Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beautiful skies

Not a whole lot report for us right now. The winter here has been mild and as I sit here writing this the window is open. We have had a lot of cloud and a few rain storms and the result is some seriously beautiful skies near sundown.

The trees are coated with a pink-gold light.

On the horizon the dark storm clouds almost look like mountains.

Then quite suddenly the clouds seem to be glowing from a fire within.

And from certain angles it, indeed, looks as if the horizon is burning.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Memorial blanket

So a lot of you might have realized that this blog does not outwardly appear to have a cohesive subject. There is crafting, and travel, and notes about living in Spain. In the past I have struggled with that fact that there is no main theme to the blog, but that fact is, there is a main theme: my public journal of my life.  I have started tagging the blog with different key words so that those of you that do not care about crafting can read about my travels and vice-versa, and I will continue to go back and tag the old posts to make reading on a theme easier. If you wish to, please use the tags I have put in the right hand side bar to go to the subjects that interest you. The fact of the matter is that I miss my blog and I am going to start posting more regularly, and it is going to be a true mash up of my life, enjoy.

So back to today's post. As many of you might be aware I recently lost one of my best friends. It has been 5 months now, and it is still really hard to get through a day sometimes. My grief has been profound and it could be, that being so lonely here in Madrid has not helped. Before you feel too sorry for me, know that lot of my solitary feeling is self-inflicted because I know that we are looking to move countries again soon. So, without realizing it, for a while I channeled my grief into something constructive. Something that would be pretty and give warmth and comfort to my family.

I chose to knit the Mystery blanket by Elizabeth Zimmerman out of The Knitter's Almanac. I have always wanted to do this blanket because I love kitchener stitch. The reason that this blanket is called a "mystery" is that it is really hard to see in which direction that it is knit.

This blanket was born when I realized that I a lot of my worsted weight stash was in autumn colors and that I might have enough for a decent sized blanket. The blanket is very heavy and a great stash buster (uses a lot of yarn). It is knitted worsted weight/Aran held double on size 8mm. The finished size is about 4.5-5.5' or 1.5 by 2 meters. I knit the pattern as is except for the boarder which I knit in the round for fear of running out of wool.

I do not have all of the information on which types of wool I used. Some of them were close-outs and some of them un-marked Spanish wool.

Sorry about the photos in my kitchen, it is the best place to get natural light. 

If I was to knit this again I would have added extra increases at the corners by the edge. I added to either side of the corner stitch every-other-row but it was not enough, the corners have a tendency to flip up and it was only with firm blocking that they give the appearance of laying flat. I would also have made the increase yarn overs because they are stretchier. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fabrica de lanas de Arségual

This Christmas I got one of the best and most thoughtful presents from my beloved Sister-in-law (SIL). She sent me 6 natural colored (same color as the sheep) skeins, two each of white, grey and dark brown. She and her partner had toured the countryside in Catalonia at the end of September and ended up going to Fabrica de lanas de Arségual. An actual Spanish mill, with a really mule-Jenny! I had no idea that there was a working mill here in Spain, let alone one so historic!
Since there are a lot of blog/videos/ information about this mill in both Spanish and Catalan I thought I would do a post in English, even if I have yet to visit the mill, after all, I do now have 6 very precious Spanish made skeins. Hopefully I will have translated all of the information right. If any of you have ever been there and have corrections/additions, let me know.

The mill was closed to visitors on the day my SIL went, but she was able to take pictures of the outside the mill and inside the shop. All photos are taken by my SIL unless otherwise noted.

This historic mill is located near the very small town of Arséguel in Catalonia. Here is a link to their website (in Spanish).

The mill
It is completely run on hydroelectric energy, a water-wheel is powered by the river Segre that travels down a kilometer and a half long channel that ends in a 10 meter waterfall. The carders, the mule-jenny and the looms are run on this power. The only non hydro electric energy they use is for the lightbulbs in the factory.

Segre river

Bridge that crosses over the river to the mill

The family that owns the mill have been spinners since 1695 and have been in the building that the mill is now housed since 1902. The machinery that is still in use has been in use since the 18th century.

Luckily for me, the store was open, and she was able to buy me some yarn.

Shop door

Blankets for sale

The mill sells the yarn, socks and blankets....and admits that the yarn has a very rustic feel "The socks made from our wool is adequate for a rigorous climb in the Pyrenees, or a nice sturdy blanket for a might not be comfortable to wear this wool next to your skin". The blankets are made by hydraulic powered looms and the socks are hand cranked on a circular sock knitting machine.

In the picture below you can see what I believe to be the sock knitting machine on the lower right and on the lower left, some sort of electric sock blockers. The yarn in the back is for sale.

Like I said it is possible to take a guided tour, but since my SIL was not able to I have chosen to highlight some photos/videos from Spanish/Catalonian bloggers who have toured it. All sources are noted under the photos. If you read Spanish I invite you to take a look at their posts.

Here is short video that briefly shows a lot of their equipment, and the process.

There are six different machines that the wool passes through to be picked and carded before going to the spinning machines.

One blog states that the picker is known as el diablo (the devil) I wonder if that is just for this particular picker, or for all of them? They do have wicked teeth, I am sure that is where the name comes from.

Everything is water powered. How do they do it? Big leather belts attached to a pole turn by the water-wheel.
Mule Jenny spins woolen spun yarn, this is the only Mule-Jenny in Catalonia, and maybe Spain? It can spin up to 300 balls at once.

They also have an antique hydroelectric powered loom (15 meters long!) that they use to make the blankets. For more photos of the looms and even a photo of their pattern pegs go to this blog (Spanish)

They also have conserved on site, but not in use, a 17th century"Draper mill"carder made of thistles. Fun fact in Spanish thistle is "cardos" and the verb to card is "cardar".

Image taken from here

Finally here is a more general video about the mill if you are craving more  it is image only, no commentary.

Because this town is so small and remote I am pretty sure the only way to get there is by car. A lot of the wooly attraction in Spain are remote and only reachable by car, which is probably why you do not see more of these posts from me (I have yet to drive in Spain).

What do you think? Would you go for a tour?