Friday, August 30, 2013

More Mountain Colors Visit

Welcome to Mountain Colors Yarn
It's been a crazy week since I returned from Montana.  My plane landed in Bflo at 5pm after 12 hrs of travelling, and Sunday I was a zombie.  Monday brought the sprint to be ready for my daughter's first day of college.  Details keep needing my attention about the new house, and of course, in my spare time, I try to get some knitting done, and get some sleep.  Then yesterday we had multiple violent Asperger's Syndrome breakdowns to cope with, and today I write in what I can only describe as suspicious and unlikely calm.

Bins by Colorway
This Mountain Colors Yarn visit started, as have previous visits, with a drive into the Bitterroot Valley to the shop.  The photo above is the sign at the roadside inviting you in, taken on a previous visit.  This trip was marked by smoky skies and air due to the severe wildfire up the canyon.

Future Projects

When you use the "Showroom" entrance, you arrive in a room of all of the yarns sorted by colorway. Find the colorway you love, and you'll immediately see all of your yarn choices.  You'll also find "mill ends" of yarns, priced by the ounce.  These are great for colorwork and swatching.    Then you come to one of my favorites: "Test Skeins".  These are trial runs of future colorways, and are usually done in dye hank sizes (about 4 normal hanks).  These are also sold by the ounce, and I find them addicting.  I bought three.

Diana McKay and Leslie Taylor

I was very fortunate that both owners, Leslie Taylor and Diana McKay, were in.  I had met Diana in the past, and was delighted to see her again, and to meet Leslie for the first time.  We had a lovely chat, and decided to collaborate again on some designs.  We're thinking a shrug or similar top, and a Chanel-inspired jacket.  These are some of the yarns we're considering (see photo above.)

One thing I wish I could share with you is the smell.  It's a strange blend of wool, dye, and vinegar (used as a mordant to set the dye.)  It all comes together as a sort of marvelous yarn salad smell. 

Here's the process as I understand it: undyed yarn comes in, and is skeined for dyeing.  It's sorted into the fiber types to be dyed in a particular color run.  Each run could contain half a dozen different types of yarn.

It all heads off to the dye kitchen, where it is washed.  This removes any machine oils from the yarn, and allows it to take dye evenly.

The team mixes up all the colors to be used in today's batch on the hotplates and in the dye bottles.  And then it gets messy!

Skein after skein is hand dyed with squirt bottles of dye.  Each color is added individually in a prescribed order and pattern to create the exact desired effect on each skein.  These dye hanks are then treated with mordant to set the color, rinsed and dried.  Then they are broken down into the familiar retail hanks you and I purchase at the store.
The only hard part about going to MCY is not having the cash to buy out the entire place.  I'm often content with my stash, but never when I go there!  It's all so easy to knit, wears like iron, and those colors are so seductive!

I found my Kryptonite on this visit, too.  Cashmere Louisa yarn in my favorite colorway ever, Harmony Honey.  At $84 a skein, it's something I'd indulge in if I had been very, very good.  I decided I had been very, very good.  WooHoo!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mountain Colors Yarn Visit

Under the Bigtop Hat
My affection for Mountain Colors Yarn is well publicized.  (see the first 4 pics for original patterns with their yarns)  I was lucky enough to have another visit to their studios and showroom last week during my Montana vacation.  What makes me love a small yarn dyer in a place that's tough to reach?  A company who exclusively dyes variegated yarns, which I am reported to have a very fickle relationship with?

Elk Mittens

Well, it's not complicated.  I don't know who their yarn suppliers are, but Mountain Colors is very particular about only dying extremely high quality yarns which are a pleasure to use.  I've used them for a number of projects, and used them as featured yarn for classes.  And the colors are outstanding, each painstakingly composed by the two owners, Leslie Taylor and Diana McKay.  These two women have a remarkable color sense, building each variegation from 9 colors and blends.  They hand-dye in small batches for color and quality control.  And the majority of their colorways are inspired by their surroundings.

Snuggly Socks
Ruffles for Lisa
As it turns out, the surrounding of Western Montana is a particularly beautiful and volatile one.  Wildflowers, wildlife and wildfires, Cascade Mountains and cascading streams, and four seasons of weather to create even more colors and drama.

Lolo Pass Fire 2013
They are located in the Bitterroot Valley, in a little town called Corvallis.  On this visit, the valley was socked in with smoke from a huge wildfire just over the ridge.  At first I was disappointed, worrying about the loss of wilderness and property.  (I'm from the East Coast, and this was my first wildfire!  Yikes!)  But it was painstakingly explained to me that letting the fires burn is better for the environment in the long run, and that the people and livestock were being well protected.  So I spent a little time looking at the contrast of the fire plume over the mountains, against the sky, against the lodge pole pines.  The colors were unique and amazing.

