Monday, July 28, 2008

Knitting with plastic bags

I've been getting sick of the huge mounds of plastic shopping bags that pile up in the space between our refrigerator and our kitchen counter. We have canvas tote bags, of course, and carry them around in the car or have them hanging from the kitchen door handle, but that doesn't always mean that we remember to grab them when we go in to the store to do our shopping. Sometimes, our groceries end up in plastic bags. (Bad habits are hard to break, and grocery stores tend to reinforce this particular bad habit--the clerks won't look at you like you're an absent-minded loon if you don't bring a shopping bag to the counter with you. In fact, they often seem to be in a race to stuff those food items into plastic faster than you can haul out your own bag or even say, "Hey, I don't need that--")

So, what to do with all those bags? Well, some of them we use for garbage bags, but that's not many, and the pile builds up faster than we can keep up. Today I had the brilliant idea of knitting a tote bag out of them. Then I thought to myself, "Well, surely someone's thought of this before." So I looked it up on Google. Hoo boy. Bazillions of how-tos on making yarn and knitting with plastic home-made yarn. Here's a particularly nice explanation on making the yarn, from a blog called Gooseflesh. Helle Jorgensen, the writer, is a wonderfully talented sculptor and knitter.

My one concern with using plastic bags is the possibility of toxic residues. Of course, this is a problem with many plastics. Anchorage writer and knitter Catherine Hollingsworth, who writes the column Two Sticks for the Anchorage Daily News, suggests using gloves while making the yarn, and cleaning up your needles with rubbing alcohol.

(cross-posted on The Ester Republic)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Shetland sheep at Calypso Farm

Time to revive this blog. Calypso Farm & Ecology Center has acquired three Shetland sheep, smallish, hardy little multicolored sheep that ought to do well in the Alaska climate. Susan Willsrud, one of the founders of Calypso, likes to spin and dye, and hopes to breed a small flock from their starter group. The two new ones are from Oregon, both brownish, I'm told, and will be arriving soon. Susan uses plant dyes from plants she grows on the farm. Shetlands are apparently good all-purpose sheep, good for milking and meat, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Qiviut sources

In Alaska, there's three farms where one can get qiviut:

Windy Valley Farm, in Palmer;
the Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station of the Institute of Arctic Biology, near Fairbanks;
and, of course, the Musk Ox Farm, in Palmer.

Most other qiviut is obtained from wild animals' leavings on shrubbery, or from the pelts of animals killed in subsistence hunts (that's mostly in Canada). I'm not sure about farms in Canada; the research on them in Saskatchewan has dwindled some.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

summer break

Seems like each summer, knitting stops. I'm working on article 2 of a two-part series on muskoxen for Agroborealis, this one to concentrate on qiviut and animal husbandry for muskoxen. There's only been one real how-to book produced on care & feeding of your Ovibos moschatus, and that was a good 20 years ago and is in serious need of updates.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sweater finally finished

That wool sweater done in Scandinavian style is finally done, and hey! it looks good! Lots of little tufts sticking out, but not bad, really. Hans likes it, anyway. The DEWCKers (Denizens of Ester Who Crochet and Knit) have been meeting pretty regularly this winter, so I'll be showing off the sweater this Saturday.

There's also a spinning group in the area, and the two groups are starting to communicate more regularly and maybe we'll even get together occasionally!

I don't have a knitting project at the moment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The last knit

(Updated address)

Check this out! a funny little movie about knitting obsession--and dangers!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Has anyone tried Sea Silk yet?

I'm editing a lace shawl book for Martingale & Co. (not sure how much detail I can divulge at this point so I'll be vague for now). The shawls in this book made with heavier yarn than you'd think for lace -- fingering, sport, even worsted-weight -- and on large needles, and the designs are just gorgeous. I love the idea of using heavier yarns, because it's so much less intimidating than thread-like yarn and tiny needles for those learning to knit lace. After you make a few projects, switching to the smaller yarn and needles is a breeze. But that's hard to believe when you are trying your first lace project!

At any rate, one of the projects the author made using a new yarn called Sea Silk. It's relatively light weight -- a little heavier than lace weight, but maybe not as thick as fingering, made out of silk and seacell, which is a fiber somehow created from kelp seawead. The yarn is available in a bunch of hand dyed colors and colorways. It is ohsosoft and has a gorgeous sheent to it. Someone on the web said it smells like the sea, but to me it smells like raw silk. It's a pleasant aroma that would envelope you while knitting and will probably eventually wash away.

The manufacturer of the fiber (not the yarn) claims all kinds of health benefits from the nutrients of seaweed soaking into your body as you knit with and wear the yarn, but that sounds like a bunch of new-age woo to me. Here's what they say:

Seaweed is added as the active substance for a very good reason. The fact that this marine plant is rich in trace elements has been well known since the times of Chinese medicine, and seaweed has also been proved to protect the skin and have anti-inflammatory properties. It is seaweed which forms the basis of the SeaCell® fiber.

Furthermore, the structure of SeaCell® facilitates the active exchange of substances between the fiber and the skin – nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin E are released by the natural body moisture when the fiber is worn, thereby creating a complete sense of well-being.

Even though I think this is a bunch of marketing hooey, I MUST HAVE SOME OF THIS YARN. It is the most amazing stuff I've seen in a long time. The knitting yarn comes from Handmaiden Fine Yarns in Canada. It's available at a few places on the web, but it seems to be fairly hard to find in stock. None of my local yarn shops carry it (yet?). Here's a photo from the manufacturer's website: