Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ABC's-Alpaca, Bendigo, and Confusion

Last school holidays I talked my hubby into a midwinter trip to Bendigo, Victoria. For those not "in the know" (meaning non-knitters) Bendigo is the home of Bendigo Woolen Mills, a super cheap source of super good fibers. Regular priced Alpaca there is only $15 for 200gms, fabulously inexpensive while maintaining some of the very highest quality. If I sound like an advertisement for the place, so be it. It's indeed a marvelous find. There are three ways to buy from Bendigo Woolen Mills. One is to visit their website at: http://www.bendigowoollenmills.com.au/ , the second it to find your way to Bendigo itself, where they maintain a small shop alongside their mill that sells their product and has the added, and most glorious, bonus of having a "bargain room", which is nirvana for knitters. The third is to buy "Heirloom" wool at grossly inflated prices at your LYS (and even then, I'm not sure that all "Heirloom" wools are made at Bendigo, so buyer beware). Now, I love buying online as much (my hubby would say MORE) as the next gal, but I love touching wool. I love smelling it. I love being in the same room with it. While I do, on occasion, pick up a bit of cheap wool on Ebay, I generally prefer the "hands on" approach to wool shopping, so it has to be a heck of a bargain to entice me to buy wool online. Of course, now that I have been to nirvana, felt, tasted and teased their wares, I will most certainly, at some time in the near future, buy from them online. But I had to actually GO THERE first.

Anyhow, back to the trip. My hubby, being a teacher, had the whole two weeks of school holidays off, and he wanted to GO somewhere. He's like that. He loves to GO. Being in 24/7 healthcare, I get no such lengthy holidays, but I did manage to get 4 consecutive days off, a small miracle. He said "Where do you want to go?" and without my usual hesitation, I said "Bendigo". Now, being a manly man, he was not terribly impressed with driving 6 hours or so to shop for wool. He is, however, uncommonly indulgent where his wife is concerned, a trait of his to which I have grown quite fond. He did, however, ask that we based ourselves a couple of hours away in Ballarat, which has nice historical sites that he loves so much. Having reached our compromise, we set out to Victoria.

To make a long story short, I had an absolutely marvelous holiday. It snowed our first day in Ballarat. Being from the Northern Hemisphere, I miss snow, and it was really great to see it again. I found a pair of vintage natural emerald earrings to DIE for, a great canister set that exactly matches my kitchen marked down from $130 to $85 at Bendigo Pottery, and I found a restaurant with the very best salad I've eaten in Australia. Hubby lost, and miraculously found his wedding band, and all things went uncommonly well. All this was well and good, but the absolute highlight of my trip (as it should be) was Bendigo Woolen Mills. In their bargain room, I found Alpaca for $3 per 50 g. ball. I bought two shades, a shade called pistachio and another called oceania. I bought 14 balls of oceania and 12 of pistachio. I also bought some 8 ply cotton for 1.50 a ball, another great deal, but I'll get to that another day.

I think, at the time, I was planning to make smaller things out of them. I don't really remember. The only numbers I was concentrating on was $3 a ball! I remember thinking the two would look nice together, but I really don't like simple two color stripes, and I don't like actually doing any kind of fair island or intarsia. Well, anyhow, somewhere along the line I decided I wanted to make me an Alpaca cardigan or jacket.

The great hunt was on!!! I was looking for the perfect Alpaca worthy pattern. I searched my pattern books/leaflets/cards, the pattern books for sale on Ebay, free online patterns, you name it. Trouble was, I didn't have enough of either color by itself. I considered ordering more, but of course there's the dye lot issue. So I decided to put it on the back burner until something presented itself.

Now, there's a LYS in Adelaide that I don't particularly like, so I won't name it. While the stock is quite extraordinary, the service is dreadful, and the staff quite rude. Consequently, I've only been there a few times. I guess I keep hoping I'll get treated better the next time, but so far no luck with that. Anyway, while in there, I picked up a pattern book called Hurry Knits by Patons. It's a current, readily available book, and I'd seen it around. The patterns use 2 strands of 8 ply yarn knitted together to make quickly knitted womens garments. For some reason, it dawned on me, at that moment, that this was a solution to my problem. I flipped thru and I found a jacket pattern that required 24 balls, and it was exactly what I had been looking for stylewise. Even bigger miracle, it went up to my size! BINGO!! One strand Oceania, one strand Pistachio. I mix the yarn without stripes. I'm guessing it's gonna look awesome.

We will know soon enough. Even though I'm only about a 1/4 way thru my current project, a vest for hubby, and I have 1 1/2 (half done with one) projects for my grandsons Jr. and Christian to stitch up, I will start the Alpaca worthy garment as soon as I get off this computer. The vest is in fuzzy yarn anyway...I need a break.

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