Sunday, 30 August 2015

the final stretch

it's done! that stack you see is not quite all of the samples for when nature fought back. three of the garments are currently with melanie wesley while she builds their corresponding base pieces for the photo shoot. 

we are 27 days out from the photo shoot, which is terrifying but also exhilarating. i've been working on this collection for a year now, with the first pattern - pollination - released last october. there's still a lot for me to do before the shoot - i need to gather the rest of the outfits, reblock the knits, make some non-knit accessories, sort out the make-up, do a test fitting with the models and all the outfits, edit the remaining eight patterns (there will be sixteen in total!), get them test knit, and gather all the gear for the weekend. i also need to prep for manitoba fibre festival, and i'm aiming to have all the dyeing done by the 12th. that's less than two weeks away, but it does give me time for the yarn to dry, get wound into cakes or skeins, labelled, and organized before going into the woods. upon coming back from the woods, i have about four days to pull together the lookbook for both the physical and digital versions and figure out the booth display for fibre fest.

i'm also hoping to release the mini baby collection i've been working on around the same time, and i have a shawl in the works for fibre fest, featuring my mermaid hair yarn (a sockweight 50% wool/50% silk single ply). oh, and i'm setting up my studio over the next couple of weeks. finally, a dedicated work space outside of my kitchen but still in my house! yes, i am a nut. it's fine. 

the samples will all be available for trying on at fibre fest, and then in december as the first fridays exhibition for manitoba craft council! i'm the featured artist for that month and will be building a multimedia exhibition/fancy version of the trunk show at the craft council's office. more details on that later, of course, but suffice to say that there will be several opportunities for you local folks to check out the collection! and if you're not local, maybe bug your local yarn shop to host it...

Sunday, 16 August 2015

long weekends are for working, a bit

hoping that this pile will turn into an outfit by the time fibre fest rolls around...
i have a long weekend thanks to some lieu time from my 9-to-5 job, so i get a four-day weekend rather than my usual saturday and sunday. today, i'm feeling a bit off. or maybe not off, just like a normal sunday feeling. since i was a child, i've associated sundays with a feeling of melancholy. not a terrible, debilitating amount, just enough to make me a little bit restless and a bit more contemplative than usual. i didn't sleep particularly well last night and then woke up early too, so perhaps that has something to do with it. regardless, it's resulted in me feeling a bit more domestic than usual, so i've done a few loads of laundry (linens and towels that rarely feel so immediate as clothes), swatched for a new design, had a dye pot of pomegranate simmering, and baked some muffins. all at a much more leisurely pace than i usually indulge in.

A photo posted by Ash Alberg (@sunflowerknit) on

i spent the first part of yesterday at wolseley wool, selling (and buying) sunflower knit stuff and chatting to folks about my natural dyeing process. lucy neatby was coming through town with a group of other knitters on their way to a retreat up to churchill (let's not talk about how jealous i am of that group), and wolseley wool was one of their stops. mona and odessa were lovely and asked myself and hilori if we wanted to do a little pop-up shop since they were coming by! i had a fabulous morning, despite the couple of wasps who seemed hellbent on bothering both me and my yarn, and i sold a few things from my old stock. my new stock is all being prepped for fibre festival, so it won't debut until october, but that's totally fine.

i grabbed a cake of hilori's matrix base (the sock one) for a shawl design inspired by van gogh's the starry night. the colour is just too exact to do anything else. i'm hoping to get around to it sometime this fall/winter, although my design queue is getting a bit ridiculous…i also grabbed more zooey, because i loved it so much this past week while working on a when nature fought back design that i just really wanted to knit one for myself. the sample i knit up is too big for me, so i'm excited to have some for myself. i'm going to knit the same design up in my size and will hopefully have it done in time for fibre fest, along with maybe another wiksten dress. it's my absolute favourite thing to wear, and i have some japanese indigo cotton that i think would make a beautiful second. my wardrobe is consisting of a few duplicates these days, and i have to say that i actually really love having more than one of my favourite pieces.