This is already running a little long, so I'll talk about the cool yarn I collected for new designs in the next post.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Home for My Stash 2

The previously described home I am trying to buy is not going any better.

I went on vacation out in Montana, and while there I enjoyed visit to Mountain Colors.  Tons of magnificent yarn came home with me.  I've been sketching and designing, and it will be lovely distraction for the next couple of weeks.  (Post coming soon!)  I thought when I came back that there would be some progress on the house. 

Nope.  Instead, we're more aware of how far behind we are.  It could be months while the seller finishes sorting out her bankruptcy issues, and I can't do anything to advance the process.  A month ago I was hurrying to organize all the paperwork, insurance, contractor dates, etc.  Now that all of it is finished the waiting is maddening!  And all the contractor scheduling will have to be organized again.  The yarn will have to be in its cramped digs a little longer.

The good news is, lots of yarn and knitting time.  I'm in love!  Photos to follow in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Home for My Stash (and Family)

My yarn has been complaining about the cramped conditions it has been living in: plastic bags, plastic bins, segregated from all the knitting tools.  There isn't enough space.  The alpaca has been sharing space with the cottons, and the sock yarns are in with the lace.  It has had enough.  It was time to shop for new digs, and so house shopping commenced. 

We found a great little house, and, drumroll please, it has an enormous walk-in cedar closet!  Most people would look at this as a great place for winter wearables, but as an avid knitter all I saw was a perfect place for my stash!  I downplayed it while talking to my husband about the place, but when we decided it was "the house", there was a definite happy dance done for the cedar closet.  There are is also a huge built in cubby system in the same room, and plenty of room for all my favorite knitting books, knitting chairs, magazines, and swatches and samples.  Organization and workspace in the same room!  I'm walking on air.  I came home and told the yarn, and I could tell it was happy.  Every fiber will be in its place with plenty of room to breathe.  We're scheduled to close on Friday.

And then the phone rang at 8:02 this morning.  There's a delay in the closing, and they have no idea when we can reschedule.  My poor stash will have to remain in its bins and plastic bags a little longer.  The knitting tools will remain tucked in nooks and crannies in multiple cabinets.  How much longer?  It's too early to tell.  I can hear the cedar closet calling to me, telling me not to lose hope.  I'm reluctant to break the news to the yarn. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Working on Workshops for 2014

Now is the time of year I start planning for the next year's Knitting Workshop offerings.  If you've never taken a class from me (or anyone else for that matter) this post is still requesting your help and opinions!  What tempts you?  What do you avoid like the plague?  I'm not sure what to teach next.  Stay with my students' perennial favorites?  Add some new stuff?  Replace the old faves with what I hope will be new faves?  Normally each class is advertised with photos of techniques that will be taught in class.  I haven't done that here for space reasons.

The long-term favorites are:

1. Adjusting Knitting Patterns (for fit and style)

2. Mitten Design (design your own from any yarn!)

3. Colorwork Basics (from stripes to Fair Isle)

4. Colorwork Techniques (intarsia, bi-colored cables, etc)

5. Simple Shaping (how to perform the shaping techniques in average patterns)

6. Advanced Shaping (how to add, enhance, and recognize shaping techniques which look like design elements)

What should I add or replace?

I'm thinking of adding:

Simple Edge Techniques (make those edges on everything look even and wear better)

Intermediate Edge Techniques (vertical and horizontal options to dress up any pattern)

Decorative Cast Ons and Bind Offs (if you only know one or two of each, this is the class for you!  Change wear, looks, and flexibility for COs and BOs on all your knitting projects)

Knitting Tools - what, why, and how the right tool makes your work faster, more beautiful, and more satisfying

Making t-shirt yarn - upcycling t-shirts into knitting yarn

Most of us love taking knitting classes.  And we love learning from books and videos.  I love playing with yarn in pretty much every way I've ever tried!  I'd love your feedback on what classes to keep in the mix, which are past their prime, and which to add.  This is the best way to make sure that I continue to offer the classes you want to take - tell me what you want before I offer them!

If I haven't listed a class on something you'd like to learn, tell me!  I'll be happy to design one.  Things that don't get enough attention to make a class will likely still become articles for the blog, with lessons and technique photos.  And if you want me to teach at your shop or festival, please let me know.  I'll be happy to try to fit it into my schedule!

Thanks in advance for all your feedback!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Illegal Pattern Photocopying

My position on photocopying patterns is well known.  (I'm against it for anything except personal use.  Pay the designer for their work.)  Then I found this at an estate sale today.  I'm in love with it!  I'm not alone!

Anyone know who designed this?  Or where I could buy a copy of the pattern?