Like the rains that are mostly absent in the winter here, but are now back in earnest with thunderstorms nearly every night, so have I been absent this winter/spring but now I'm back. To be more precise, I've been here all along, only I haven't created anything new for the shop in much too long. My time has been filled with the ranch, more animals, and simply re-charging my own well of inspiration.
But I have been paying attention to the stats for the shop -- where people come from and what they look at. My sense is that people are looking to see if there is anything new for sale. I do know that the 4-way wrap has been my most popular item and I just completed a special order for 3 more of them. Its always a kick when someone hears of my work by word-of-mouth and makes a big order. With that in mind, I'm in the process of creating more of these in several additional colors.
Here are 2 recently completed wraps, one in teal, the other magenta, and soon to be listed for sale:
There is also a moss green in progress:
And, soon to come, one in indigo.
As much as I work to get the colors true in my photo editing software, when I upload them here they appear very dull to me -- not nearly as beautiful as they are in reality. I expect them to look more true to life when I get them listed for sale. I'll post an announcement when that happens, so stay tuned.
And here's one of the creatures that I've been occupied with lately:
I believe he/she is a Harris Hawk. I've been caring for him since he apparently fell out of the nest and barely had any true feathers, about 6 weeks ago. Its amazing how much personality a bird like this can have. I think we have bonded.
Really, my friends had gotten tired of me saying I'm going to have sheep on the ranch. But after building a fence around the ornamental garden (in the background) and improving the fence around the vegetable garden and building a sheep shed, I'm finally ready for them.
The black and white one is a male, the other female. They are both about 5 months old and of Dorper mix. Just starting out with 2 to see how it goes, but the plan is to have quite a few more. This is not the breed I hope to keep in the future, but they were locally available, and therefore easy to obtain.
There is clearly a lot more grass than 2 sheep can eat. And, in case you are wondering, they are restrained with the blue leashes for the moment because when they first arrived they tried, and the male succeeded, in jumping over the 4-foot-plus stone wall the surrounds the property, to return to their flock. They are surprisingly strong and acrobatic when they feel threatened!
Chico, the dog, is hoping they will play with him.
People always ask if I am going to use the wool for my knitting. Firstly, this is not a breed that will produce fine knitting wool and, secondly, I have purchased fleece in the (long ago) past, spun the wool and knit from it, and if I were to do that now I figure it might take me a year to produce just one garment. I like the concept of creating what you need from scratch with one's own 2 hands, but having tried that kind of lifestyle, I realized it is better to make what you are good at, sell it, and use the proceeds to buy the rest.
Meanwhile, there are new alpaca ponchos available in the shop. Just posted this one today:
But its not as serious as it may sound.
I've simply decided I'm no longer going to attempt to work to a seasonal schedule, producing knitwear for spring, summer, winter, and fall as the seasons change. Since this is a small business producing "slow made" hand-knit one-of-a-kind products, some taking 2 or more weeks to create, it is simply not possible to produce a seasonal line when working at this scale. This means that items befitting any season of the year can be found in my shop, which is a good thing for customers in the opposite hemisphere.
So you may now be seeing alpaca pullovers coming online in spring, as recently occurred, or summer linen made available in winter. Whatever comes off the needles next is what will be offered next. This works for me because I can be working on whatever I'm inspired by at the moment, and I hope it works for everyone else as well.
I've been following this current phenomenon of using more mature women in advertising campaigns for fashion brands and beauty products. I wonder if you've noticed any of these?
And I love this ad featuring Helen Mirren, 69, for L'Oreal: (well, who doesn't love Helen Mirren?)
These are not isolated instances, either. Jessica Lange, 64, is the model for Marc Jacobs new line of cosmetics, and the 60's model Twiggy, now 65, is the current face of L'Oreal Professional hair products. I know these companies aren't doing this because they believe it is time to stop ageism. They know the demographic that spends the most money on their products. But whatever the reason, I am SO happy to see this trend. And we can hope that it is not just a fleeting moment, like most fashion trends, but is the beginning of a shift in how society views "older" women. I also think it may change the way many older women see themselves.
Just to cap it off, I found this quote from designer Tom Ford:
I've been intending to write this post for quite some time, but something I read recently has compelled me to postpone it no longer.
You probably know by now that I only use natural, i.e. non-synthetic, fibers in my work. There are numerous reasons for this, some of which include the fact that animal fibers such as wool and alpaca have insulating properties and plant fibers are breathable, whereas acrylics and other manmade fibers are not. This has to do with the microscopic scales found on animal and plant fibers, which create space between the individual fibers. Synthetic fibers are completely uniform and don't have this property. Shown under a microscope, the different fibers appear like this:
For me, personally, it also comes down to which fiber is more sensually pleasurable to work with and a superfine alpaca is a joy to have running through my fingers, but I can't say the same for polyester. I also consider the processes used to create all these fibers, and without going into a great deal of research on the subject, I can only imagine the toxic chemicals used to create man-made fibers.
