Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Unabridged Retreat: Round One

After about an 80 minute drive with my friend, anticipating a weekend of all fiber and no responsibility, we arrived at the Hankerd Inn. This was going to be a chance to get to know my fellow Black Sheep members better, and a great excuse to talk about knitting 24/7 with people who don’t think that there would be anything wrong with that. The conversational focus matched the quantity of unattainable knitting goals that were in my bags. (A habit that is probably the reason that I laughed so hard while reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s newest book. Hmmm, imagine, she, too, has difficulty limiting the projects that travel with her.) In fact, the hardest part of packing was the fiber. Planning to spin or not to spin, a simple sock, a new project, needles for the mystery knit along, so many choices! It was tough!

I was going to be spending the weekend with friends that are relatively new to me, and it had me wondering how the weekend would go. As a kid, I did not have a group of girlfriends or spend much time at slumber parties and that sort of thing. Outside of a couple of good friends, I spent time learning to knit and crochet, needlepoint, sew, cross stitch and macramé from my mom and the help of the library "how-to" section. I loved working with fiber and that interest has obviously not gone away. In fact, it seems to have slowly come to full blown obsession. Working in a class was the closest that I came to working in a group. Even as an adult, the fiber thing has been somewhat solitary.

So, spending the weekend with 19 women and their wool is a newer sort of phenomenon, one that I have been developing for the past couple of years through fiber trips with smaller groups and guild members. I have always thought of myself as a shy person. Lately, though, I have been realizing that maybe this attribute may be evolving a bit. (I say this, since everyone that I mention my shyness to has laughed.)

Once we had all arrived, we were ready for food. The dining room was set with a large table and a few smaller tables, it was perfect sitting with different women and mixing it up. What a great way to get to know each other better, sharing food! Some food and a little rest and we were ready for a little ice-breaker. This was planned around our keen knowledge of the knitters who keep us inspired and get us in trouble for logging onto the internet during work hours, a few too many times.

Although I am generally not a fan of the ice-breaker sort of activities myself, it was great fun trying to determine which famed knitter’s name was on my back by asking ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions about me. (I turned out to be the famed Nancy Bush! How exciting).

Since it was the beginning of the weekend, it was important that we got our mystery knit along kit; we just might need something to do all evening! The kits were a mystery right from the start…each was hidden in different colored bags and contained yarn in seven different colors plus the main color and the 4 sealed clue envelopes to get us through each stage of the project. We made a few swaps to liken our colors to our personal favorites and we were happy. Pictures will be coming soon, I don't want to spoil anything for the other mystery knitters!

Then came what seemed to be the equivalent to Oprah’s favorite things. Our “Knitting Goodie Bags” were distributed with bits of everything fiber in them. The Black Sheep leadership team went all out for us. (All I can say is "Namaste" and I mean that!) Even the dyeing supplies for Saturday’s workshop were included. The thrill filled the room and continued through the rest of the weekend!

Arriving Friday evening made for a long day after work. But it did not take long for us to get our second wind. Soon, we were enjoying our fiber, our friends and, of course, a bit of chocolate.

To be continued……

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Surprised when scouting new sites!

Whilst looking around for knitting with scouts type sites, hoping to find informational items to share with children, I happened upon this wonderful site for adult knitters. It is really funny and I would love to award all of my friends with the appropriate badges. Yup, badges, the kind that we earned as youngsters in scouting, but much more applicable to our modern knitting lives. Grown-up scouting badges, check it out!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Return from OZ (the abridged version)

Have you ever had an experience that was so vivid, so colorful, that it was almost like a dream? Do you dream in color? This weekend was a dream in color, like when Dorothy awoke in OZ and the black and white became Technicolor. I was in fiber heaven with 19 of my best fiber buddies for the entire weekend. Moments ago, I returned. So here is the abridged version of the happenings, details and reflections to follow.

Friday, an 80 minute drive with fellow Blacksheep and Raveler, Harriet, and no getting lost ended at our destination: The Hankerd Inn. We had a room in the barn, so what did I expect? Not this! We had a great room with a high ceiling for gathering around the fireplace. It was attached to a large kitchen for easy snacking and uniquely decorated bedrooms that were quite lovely! Downstairs was the workroom with great lighting and tables anticipating our Saturday dyeing workshop with Rita Petteys (Yarn Hollow hand dyed yarns).
All meals were taken care of, so all that we had to do was get inspired, knit, spin, talk, LAUGH, and learn new things! We did all of the above.
Saturday's dyeing workshop had us measuring and painting yarn or roving to our own specifications with the expert guidance of Rita. There were NO bad results and Rita was most accommodating to our sometimes very specific needs. Plus, she brought oodles of her wonderful hand dyed yarns for our shopping pleasure. What a day, I dreamt all night of what I made, what I bought and what they would become.
A weekend like this is a real treasure and time well spent with other creative people with so many different ideas. With that many women, it is pretty likely that there may be a few moments of discontentment. Not this weekend, there were none. We spent our time together in peace and harmony, just like that Technicolor dream, and I am not kidding.
As for all that we packed, spinning wheels, knitting projects (at least 2) movies, books and food...well, we did use most of them. There was not much time for movies, but there was inspiration from knitting books, many show and tell moments and a great knit along that challenged us all. The excitement went on and on and continues to make me smile. The blogs to follow will surely recap the adventures in more detail after I get some sleep and return to the real world. (Thanks Black Sheep Knitting say "You Rock" is not enough.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Teaching the old dog new tricks

