As we wind our way through the Pacific Northwest, we passed through Pendleton, Oregon. Naturally, I insisted on a visit to the Pendleton Woolen Mills. I wrote last year about my Pendleton shirt, worn by my Dad in the 70s. And since my handknit blanket was suffering some setbacks, I figured I ought to get a blanket to keep warm at night.
The mill offers free tours, so naturally I was all for it. The tour was about 30 minutes long, and took the group through the entire process, from spinning yarn to weaving blankets to quality control. The tour started with how the yarn is made, from creating roving to spinning the yarn (pictured above).
Once the yarn is spun, it's wound onto larger cones for weaving. That helps reduce the time and handling it takes to work with the yarn.
Yarn is stored all over the place. This one corner had more yarn than I'll probably ever own.
We got to see a couple of different looms in operation. This one (above and below) is a jacquard loom. The green things go up through the ceiling and are actually the harnesses.
It's amazing to watch the looms in action - they go so fast, and can weave a whole blanket in a matter of minutes. If only I could weave so fast!
Blankets are sewn together before going through quality control and wet finishing. Wet finishing is where they wash the blankets to felt them and make them softer than they are when they come off the loom.
I loved that the forklift got its own upholstery!
Every inch of fabric is inspected by hand, both front and back. Any imperfections are noted at every stage of the process. Anything that falls below standards are treated as seconds.
It was incredible to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mills and see their dedication to quality and local manufacturing. I ended up buying two blankets, and now we're toasty warm every night!
Well, naturally, since I felt like everything was finally starting to go smoothly with my Noro Log Cabin blanket, that was when everything went wrong.
The first thing to go wrong actually happened a month or so ago, when I bought the rest of the yarn I needed. The store didn’t have exactly the color I wanted, so I figured that another color would do just fine. After all, Noro shades tend to go well with each other.
Well, they do go together, but not in the way I liked. The new colors were just a bit too neon and pastel for my taste, and I spent an awful lot of time looking at it and wondering whether I should rip it back.
It’s not usually my style to rip back, so instead I forged ahead and fretted about the colors. You can buy Noro online, I know, but I don’t have easy access to the mail these days.
Well, the problem of whether or not to rip back was solved for me. As I jumped up to go look at a stunning sunset, I put down my knitting in my chair. But when I came back to it, it was piled on top of the citronella candle I had been burning.
What could have been a disaster was really only localized to a small piece of knitting. One of the many excellent properties of wool is that it is self-extinguishing, so the hole you see here was the only major damage.
The way I had joined the squares, I had to rip back to solve the color problem – only I was almost out of all my other main colors. I found some Spincycle yarn at Sheep’s Clothing in Kennewick, Washington that was remarkably close to my main color, and alternated rows with Noro to get a close enough effect in the replacement square.
I figure that I got set back by about a week, and the nights have been getting cooler as we wend our way north. You’d think the answer would be to knit faster, but happily one of the stops along the way was the Pendleton Woolen Mill, where I bought two lovely wool blankets. More on that to come soon.
Things may have been quiet around here for a long while, but I've been keeping busy in the fiber realm. In case of future radio silence, you can pretty much always find me on Instagram, where I manage to be pretty involved. Somehow, I feel like posts on this platform need to say more, and it can be difficult to work up to more than a short blurb.
Life around here got pretty interesting, pretty fast. Mike (DH) has been trying to get me to quit my job for ages, so that we can both work full time on our business. But I've resisted for a long time because I like the routine of going to work, and the social interaction with my co-workers. I've worked from home before, and it hasn't always afforded me as much structure as I'd like.
Well, the structure these days is pretty different than anything I'd ever imagined. With the income from our business, we were able to pay off my student loans from law school, buy an RV, and we've both left our steady jobs in good industries. And now, we're on nothing less than a 3 month RV vacation through Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.
We packed up our entire house, which was a reminder to me that I need to be ever more conscious of the things I buy - there was just an overwhelming amount of stuff. Most of it went into storage, and the essentials went into our RV. Remember Slow Fashion October? Well now my closet is literally what can fit on 20 hangers, four small drawers, and a couple of jackets. It will be interesting living with so much less stuff, particularly clothing.
Luckily, I was able to pack a good chunk of my stash and my spinning wheel. So the fibery goodness will certainly continue! (And as I type this, I'm sitting outside a yarn shop in eastern Oregon, waiting for it to open.)
Naturally, I had grand plans about all the different kinds of knitting projects I would do on this trip, but of course they've all been derailed - for now. I'm working on actually finishing a project that's been in progress for more than two years - a log-cabin style blanket made out of Noro's Silk Garden Sock yarn. (A good tutorial on how to do it can be found here.)
The original plan when I started the project was to make a king-sized blanket. But when I unearthed the squares while packing up the house, I realized I had almost enough to make a blanket for the double bed in our travel trailer.
These last few weeks, I've been joining together squares and creating borders to make the blanket a little bigger. Naturally, I'm getting to the stage where things get cumbersome, but hopefully we'll have a nice cozy blanket soon - sometimes the nights get chilly!