many humans on the soil of this country for there to be enough soil remaining to feed them.

Is it better?  Yes.
Those that have the time and the inclination to grow (a significant amount of) their own produce are actually few and far between.  We only feel like we are many because we talk to our own kind.  We will always go out of our way to become informed, to do our bit, to go above and beyond.  Those that don't give a crap about where their food comes from so long as they can eat cheap chicken for dinner every day actually form the vast majority of this society.  We can't do much about them except wait for the trickle-down effect to permeate the way food is delivered to them, or perhaps hope to spark the occasional epiphany.  The people in the middle are the ones who are crying out for help.  There *are* a lot of them, and they care, but if you don't make it easy for them, they're not going to follow their instincts.  They probably work full time, have children, pets, a home to care for and you don't want to know what else (yes, you might do too.  Everyone organises their priorities differently, and that's the point I'm trying to make).  Their options are usually the local supermarket, the local farmer's market or farm shop, or a veg box.  I don't know about you, but my local supermarket flies its organic green beans in from South Africa, and its mange tout from Israel, and packages them in huge quantities of plastic, to boot.  My local farm shop (though it has an excellent, local butcher's shop attached) turned me off the first time I visited by presenting me with large, suspiciously shiny aubergines at knock-down prices.  In November.

We have become programmed to believe that a big business is necessarily bad.  That becoming a big business entails selling out.  That a big business is necessarily lying to us, and 'spinning' everything they tell us.  But a big business is probably the only type that the harried middle-people can find, and can trust to cater to them in the chaos of their daily merry-go-rounds.  And pretty much every business starts out small, and grows because people like what they do.  Even Starbucks.  Even MacDonalds.  And even Tesco.

I honestly believe that companies like Riverford do their best.  I know they never air freight.  But did you know that hothouse tomatoes in the off-season are just as bad, in terms of carbon emissions, as air-freighted?  So they have chosen to truck tomatoes up from northern Spain which, horrifying as it sounds, is less bad.  The trucks heading up the M5, distressing though they might be if they pass your front door, are less painful than the planes flying in from South Africa (and then the trucks heading out from whereever airport to the supermarkets).  They have pitched their business at the middle-people.  The ones who want to make a difference but who are, as yet, unwilling to accept that fresh tomatoes are actually only available, by nature, three months of the year.

Small changes add up.  They really do.  Maybe it is arrogance to believe we can change, or save the world, but an attitude of responsibility can't hurt, can it?

54) View of a Sunday morning

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Foreground to background: the edge of my laptop screen, some dye bottles, the patio table (shade already up), lavendar and the garden.  There may be a puppy tail waving amongst the lavendar or a nose poking through; if not in this shot, then sometime very shortly after or before.

J is out of shot to the left, painting the new (to us) shed.  I have work to do; a pattern to finish grading, and another to check.  Yesterday was World Wide Knitting In Public day, and I forgot to put sunscreen on my front.

Just resting on the edge of the patio table and a chair hidden by the dye bottles:

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The fruits of my dyepot and a few stolen moments every evening this week.  I have plans for this, oh, yes, I do.  Before I can get to that, though, I have to finish up this pattern.  First, more coffee.