Saturday, November 23, 2013

Finds - Warming Up

It's that time of year, the leaves are mostly fallen and the first big snow has left the city wet and cold. What to do when it's cold outside and not much warmer inside? Cuddle up to some warm goodies and warming treats.

Like this fantastic slouchy from MadamePeace, your grandma always did tell you to wear a hat...
And don't forget that grandma told you to have 'stockinged feet' in the winter so you don't catch a cold! Felted slippers by StoneJoyDesign are ideal.
Now make a nice pot of tea to warm up! This no caffeine blend from SpiralElixer will keep you toasty all day.
Particularly if you keep it in this Hebridean wool cozy by AMagpieandaDove. With a constant cold damp breeze coming off the ocean one imagines that the Hebrideans know how to stay warm.
Now pair that hot tea with a bowl of tasty soup, and you're ready to take on the day! A good hand-thrown pottery bowl, like these from WildChildClayWorks, will hold that heat in to the last bite.
Then you can bundle up and run out for a little bit of vitamin D and fresh cold air, use these fluffy gloves with loooong cuffs from CreativeTides to keep from getting a blast of cold air on your wrist. Even if you need to make some snowballs you will still be covered!

It's a hard transition to make, so embrace the good things about Fall changing into Winter, and have a another cuppa. What's your favorite way to enjoy a snowy day?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wooly New Zealand

 While the scenery and cultural attractions are spectacular in New Zealand, we all know what I really came for - WOOL.
 Following a tip, we rolled into Tally Ho Ranch, which is unique in hosting a number of different breeds, many are colored. The typical field here is filled with Merino, Corriedale and Rambouillet. Here, Gotlands, Cheviot, and others made for a more diverse flock. Also, Look at that cute wittle sheepy! Look. At. It.

Not pictured, but definitely also cute - newborn (like 3 hours old!) Shetland ponies. There was a lot of Daaaaws to be had.
 They also had a classic old carding machine, here the owner was demoing making a fluffy alpaca batt that will be used to stuff a comforter top.
 Aaaaaand this is the wool storage barn. Makes my craft room look pretty empty... I guess I'll buy some more fiber!

 Ooooh, look at that silver and charcoal Gotland! Hey, don't look at me like that! I spun up a pound and a half for Spinzilla, I have room for another Kilo... right?

 Yea... I know you're judging me little merinos...

 We also stopped into the town of Milton, following rumors of a mill and mill ends shop. Notice the angled roofs? That's to allow light in at certain angles. Where the wool is stored and sorted one wants indirect south light (southern hemisphere remember?) for a clear view of the fiber, and of course too much direct sun can damage the wool after a while.

In the Mill End shop there was a corner dedicated to being a museum, photos of the mill works and products from the early days up to the modern era were pegged up on boards. Old tools and machines were displayed. There were even old sample books showcasing the fabrics being produced there from the 30s to mid-70s.
 Even this hardened veteran of dozens of fiber museums saw a novel piece - this device "used to measure the twist of yarn".
The mill was Milton's main industry for almost a hundred years, and so the town remembers its "King". Many people who settled in this area were of Scottish descent, so the get-up is probably meant to harken to the olden days in the homeland.
And naturally, I sampled a range of their products! All these little balls are true "ends", leftovers from the weaving, plying, or skeining process. They were very cheap, and so cute, and I got a whole bunch, and... don't look at me like that! Several were actually very tough "Carpet Wool" that I will use for slippers.
 Our next little fiber stop was a total surprise, stumbled across in the small town of Hokiteka. The Sock Knitting Machine Museum and Shop. An entire wall lined with old machines of various makes and models, and a looping video of the owner demonstrating knitting machine techniques.
 Turns out the shop is manufacturing new machines, when we were there one was being tested before being sent to Switzerland! (Is there no where closer to buy a knitting machine I wonder?)
 The shop in fact had it's own little mill set up, carders, spinning machines, sweater knitters and more. An entirely self contained little venture, which seems to be capable of making o good deal of product in a fairly small space. My entrepreneurial mind was much intrigued.
 I indulged in some possum yarns there, and at a larger yarn shop. Possum are an introduced pest, and there is a bounty on killing them as they devastate native birds. The dead possum are skinned, and the fiber shaved off. It's a short, fine fiber that is hollow like Alpaca, and thus very warm. All four of these are hand-dyed and super soft, a blend of %20 possum with %80 merino is standard.

I also chanced to visit the Turnbull family (That's my Father's side) Wool Store (That's storage to us Americans, a warehouse.) My cousin showed us various samples, and explained wool grading. Each fleece is classed based on micron thickness, staple length, color, cleanliness and crimp. The far left clump is 'junk' wool destined for carpets and quilt batting. The middle pieces all variations on the finest grades, they were so fine the individual fibers almost disappeared when held up to the light. The final piece is the only bale of colored wool in the whole place... looks like us handspinners are the only ones interested in natural colors.

 I also kept my needles moving the whole trip, if I could only knit as fast as I buy yarn! Those purple pieces are Irish wool from my last trip, perfect for a global wool experience.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Oamaru - Steampunk Capital of New Zealand

Or so proclaimed a large rusty water tank outside of town along the main highway. I had heard rumors about this, my relatives (in their 50s and not exactly hip to the cosplay scene) had told me that this old town was where the steampunkers are - "Penny Farthing capital of the world..."

So, with curiosity and excitement, I exited the highway to drive thru the downtown area. The area was home to a large limestone quarry, so all the buildings are built in a lovely white stone splendor. Very nice, and certainly a good backdrop for an event, but other than festivals is there anything steamy going on here?

But down by the dock I spotted it, and I was not disappointing!  The locals had embraced this aesthetic, and built a playground with strange contraptions doubling as playthings.

We then continued south to Dunedin, another older city. Mind you, no city on the island predates the mid-1800s. This simply means that the downtown areas often were built in decadent Victorian splendor. 
This, is the train station. Every floor was tiled in minute mosaic with train motifs. Every wall completely covered in relief tiles. The windows were stained glass. The wood trim and bannisters were carved. Every. Single. Surface. All this for a waystation, a limnal space that one passes thru for just a few moments. It makes the local Airport look like a trailer park.
With such fine buildings abounding, it's no wonder that people feel pulled to return to a more genteel era. With airships and clockworks of course...