I live in the countryside outside of Vancouver, where I work in the field of adult literacy and learning. I have a long commute and spend my time on the bus and train knitting, reading, and listening to music. As a result, I get a lot of knitting done and am always looking for the next project. Mittens, half-mitts and socks are my favourite items as they are so portable and make the best gifts.
In addition to knitting, I have been spinning since Jan 2000 and love knitting an item from my own handspun yarns. I love the drop spindle because spindles are beautiful and so very portable.
This blog is about my efforts to create clothing items from fibres that come from within a 100-mile radius of my house. It is inspired by the book A 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Alisa Smith and J. B. Mackinnon. I initially resisted reading that book, feeling that it would have a repremanding and superior tone that would result in guilt and total lack of enjoyment for anything that I ate following that. But it wasn’t that way at all. It’s a terrific and inspiring book written in an intelligent and engaging manner.
And it got me thinking. How much of our resources are spending moving stuff around the planet, all in the name of fashion? How many of us have forgotten how to create clothing and fabric, leaving it all in the hands of technology and third world countries?
I joined the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild in January 2000 with a deep desire to learn how to spin, right then and there. One of the seasoned members of the guild advised me to get a wheel and buy a fleece. In a very short time I purchased a second-hand spinning wheel [Ashford Traditional] and started processing a 7 lb fleece from a ewe named Minnie. The first yarn I spun was over twisted, thick and lovely. The sweater I made for my 6 year old weighed about 2 1/2 lbs. I dyed the fibre using koolaid, because they were safe and easy to obtain. I didn’t have the brain power or space needed to get into dyeing in a “real” way. The sweater was gorgeous and she loved it, despite its weight. She wore it with pride until it didn’t fit her anymore.
I loved that yarn and the whole process of making it. I had to skirt the fleece — take out the inevitable animal bits, then scour the fibres — wash them in very hot water to rid it of lanolin, suint and dirt. After the washed fleece dried, I hand carded it and spun it up two-ply.
Every spring after that I attended the local fleece sale. It was a once a year chance to buy a fleece from a farmer in the region. I purchased many pounds of fibre at this sale every year, looking forward to the heat and sun of summer to help dry the fleeces. From this I learned that in our area we have the capacity to produce some exquisite fibres. Over the years I have bought Ramboulette, Shetland, Clunn Forest, and of course Romney from local sheep farmers.
Over the next while I will show you yarns and items that I have made with locally sourced wool, alpaca and llama.