speaking of fibre fest, one of the organizers popped by to say hi at yesterday's pop-up!
on friday, i met with one of my models and one of the collaborating artists, lennard taylor, who's making his base pieces. besides the fact that it's been stupidly hot lately and i felt a little bit bad making my model try on knits, it was a very exciting meeting. i'm down to just four projects left for the photo shoot, which is actually a small number considering where i was one month ago. i'm feeling a bit of startitis setting in though, and my mind is already starting to wander to other large-scale projects. 

my new single ply fingering weight base make the loveliest little cakes!
tuesday will be another indigo dyeing date with kelly! i think i'll need to do one more prior to fibre fest, but they're pretty large-scale days for me because i try to get a large amount done with every fibre base since they don't happen as easily as the non-indigo dye dates. so with any luck, i'll have all of my bases dyed prior to september with the exception of my gradient and ecoprint blanks. the knitting machine should arrive any day now, which will let me chip away at those over the last few weeks prior to fibre fest.

Monday, 10 August 2015

upcoming fibre-y happenings

my favourite pic from hanging out with sylvia. she caught me mid-wip on another when nature fought back design.
i have the craziest next few months on the horizon. all of it is absolutely magical, but i think my friends will be getting used to me being more of a hermit than i normally am. as far as i'm concerned, the necessary hermitting will hopefully recharge me in between all the over-socialization of a number of these events. it's a weird, weird balance! 

i picked up a lot of yarn at tolt yarn and wool, including these three beauties that are destined for a shawl design!
first up, i'll be at wolseley wool next saturday (the 15th) to give a short chat about my natural dyeing process. it's part of an event running at the shop from 10am-2pm, so if you're around, you should definitely pop in to say hi! i'll have some yarn with me for sale - old bases only, as the new ones are in the process right now of being dyed for manitoba fibre festival

more tolt purchases. i've been drooling over bumblebirch for so long, and we all know i love multi-coloured shawls...

i'm dyeing and knitting up a storm right now, because the photo shoot for when nature fought back and manitoba fibre fest are back-to-back, and i have about six weeks to get prepared for both of them. there's a five-day turnaround in between returning from the woods and the first day of fibre fest, so in order to not completely melt down over an extended period, my goal is to have the major prep work for both of them done before the photo shoot weekend. short meltdowns are fine, right? right. the photo shoot for the when nature fought back collection is taking place at the end of september, and i've given myself until the end of august to get all the knitting done. this way, i have a few weeks of leeway for last minute changes, dealing with pieces that suddenly don't make sense or need to get added, and pulling the knits together with the other costume pieces and make-up.

yoth yarns from baaad anna's. but seriously, you have no idea how many shawl designs i have crowding my brain.

i'm going back to school for a certificate in arts and cultural management, starting in september - who'd have thought i'd be back into academics so quickly? the business side of things is actually not something i'm particularly comfortable with. considering i run my own small business and also work in a position at a much larger-scale arts business that involves interacting with an ever-growing number of high-level external partners, it would probably be smart for me to hone up on those skills.

gorgeous yarn from megan of lichen and lace out of new brunswick. these are destined for a late-fall release.

i have so many designs queued up for release once everything dies down. there are a bunch of unreleased patterns for when nature fought back that will find their way into the wild once i actually get a chance to sit down, breathe, type out the patterns, get them tested and edited, and photographed. ideally before fibre festival…and then i have a mini collection of baby knits using julie asselin's fino. that will be released around the same time, and probably a design for fibre fest that will be released in one of my new yarn bases. and the pattern using megan's beautiful yarn above, and a million shawls because i love them so much and i have approximately that many designs swimming around in my head and in my notebooks. i also have some other projects that are going to fly under the radar for a few more weeks, but i'll tell you about them in the next few months. pinky promise.

me and my squinty smile. wearing my lace mess shawl
little bonus: i was featured in my first yarn-y podcast! i'm not actually speaking on it, but sylvia and jocelyn run the knitter punks podcast and sylvia mentions me as her crush on the second episode. you can listen to it/subscribe here

Sunday, 9 August 2015

(working) vacation

a couple of tolt acquisitions, one of which has already become a creature comforts for the photo shoot.

i got back almost a week ago now from a trip that i'd been excited about for nearly a year. i went to vancouver to do theatre for living training with the actual theatre for living team, which was such an incredible opportunity after training and studying and practicing it for the past five years. i also met up with some lovely fibre folks who i've been connecting with online now for so long that they felt like old friends already - how exciting to make interwebs friends into real life friends!