So the environmental factor has always been a consideration for me, and reading this article in The Guardian just added to my concerns. You can read the article here, but I'll give you the basics. Ecologist Mark Browne has been studying sediment along shorelines around the world and has found that it is full of fibers, the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. "In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing." Studies have shown that ocean organisms ingest microplastics and introduce toxins into the food chain. The article goes on to say, "By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment - ending up in our oceans." I don't know about you, but this was an eye-opener for me. This is not to say that natural fibers do not end up in the wastewater, too, but the difference is that natural fibers will break down over time. Synthetics do not.
There's an additional point to be made in the Guardian article regarding some of the big clothing manufacturers, but you can read the piece yourself to learn more about this issue, if you're interested.
So there you have it; possibly more than you wanted to know. I promise prettier pictures next time!
My knitting environment: a few details from the ranch
Just some random images to share --
. . . and out
-- for your enjoyment.
Or, Why I Love Working With Alpaca and Why You Should Love Wearing It.
As I posted last time, I'm working on some pieces using perhaps my favorite fiber, so I thought I'd reveal why I think alpaca fiber is so wonderful.
First of all, it is because alpacas are just so darned cute!
No, seriously, the fiber has many terrific attributes. One important one: it is hypoallergenic. This is because it does not contain the heavy lanolin that sheep's wool does and which is so difficult to scour out. It is also water resistant, as well as being thermal, even when wet.
Compared to sheep's wool, alpaca is stronger (higher tensile strength) and provides more warmth than wool without the weight. It is also naturally flame resistant and difficult to ignite.
Alpaca fiber is often compared to cashmere. It has a smoother surface than wool which makes it considerably softer and very pleasurable, not only to wear, but to knit with.
It is sorted and qualified into different grades. The #1 grade is called "royal", which is rare and expensive. It is said that only 1% of alpaca fiber is designated "royal". The #2 grade is called Baby Alpaca or Superfine Alpaca. This is the grade of alpaca yarn I use in all of my knitwear.
Alpacas have been bred in South America for thousands of years and their fiber has been called "the fiber of the gods", being reserved for the clothing of royalty.
So this has been your lesson for today ;-)
I hope you enjoyed learning something new.
PS: Did you know alpacas are in the camel family?
Just a quick posting about what I'm currently knitting. I'm working with a superfine (i.e. a very high grade) alpaca yarn in some rich, heathered colors. I ordered this yarn back in the spring and I'm not quite sure what I had in mind at the time. I might be using some paler, more wintery shades if I were to choose them now. But because I live in Mexico and sell my work here, as well as online, most people here expect bright colors. Perhaps that's what I was thinking.
Above is a sneak peak of what I will soon have listed for sale. A couple more color combinations are in the works, including the same purple heather, as on the trim above, used as the main body (that's it below). Still not sure if the trim will be light blue (not shown) or the same coral red as above. Any preferences?
What you can't see very well in the photos are the other colors spun into the yarn that finally create the color you see. The red has yellow, pink, and a tiny bit of lilac in it. And the purple has red, blue and a bit of turquoise.
I'll keep you posted when these are available for sale, but expect them "muy pronto" (very soon).
Oh . . . and while I was uploading these photos I came across some others I'd taken a week or so ago here on the ranch. Two different evenings, two different skies. Can you see the eagle sitting near the top of the joshua tree?
Maybe its my imagination, but I think I can already feel a hint of fall in the air. Here I am in central Mexico in August. One would expect it to be hot. But the elevation here is 2,063 meters, over 6,760 feet, so the air can be cool when the sun is not out. Mornings are usually fresh and cool and delightful. Summer is also rainy season here and the thunderheads often build up in the afternoon and, if we're lucky, a nice rain will fall. (Although, sometimes we can be too lucky and receive a torrential downpour.) Then all is sunny again in the morning.
Its the time of year when I need to dress a little more warmly, but I'm not yet ready to pull out the winter woolens. Which makes these organic cotton sweaters I've been knitting the perfect solution. They're a little bit chunky and provide a nice, cozy feeling -- just the right amount of warmth for heading into fall.
I've loved working with this Peruvian organic cotton. It is super-soft and has been spun alternating thick and thin, which makes for a fun textural effect. But, I must admit, while knitting with this I've also been thinking of and looking forward to digging into the superfine alpaca yarn for winter wear. More on that very soon!
As promised, here's a preview of the latest works off my needles made from the wonderful organic cotton yarn I recently received. I'm really enjoying working with it, in part because it is a much thicker yarn than I've previously been using, so things seem to knit up very quickly compared to what I'm accustomed to.
It is also fun to see how the fabric unfurls from the needles with this thick-and-thin yarn, which gives a much more irregular, handmade appearance than my usual fine and even work.
Above you can see the boxy garter-stitch cardigan with drop shoulders I made. I love this raspberry pink! Above that is a glimpse of a shell top in aqua. There is also another style of shell top that is nearly complete in a very subtle sage color. Once that is done, I'll take more photos and put all three up for sale in the shop.
With any luck at all, these should be available for purchase next week.
Connie is a knitter and gardener in love with life on a small ranch in rural Mexico.