Textile Byways: Thirteen Mile Farm - Montana 2014

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 13, 2014 2 Comments

Our visit to Thirteen Mile Farm was certainly a highlight of our trip. I first read about Thirteen Mile in the book Shear Spirit. The owner, Becky Weed, raises her own sheep and has built a mill where she makes yarn from her wool. There are two outstanding reasons I am particularly fascinated with her work: she is a natural dyer and she uses solar power to run her mill. Before working at Verb, Adrienne worked for a solar electrical company, and she still has a lot of interest in solar power. Add in our love of fiber and natural dyes, and this was pretty much a dream to see in person.

Becky raises two types of sheep: Romney and South African Merino.

She makes mainly three types of yarn from their wool: a sport weight, a worsted weight, and an irregularly spun bulky.

She creates yarn that has been naturally-dyed and is naturally colored. She also makes large wool batts and has a felting machine which enables her to make large pieces of wool felt.

Becky was kind enough to take a break and show us the mill.

The mill pretty much runs 100% on solar power due to the two solar panels found on the top and to the left of the mill.

This is the washing station for the wool. All the water used in the washing cycle is saved as grey water and used to water the fields. 

Once the wool has been washed it goes through a carding machine.

If Becky is going to make a yarn that is naturally dyed, rather than a naturally colored yarn, she takes the washed fleece and dyes it. She then combines colors in the carding process resulting in yarn that has a heathered look.

And then is stripped into roving.

Becky takes extra time in this part of the process. While it is possible for her to move to the next step in the process, the spinning, she puts the roving through a second pass on the carder. She takes three pieces of roving and combines them into one larger piece of roving. This helps the yarn spin more uniformly and results in a fabric, when made from the yarn, wear more uniformly.

Then, the roving is spun into yarn.

Becky has a small showroom where she sells her finished yarn. She also sells her yarn online.

In the next few days, we will receive a shipment of Becky's beautiful yarn. We are so excited! I hope you will stop by the shop to squish this yarn for yourself! Her work and her mill are absolutely amazing and inspiring and we are so grateful to her for showing us around.

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Textile Byways: A Handmade Wardrobe - Montana 2014

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 06, 2014 0 Comments

This Fall, the Bay Area has been exceptionally warm with only a few days here and there to wear a heavy wool sweater. So, pretty much the first thing I did when deciding to visit Montana was to think about what warm and woolly things I would get to wear. My good friend Julie has a vast collection of hand-knit sweaters. She kindly allowed me to bring along Nieve knit in Horizon.

Stephen had given me a long-term loan of his Iberian Discovery. I felt it was time to knit my own. So I cast-on using Horizon in Grizzly Peak.

And then Tasa, Verb's pattern drafter and sewing teacher, and I got to talking. The Uptown Top is Tasa's personal favorite of the Verb sewing patterns. She has at least 4 variations that she has made for herself! She has one as the pattern is written, one without the hip band but with a vintage lace inset, one out of Alabama Chanin organic cotton jersey, and one out of a delicious wool jersey. She loves this pattern. And when she has a pattern that she loves she finds ways to alter it and expand on it. 

So let me introduce to you the Uptown Jacket! From here, Tasa is going to step in and tell you a little bit about how she transformed the Uptown Top into this amazing jacket.

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We had already started talking about hacking this pattern into a jacket when Kristine got the news about Sweet Grass and started planning her trip to Montana. I don't know about you guys, but my wardrobe is the next thing I start thinking of when I have my travel dates! So when Kristine said she would like to take the jacket on her trip north I grabbed some of the amazing Pendleton washable shirt weight wool we have in the store and went to work. 

I knew I wanted this to be a pretty accessible pattern hack because we wanted to structure a class around it later. The silhouette of this garment is already perfectly suited to be a jacket. It's simple, loose in the arms and torso so you can wear anything under it, and fitted at the hip so the jacket won't get in the way of movement. So I really didn't have to play with anything besides the front pieces.

The first thing I did was to split the front panel of the shirt down the center. Then I drafted a facing piece for the new front neckline/center front opening. 

An important part of the process was pattern matching the plaid when I was cutting out all the pieces for the shell of the jacket. Pattern matching is something that beginning sewists are often overwhelmed (dare I say frightened?) by, but its bark is much worse than its bite, I promise! It's more time consuming than hard, and the extra time is well worth it if you are working with plaids or stripes. It can really elevate your garment to the next level to have things line up nicely.

After cutting out my shell pieces, I moved on to the lining. I used a solid color cotton voile for the lining. It's a really tight weave so despite the fact that it's thin it should hold up fine as a lining fabric. It's also nice and smooth which is the other main consideration for a lining fabric, you don't want your jacket to stick to whatever you are wearing under it! Also I snuck a patch pocket on the inside of the jacket, because pockets are a must have for almost every garment. 