A photo posted by Ash Alberg (@sunflowerknit) on

theatre for living is a style of community-based theatre that uses games and performance techniques to address conflict within communities. you may recall that my friend loc trained me to be a joker (facilitator) last year, and i ran workshops at egale's OUTshine conference back in may using theatre for living techniques. actually getting to work with david was incredibly special though - i spent six days intensively training with artists and activists and compassionate people from all sorts of backgrounds and from all over the world, solidifying my own practice while getting to analyze others. ultimately, my practice has a couple of very large differences from david's method for joking, but we share in our deep belief in the work and a desire to help the world even when it's all falling to crap.

A photo posted by Ash Alberg (@sunflowerknit) on

i also got the opportunity to hang out with several really awesome, wonderful, clever, fabulous knitters and fibre artists - sylvia, caitlin, kristan, emily, and alexa! and i got to meet paula, the new owner of baaad anna's (where i picked up three skeins of yoth's big sister for a shawl design), as well as the lovely folks at tolt yarn and wool (where i bought enough yarn that i went over the daily limit for unclaimed purchases at the border…). sylvia and i had an adorable knitting date in a park, occasionally interrupted by the cutest little badass girl. caitlin and i helped frame a thing at baaad anna's, then she hung out with me and an old friend while her darling one stabbed me with tiny needles for six and a half hours. then kristan, emily, tiny ellis, alexa, and i all went for a yarn road trip down to tolt, which is about two hours south of the border. fun fact: canadian border guards are waaaaaaay nicer than american ones. no matter what the american ones try to claim. also, giving them your phone's password is super invasive, but will also make getting out of their offices significantly less painless than not giving it to them. yay, creepy fucked up security measures…i should probably learn how to not get so aggressively defensive when it comes to pushy security guards. whatever. we had fun once we got out of there, and that's all that matters.

more tolt acquisitions, destined for a gift, a new design, and selfish knit which i've actually scheduled into my queue.

i managed to meet up with some old friends from halifax who have either relocated to vancouver or moved back there after being on the opposite coast. in a lot of cases, i hadn't seen these friends in three years. god, i missed them. being an adult is weird sometimes, and i notice it especially when reconnecting with old friends and we realize it has literally been years since we last saw one another, even though it feels like yesterday. that's a sign of a good friendship, in my books. i was also staying at one of the cutest (and most memorable, apparently) houses in east van. it's a bit (a lot?) of a queer punk house, so there were a number of folks dropping in for a night or three and then whisking off on another adventure. such great humans. really great conversations, delicious communal food gatherings, and a good blend of evenings out and evenings spent in watching netflix and youtube.

a gift of handspun from sylvia.
and now i am home, and my heart is still mending from minor breaking (a prerequisite for any travel i embark on/return from, it seems), and i have a box of kinnikinnick gluten-free pancake mix (because i can't find it on the prairies but you can get it on either coast, and it's delicious) and oodles of yarn and plans and projects and opportunities coming up. and i am considering maybe moving to the west coast someday, and hating the shitty housing market in vancouver (good luck finding anything for less than $1 million, even if it's a pile of sticks or an empty lot), and also still missing halifax and wishing it wasn't already a year since i was on the east coast with all my loves out there. my heart exists in many tiny fragments most days.

a friend posted something on facebook recently, and it said, "they say | "follow your heart" | but if your heart is | in a million pieces | which piece do you follow?" my response to that is, "as many as possible."

i will share with you all the very exciting developments in my fibre life in the next day or two. stay tuned! it's a busy and beautiful time.