My Yarn Has Arrived!!!!!

My new venture – which I have so far failed to blog about, but which is the reason that I was attempting to photograph sheep, is coming together.  My yarn (spun from Amy Burchstead’s coopworth sheep, photographed in the last post) arrived today from the spinnery, and it is amazing.  I could not be happier with the yarn:three-ply sport weight, and even more exciting a proper five-ply gansey yarn.  I find myself petting it at odd moments, a goofy smile on my face.  Next step: dye the sport weight using natural dyes.  I really will actually blog about all of that.  


Photos to follow, as soon as my camera battery re-charges.


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In Which I Discover That Photographing Sheep is Harder Than it Appears.

In support of my New Venture (to be more fully explained in a later post) I spent yesterday afternoon at the ever picturesque  Buckwheat Blossom Farm, where I made the afore-mentioned discovery that obtaining a good photo of sheep being idyllic is harder than it looks.  I was lulled into a false confidence by the photos Amy took of the 2011 spring shearing, full of artfully posed sheep looking tranquil and interesting and sheepy.

Photo credit to Amy Burchstead, Buckwheat Blossom Farm

Expecting to be able to come up with something similarly arty and interesting, I set off to take my own photos, only to be hampered by the presence of the very large, slightly skittish young steers sharing the sheep pasture.

  Amy had warned me that the cattle were easily spooked, and given that they were penned behind temporary wire sheep fencing (electrified, but not enough to cause a scared steer to pause in flight) and clearly ready to dash off at a moment’s notice, once I found an okay place to take photos from I was reluctant to move any more that was necessary.  Also, unlike children or dogs anyone else I’ve tried to photograph, the sheep were simply uninterested in my presence and could not be lulled into the sort of curiosity that would cause them to look at me for more than the fleetest of glances before they returned to eating.

We are ignoring you.

Which is a shame, because they have lovely faces. Thankfully, Amy is as generous as she is skilled and so I have her photos as back-up should I need them.

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In Which Summer Officially Arrives

Of all the harbingers of summer, my favorite is the one that arrives in Damariscotta Mills in the middle of May.   The story of the Mills (people usually drop the “Damariscotta” bit) is a fairly common one in New England.  Once upon a time ( in 1729) a damn was built , taking advantage of the elevation drop where Damariscotta lake drains into Great Salt Bay, and the water power used by a double saw mill.   The water powered a variety of machine over the years, lately an aging hydroelectric plant, but the truly amazing thing is what else still uses the water.  

Note the net which prevents the alewives from going the wrong way

Great Salt Bay is at the head of the Damariscotta River, which, being heavily tidal, is actually an estuary, complete with horseshoe crabs (while not included in the technical definition of “estuary”, in my mind all estuaries should include horseshoe crabs, because they are just so amazing and strange) and is host to a large run of Alewives.  The Alewives return from the sea every year, climb the falls (at least until they were damned in 1729) and spawn somewhere in Damariscotta lake, after which they return to the sea.  The good folk of the Mills built a fish ladder in 1807 around the damn, and every year since the return of the alewives has meant that summer has truly arrived.   (Actually, I have no idea how people in 1807 viewed the return of the alewives, but for a number of reasons I suspect that it must have been positive).

The arrival of the alewives has always been exploited by the local humans and wildlife.  During the run village house roofs are white with sea gulls (and their droppings) ospreys are a common site, cormorants flock in the bay, and people move in to dip out their own share.  

The odd metal structure is actually a dip for harvesting alewives. The fish ladder branches off to the right.

Back in the day the alewives were caught and used for lobster bait or preserved, smoked or canned, for human consumption.  Town widows were allotted a number of bushels of alewives a piece as part of town support.  (My good friend Kelly has a theory that this policy was as much about given responsible men an excuse to talk to eligible women, or rather for the matchmakers of the town to set up responsible men with eligible women, as it was about giving support to the poor – given the life expectancy for men back in the day many widows would probably have been quite young). These days they mostly go for lobster bait, though a few are still smoked and the widows can still draw their share.

The alewives run for several weeks, and given the cold weather up here they may run may take longer than usual this year, but the Alewife Festival is always Memorial Day weekend, complete with live band, vintage car rides, games for kids, and raffles.

The fish ladder has been repaired a number of time over the years, and is currently undergoing a true rebuild (more information about that here).   

