Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Greetings from Earth

Yes, my feet are back on the ground for a while.

You know you travel too much when two people start phone conversations with "So where are you today?" in the same day! Pretty funny.

I am settled in after another jaunt away, and I am spinning, spinning spinning. And as I spin, I ponder. I ponder a great many things, most of which are imponderable at the best of times, but there you have it. And, at times, I feel the urge to share my Deep Thoughts with the world.

First off--to the anonymous yarn bomber who struck recently in Dr. Wilbur McIntyre Park in Old Strathcona in Edmonton:

Thank You! You made my Saturday last week!

Now that that is out of my system, on to the pondering. Today is Earth Day. I am not exactly the granola-munching, Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging type, but I happen to like the rock that I am floating through space on. But I am frequently surprised by how often my fellow hairless primates take that rock for granted, so it's nice to have one day a year where the media takes a minute or two to remind us where we live.

So, with this in mind as I spin flax and contemplate the slow, steady accumulation of singles on my bobbin, I am struck again by our disposable culture. By the waste we create and the mess we are making of our Planet Earth.

It is spring in Fort McMurray, which is not a pretty thing. The grass is brown, the trees are bare, the boulevards are ankle-deep in the gravel and sand that was spread on snowy streets, and there is garbage everywhere! There's not much we can do about the grass and trees--they will turn green in their own time. The municipality is out clearing up the gravel and sand, which is much needed during our long, cold, and often icy, winters. But all that crap--plastic grocery bags, Timmy's cups, sales flyers, torn up term papers, fast food wrappers galore--that has accumulated where the snowbanks have melted does not have to be there.

To begin with, there are more than adequate garbage disposal receptacles all over our fair city. But for some reason, many people can't be bothered to walk two meters to put their waste into them. Now I have to look at their mess when I walk my dog down the local trails. Lovely.

Secondly, why don't we just cut down on our waste to begin with. We have a relatively good recycling program up here. Take the 15 minutes and sort your cardboard, paper, cans and glass, then drop them off. Seriously, 15 minutes a week.

I use reusable shopping bags--my favorite one is from Egli's Sheep Farm and has a picture of a sheep on the side and the caption "Re-ewesable shopping bag." I also carry my own re-usable coffee cup (which was referred to as "a classic" by the barista yesterday!), so I'm not tossing paper cups into the garbage every time I need a caffeine fix.

These are little things--and only part of my personal campaign to reduce my carbon footprint--but they tell us every little bit helps. Sure, landfills are an eyesore, but putting your garbage into an organized area where it is compacted and plowed into the ground to decompose is a lot more desirable than leaving it to blow around my neighborhood parks. Remembering to grab your shopping bag before you leave the house is a PITA, but it's better than having a hundred of those crummy little plastic bags shoved under your kitchen sink. Or blowing around my neighborhood parks.

And, speaking of carbon footprints, and spinning, let us not forget our good friends, natural fibres. Wool, linen, hemp, silk, llama, alpaca, even the dreaded cotton with all of its pesticides and herbicides, are still better for our planet than polycarbon synthetics. I've never seen a flock of Acrylics that were as charming as Marg's Shetlands.

So, as I continue to spin and ponder life on Earth, I would suggest to you that if you do not wish to observe Earth Day by hugging a tree, you could go out and yarn bomb a tree. Or, you could hug the local spinner, knitter, weaver, or shepherd who is working to keep natural fibres on our backs and hold the Polyesters at bay.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Orange You Glad...

...I didn't say banana?

That's the punch-line to my second favorite knock-knock joke of all time. I am amused every time I see something orange, because I think of that phrase.

Well, just imagine how amused I have been over the last three weeks:
Five different blended orange yarns, all lace-weight (more or less--there is that one, lower right, that is sneaking into fingering country). There are approximately 250 yards per skein, and there are multiple skeins of some of the colors, for a total of 1642 yards, all from just under 400g of fibre. That's .9 of a mile, 1.5 kilometers, of skinny little yarn, spun from 295 hand-blended rolags and rolls, over a grand total of 12 days. Perhaps, someone needs to get out more....
There is a plan for all of this yarn, and it has already been set in motion This will be the first of four shawls, inspired by the 4 elements: fire, water, earth and air. Since I am a Leo--a fire sign--I have started with fire. The blending begins next week on water.

Meanwhile, the orange yarns are all neatly wound and are being knitted into a rather fabulous sunburst, using EZ's Pi formula and a pretty basic eyelet lace pattern. (I'm up to the 288 stitch rounds, and things have suddenly slowed down. Funny how your productivity gets cut in half when you double your number of stitches!)

By the way, for those of you who were wondering, this is my all-time favorite knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

The interrupting sheep.

The interrupting sheep wh...BAAAA!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Darn It!

I knew this was coming, but I held out hope.

I knitted and blogged these socks last May, shortly after Noro had introduced a new sock yarn. At the time, I speculated (okay, ranted) that the yarn construction was pretty useless for socks and that holes would appear. Here we are, 10 months later, and lo and behold:

Yep, The dreaded holes in the heels.
Now, you may say, "Gee, Michelle, most socks will get holes in the heels after being worn for nearly a year". And my reply would be, " Not my handknit socks!" But, to put things in a little better perspective, I will give you a brief history of these socks.
I put the socks into my sock drawer in May 2008. It was warm and I felt no need to wear big old boot socks anywhere. And in the sock drawer they remained until November--a time lapse of 5 months.
Now, November in Northern Alberta can get mighty chilly, and this winter seemed to be especially harsh. Putting on a thick pair of woolly socks under my boots seemed just the ticket. Out from the drawer came the Noro socks.
They were actually quite warm and cozy, in spite of the scratchiness Noro yarns are infamous for. And they softened (and pilled like crazy) after washing. Maybe they weren't as bad as I thought....
The socks went into regular rotation, meaning that they were worn and washed about once a week. From November to early March, they held out okay, though thin spots were showing up, and I occasionally had the thought that I should keep an eye on those.
Then, the first holes appeared. But, March being the insanely busy month that it was for me, I ignored them. So the holes grew.
It took me nearly an hour to darn the holes up. The big hole got a patch darn, and the thin spots got a Swiss darn. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my leftovers of the original yarn, so I had to sub another sock yarn, meaning that there was no hope of matching the colors.

On the other hand, considering how unhappy I was with the original yarn, it was probably a good call to darn them with something sturdier. Sadly, though, I suspect the darned patches will far outlast the socks!
In 20 years of sock knitting, I have had to darn 3 socks. The other two belonged to young men who did not necessarily feel that wearing shoes in parking lots was a part of daily life, and that handknit socks were indestructible. (I don't know where they would have gotten that idea!)
All of the other socks I have made have been outgrown or passed on until I don't know where they are anymore. I have heard of a few toe repairs done to gift socks, but I blame those on folks who have not yet discovered the joys of a good pedicure.
So, all in all, these socks did live down to expectations. Cool to look at, cozy and woolly for winter, and not the least bit durable under pretty light wear and tear. (Remember that I sit on my bum, spinning or knitting, for the large part of the day!)
I hate it when I'm right.
(On the other hand, I wore them last week, after they were darned, and I couldn't feel any unevenness where the darning had been done. I'm just that good!)