The assembly for the jacket is basically the same as it is for the top, except you are making two instead of one and then connecting them at the arm openings, neck opening, hip band and center front. The only other thing I really altered was to cut a deeper hip band out of the wool and fold it over, as opposed to lining it with the voile. I think it will make a sturdier hip band and hold up better over the life of the jacket. Installing the separating zipper is the final step for this jacket.

I love how this pattern hack turned out. It works great as an extra layer in the temperate Bay Area climate and I plan on making one for myself in the very near future. The hardest part is picking which lovely fabric to make it out of! 

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and that this project inspires you to re-envision one of your favorite pattens! 

Happy sewing!

Tasa

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I am very grateful to Tasa for making this incredible jacket. If you would like to learn how to make your own, Tasa is teaching a class. Click here to learn more.

I hope you are having a wonderful Fall season. Thanks for reading! 

Kristine

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Textile Byways - Dyeing with Curly Dock - Montana 2014

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 10, 2014 0 Comments

Once we walked the land surrounding the cabin, we noticed that there was quite a bit of Curly Dock also known as Rumex crispus. This plant is native to Europe and North Africa and now grows wild in many states across the U.S. It blends into its surroundings when fresh, but when it dries out it is easily spotted by its bright rust colored stalk. After the plants sends up a tall shoot of flowers, it dries to a beautiful red/brown color. This is the prime time to pick for dyeing.

The plant can be toxic to sheep, cattle, and poultry. It is also known to be an invasive species in numerous states. However, it is said the plants have nutritional value for humans and the leaves can be eaten cooked. So reflecting on the previous post, given the criteria that I like to choose plants which are invasive and are known to make good dye plants, Adrienne and I decided to harvest curly dock and to dye a bit of Clover. We thought it would be fun to dye Montana wool with Montana plants.

We pre-mordanted the yarn with aluminum potassium sulfate before leaving California. That way, we could just jump into the dyeing process.

Here is the recipe we used:

Mordanting

1 tablespoon of aluminum potassium sulfate (aps) per 100g of yarn

Fill a pot with enough water for the yarn to float freely. Dissolve the aps in hot water. Add the dissolved aps to the pot of water. Add the yarn. Slowly over the course of a half hour bring the pot to 190 degrees. Keep at 190 degrees for one hour. Allow to cool.

Dyeing

We did not bring a scale to Montana. In an ideal world, I would weigh the dyestuff, in this case, curly dock, before using it. I would record the weight of yarn I want to dye. Divide this number in half - gather and use this amount of curly dock. In dye-speak, I would use half the weight-of-the-goods (50%) in dyestuff.

Though in reality, not having a scale, I grabbed a few, large, hand fulls of curly dock.

Fill a pot with water. Chop the curly dock using clippers and add it to the pot.

Put the pot on the stove for 3 hours at a low simmer to extract the dye from the plant.

Strain the dyebath into a bucket. Then, put the strained dyebath back into the pot.

Add the yarn to the dyebath. Put the pot on the stove, slowly over the course of half an hour, bring the pot to 190 degrees, Keep at 190 degrees for one hour. Allow to cool.

Wash. Hang to dry.

We have a few skeins of this yarn available for purchase. Email if you are interested.

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As you may have noticed, I am a bit behind schedule - sorry! This past weekend Verb had it's 4th Anniversary Party and it was my birthday yesterday. We went to Alcatraz to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit @Large. It was very good. If you are in the area, it is well worth a visit. Tomorrow on the blog, I resume our schedule and discuss clothing created for the trip. And, I talk with Tasa about how she made one of the very special pieces worn on the trip.

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Textile Byways: Granite Ridge Hat Pattern - Montana 2014

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 06, 2014 2 Comments

One morning, we woke up - and it was snowing. It was the kind of snow when the flakes are giant and everything is quiet.

A perfect morning for a walk in the woods, wearing a cozy hat to keep you warm.

When deciding on the color of yarn to knit, I was drawn to Beach Glass because of its light color and because it reminded me of water flowing over rocks. The color is hard to capture through photography. It easily shifts with the light. It is a light grey-purple color with hints of green. There are many other colors to choose from.

The stitch pattern on the hat is a classic from Barbara Walker's amazing collection of stitch patterns, which can be found in her stitch dictionaries. I was drawn to the graphic nature of the zigzags. It is made through a combination of slipping stitches while holding the yarn in front of the work, knitting, and purling. I found the stitch pattern mesmerizing as it worked back and forth, and before I knew it, the hat was off the needles.