Watching the fish ascend the ladder is one of the most extraordinary things.  Eighteenth century authors often say that a given New England river is so full of fish that one may cross the river on their backs, and while it is and clearly was hyperbole, seeing how fish behave in the ladder I realize that the description is less of an exaggeration than I thought.  

The start of the ladder, covered in nets to protect the fish from the seagulls. Yes, all those dark spots in the water are fish.

This spring has been a cold one, and the fish are not as anxious to ascend the ladder as they normally are (I suspect that the water coming down the ladder is too cold for their liking at the moment) so, while dense with fish, at the moment the fish population is less dense than at the same time last  year.

A pool part of the way up the old section.

The finish! Fish arrive in the mill pond through the gate in the damn.

And on a completely unrelated note, the recent good weather has allowed me to stop wearing the my aran long enough to finish tucking tales and blocking.  I will be writing the pattern out, and hopefully it will be available soon(ish) complete with sizing and everything.

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A bit of a plug…

The lovely Rustin Revivals has included one of my scarves her latest etsy treasury here.   A well curated collection of objets,  it’s worth checking out.

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Spring! (someday)


This fridayRoughMagicCreations  created a lovely treasury of Maine artists for etsy, which may be seen here, or on her blog here.   They have a lovely eye, and I’m not just saying that because they included one of my scarves….

In other news, after another marathon photography session, I finally managed to list my new organic cotton scarf on etsy here.   I thoroughly enjoyed the dyeing process, vaguely blogged about here, which I shall be doing quite a lot of this summer, and blogging about in much more detail.

And in non weaving related news: seedlings have taken over the house,




and the eloquent Kate Davies has published her pattern for a lovely cardigan called Deco.  I promptly abandoned this sweater:

 which is almost finished but for three inches of the left sleeve and maybe a bit of fiddling with the neck (this photo was taken weeks ago) in favor of starting the much awaited Deco.  So far I am not regretting that choice.

And spring is slowly coming to Maine. 

I do exaggerate: this photo was taken a few weeks ago.  Spring has been very slow to arrive up here, but at least we don’t still have snow.


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Of new scarves and critics

I meant to use my day off to work on my backlog of scarves which need to be photographed and posted for sale on etsy; like this one:

Summer Warp in Salvia and Violet


 and this one:

Summer Warp in Loden and Violet


and this one,

But in the midst of fussing with the way they draped just so, and wondering if the colors shown on the screen of my camera were really perfectly accurate, I glanced at the other side of the room, and had  to take these photos instead. 

Nell in her favorite chair.


She was rather unimpressed by my artistic endevors.

Everyone is a critic.


And on another note entirely: this pile of yarn

The new project for January

Echos of summer: natural organic cotton and some that I dyed with natural indigo last summer.


has become these!

(Soon to be photographed more thoroughly, and posted for sale on etsy, as soon as I take my ever faithful assistant for a walk).

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Snow! And Scarves! and my Very Large Loom!



Snow has come to Maine, followed by wicked cold.  Last year was so oddly warm up here that I am actually relieved by the too many feet of snow outside and the below zero temperatures, but while waiting for my photos to download I read this article  in the NY Times, and now I don’t know what to think.  Also, according to our neighbor who runs excavators, despite all the cold before Christmas, the ground isn’t actually frozen up here.

Well, now that I have depressed myself (and perhaps, gentle reader, you):



and even better (though how anything can be better is hard to say)

Scarves! (Featuring one of the more photographed newel posts in history).  More photos and listing will be found at post-haste.

January Warp in Mango and Robin's Egg


January Warp in Robin's Egg and Violet



And finally, my Very Large Loom! (which is impossible to photograph in a reasonably artistic manner, but you get the idea):

My  Very Large Loom

So large that I could not stand far enough away to get it all in the photo.

Pully, Very Large Loom

So I took some more interesting detail shots


My dear, ever patient Mr. U_ has decided that after many years it is finally time for me to begin weaving on a larger scale, and I have to say that I agree with him.  Once the thing is up and running I hope to begin weaving krokbragd rugs , because they are gorgeous, and a fantastic outlet for my fascination with dye plants and local wool.

And before I head out into the cold to make run to the town dump (oh! the glamorous life!  although as anyone who has ever lived in a small town knows, the town dump is the center of town politics and gossip) a brief teaser photo of my current project.

The new project for January

Echos of summer: natural organic cotton and some that I dyed with natural indigo last summer.


Stay warm.


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