So, on April 20th, I went on a 14 mile paddle on the Neuse River. near Raleigh. It was part of a fundraiser for cancer research, called Hope Floats NC, whose participants paddled from Raleigh to the Atlantic over the course of a week. I joined them on Saturday afternoon, along with 2 other women. There were about 23 boats in the water. I got in between two groups of ten. The group in front of me set off at a good pace. This was as close as I ever got to them:Ah.
The group behind me was never even in sight. Other than being overtaken by one kayaker about 3/4 of the way through, I paddled the entire 14 miles alone. It was wonderful! Of course, my poor wrists were about dead by the time I got to the take out.
This past weekend, Mom and I went to a knitting retreat in Camden, Maine.The iconic Maine harbor.
There was lots of great food and fun knitters. On Saturday, we went to Swans Island Blankets
for the day, to learn about yarn dyeing and blanket weaving.Ferociously picturesque.
We learned about natural dyes and got a skein of each color to dye in the indigo bath:The yellow is dyed in weld, the red is cochineal, and there are skeins of undyed hiding to the right.
Happily, they also gave us rain ponchos to wear while dyeing, otherwise I might be entirely blue still. I tend to forget what I'm working with, sometimes.
After lunch, we got to see how they make their very fine and rather expensive blankets. They even let us operate one of the looms, which was just awesome. Talk about a warping project - there are thousands of threads, and the warp is yards and yards long. (AVL air-assist looms with sectional beams, for those of you who care. Cool as hell.) They tie on a new warp, rather than re-do it each time, and who could blame them. (That is, they put new yardage onto the back beam, and rather than re-thread all those tiny little slots, they tie the new warp to the old and pull it through that way. Much more efficient. It takes 3 hours instead of 8.)
After weaving, they soak and dry the blankets, then they "pick" them. Sheep's wool always has vegetative matter (hay chaff and the like) in it, and they have a couple of women who stand over the blankets with surgical tweezers and pick these tiny bits of crap out of the weave. The picking takes about 3 hours. When the man explained this, Mom said, "You don't charge enough for these." Everything's organic, the yarn is locally sourced, no chemicals are used in processing. These are in fact very nice blankets, warm and lovely, and worth every penny, if you have that many pennies to spend.
We were looking at one blanket in particular, and the owner began to explain how it was made, and I said, "it's double weave," and so I was marked out as a weaver. (I'm so proud.) The whole day was just fantastic.
The next day, we had a Fair Isle knitting class in the morning, using small balls of the Swans Island yarn that had been packaged up for just that purpose, and we started on some fingerless mitts for a first project. The teacher has written books on Fair Isle and colorwork knitting, and was a wonderful instructor. This one is Mom's mitt. As soon as I got home, I put my project on two circular needles. Knitting with double pointed needles is like trying to knit with a hedgehog. And look at all those ends to sew in: yikes.
Now I'm back at work and getting caught back up. This weekend is the Women's Serenity Retreat in Oak Island, so I'll pack up again tomorrow and head out. Zoom, zoom!