Granite Ridge Hat Pattern

Finished Measurements
19" circumference
8.5" from cast-on to top of hat (excluding pom-pom)

Yarn
A Verb for Keeping Warm Clover (80% Montana Targhee wool - 20% silk; 200 yards / 50 grams), Beach Glass, 1 skein

Needles
One 16" US 5 (3.75 mm) circular needle, and one set of US 5 (3.75 mm) double pointed needles, or size needed to obtain gauge

Gauge
6 sts / 1" and 11 rows / 1" in zigzag pattern.

Notions
Stitch Markers, blunt tapestry needle

Abbreviations
K: Knit.
P: Purl.
WYIF: With yarn in front.
K2TOG: Knit 2 stitches together.
SSK: Slip, slip, knit.
SM: Slip marker.

Directions
Cast on 114 stitches. Place marker. Join in the round, careful not to twist.

Ribbing:
Round 1: *K2, P4; repeat from * to end.
Repeat for 1/2".

Start zigzag pattern: 
Round 1: *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * to end.
Round 2: K1, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 5 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF, K3.
Round 3: K2, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 4 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF, K2.
Round 4: K3, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 3 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF, K1.
Round 5: K4, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 2 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF. 
Round 6: K3, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 3 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF, K1.
Round 7: K2, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 4 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF, K2.
Round 8: K1, *Slip 2 WYIF, K4; repeat from * until 5 st from end, Slip 2 WYIF, K3.

Repeat rounds 1-8 seven times (for a total of 8 repeats).

Decrease set-up round: Repeat round 1 once more, placing 1 new marker every 19 stitches, for a total of 6 evenly spaced markers (including beginning of round marker).

Decreases:
Round 1: K2TOG, *knit until 2 stitches before marker, SSK, SM, K2TOG; repeat from * 4 times and then knit until 2 stitches before end of round, SSK. 12 stitches decreased.
Round 2: Knit all stitches.

Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until there are only 18 stitches left on your needles.

Final Decrease Round: *K2TOG; repeat from * to end. 9 stitches.

To finish, cut yarn with a 6" tail. Thread through remaining stitches, carefully pull stitches taut and weave in ends. Block. And top with a pom-pom if you wish. Voila! You are done.

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Tomorrow on the blog, read about how we mapped the land around the Montana cabin - and foraged materials for dyestuffs. Learn tips and tricks for your own mapping and foraging process.

 

 

 

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Textile Byways: Clover - The Newest Verb Yarn - Montana 2014

Posted by Kristine Vejar on November 05, 2014 3 Comments

A little recap: In October, I inherited Sweet Grass Wool, a Montana yarn and fiber company, lovingly run by Patti Bobonich. She uses Targhee wool grown by her neighbor, Carolyn Greene. I traveled to Montana to see Patti and to meet Carolyn and her sheep in person. The following two weeks on the blog are dedicated to Patti and Carolyn, and are about us discovering the beauty Montana holds.

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i have inherited two types of yarn from Patti; a DK weight yarn, made of 80% Targhee wool and 20% silk - we've named Clover. And a bulky yarn, made of 100% Targhee wool, we've named Big Sky. The Targhee fiber features in both of these yarns was raised by Carolyn. 

Patti sent the wool to a mill which specializes in a rare form of spinning called mulespun. I believe there are only two, maybe three facilities that do this type of spinning in all of North America. If you know how to spin, the mulespun process is similar to using a long-draw to draft the fibers as you spin. Yarn which has been created using this type of process is buoyant and lighterweight than its counterparts which have been spun on a fixed spinner. Click here to see a video of the mulespun process.

Today, we are first focusing on Clover. Big Sky is still in production in the dyeing studio. Targhee wool naturally has a lot of spring, combine it with the mulespun process, and it results in a yarn which has a lot of loft. Clover has 200 yards to 50 grams. This is a similar weight to our yarn Creating - a yarn made of superwash merino and is worsted spun and tightly spun. Creating is often used to make socks and is considered fingering weight. It is typically knit on US 0-2 size needles and gets about 7-8 stitches per inch. Clover, while similar in put-up, due to the mulespun process, can be knit using a larger needle and a larger gauge - as the fluffy wool takes up more space per stitch. This results in a fabric that is lightweight yet still warm. Clover can be knit on US needle sizes 4-6, and gets 4.5-5.5 stitches per inch.

The name Clover references a four-leaf clover - and the fact that I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Carolyn's wool and this beautiful yarn designed by Patti. I also thought it was a sweet name as it was the sheep eat in the pasture.

For the most part, I created new colorways for the Fall / Winter 2014 season - with an emphasis on greens and greys - with a few pops of red and yellow thrown in for good measure. As always, all of the colors are created in my Oakland studio using natural dyes including marigolds, fustic, weld, logwood purple, madder, cochineal, and cutch.

We hope you enjoy Clover!

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Very soon Big Sky will be available as well. Stay tuned. And tomorrow, the blog will feature a new hat pattern - using Clover.

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