It happened! Tuesday at the Beanery, it happened! I learned from the great and wonderful Evilneice how to Navajo ply.
Off and on during my years of spinning, I have witnessed and tried to do this with my hand spun singles. I really like the idea of a yarn that comes from one bobbin. No more worrying about how much yarn is on the bobbin, dividing it as close to the halfway point as I can or even if I have ENOUGH bobbins to spare for this job!
It did not happen all at once, nor was it clear and easy at first. I am still hoping that I can actually do this again, now that the rhythm is gone from my one on one instruction. But my friend encouraged me..she did what a great teacher does, she watched me and figured out what the heck was going on with my awkward posture and arm motions that were accomplishing nothing.
The key for me was this:

The right hand pulls the loop open and holds the plies waiting to be spun together. The left hand needs to be more passive, it is the guide to get the three plies to join together happily and evenly. Then, repeat the process.

I did this. I kept doing this. In the end, I finished plying a ball of yukky hand spun single yarn that I debated about tossing. It is not gorgeous, but it is plied. It is ok. Maybe a bit curly (over spun is and understatement!) Stay tuned for Navajo plied yarn pictures, I am sure that I will do this again, and will share the evidence.

As I said, I have tried this before. More than once. The point is, I did not give up on the idea and hope that I should be able to Navajo ply my yarn. Persistence and a good teacher were the winning combination.

Now lets see what I can do without my coach.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It is all in the SHARING

Last night, I made a presentation to the Eastside Weaving Guild. It was about combining knitting with woven cloth. I weave a little, and knit a lot, so combining the two seemed only natural. I had the opportunity to travel to San Miguel, Mexico, last spring to make a sweater that combined the two techniques. The trip was wonderful, the class was great, but the ideas that came springing forth in my brain were the best!

I find that workshops and classes are so valuable. No matter how much I know, or think that Iknow, there are always new ideas and techniques and manners of working that open my mind to new possibilities. This workshop did that for me, so that was what I shared.

The audience knits, and weaves and dyes...and essentially does everything fiber. That is what I like about belonging to the guild. It was equally valuable to me to hear the comments and suggestions of what inspired them while we talked! So, the workshop that was intended to give me a way to do one thing became the inspiration for doing more and the presentation added further to the experience! Wow! I can't wait to see the new work that might come from one kernel of sharing.

It will be especially exciting, since much of what we weave is sampling for larger pieces or yardage that is beautiful, but not enough for, say, a jacket. The renewed use of beautiful fiber in all forms helps to revive the work and interest in our stash. One suggestion was using felted wool in combination with knitting, or even crochet!

All of those creative minds on one room, with all of that experience. It is pretty powerful, and it is ALL in the sharing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

SHOW and tell...more show

I finally shot some supplemental pics that would help to explain what I have been doing. So I will do a little show and tell for today.

Here are the handknit wool socks that I got in the market outside of Prague in Cesky Krumlov. They are bulky, but sentimental comfort to me.

This is the cover of a book that has been in my collection, and now, in the collection of sock knitting addicts the world over! I have a skein on order at Busy Hands. How could you not be inspired by the colors in his paintings? I love this next one...maybe a subject for my next dyeing project!


Here is the dreaded travel sock that is finally nearing completion. I am not usually very good about having a UFO and am forcing myself to finish this so that the other exciting yarn that keeps yelling at me can get onto some needles!

I think that I had a setting misconfigured for comments, so please let me know what you are thinking!

Now it should work. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday is going to be an exciting day for me. I met up with a Black Sheep member and Raveler who is going to try and make me like navajo plying. I have tried once or twice, and like the result but not the effort. Tuesday is going to be different. Thank you Evilneice...I have faith in you!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

As easy as Alpha, Beta, Delta and Theta!

In case you weren't there, or couldn't tell by the title of this entry, I was at the Ann Arbor District Library with about 300 other knitting fanatics to hear the wise and wonderful words of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka "The Yarn Harlot." If you were not, the reference is to the brain wave activity part of her talk that reasurred us that we are intelligent and increasing the power of our brains in the most delightful way!

What a wonderful feeling it was to be surrounded by knitters who felt that it was important enough to take the day off or sneak out of work early. Everyone wanted to be sure and get a seat in the "live room" audience or admittance to the very crowded upper level! We knit, talked, and took turns running out for important reasons like food, potty breaks and the used book sale (that surely must contain some hidden knitting gems that the other couple hundred knitters missed. I, however, did not find it.)

I called home to let my husband know that I had arrived safely and he laughed as he asked, "and she doesn't come until 7pm and you are waiting there at 3:30? ....and there are others there?....and they have been there even longer?.....and who is she? Ok, have fun, don't forget to eat, I guess I won't see you until late....yarn store is open until when?....midnight? I guess I won't see you for a while!"

He tries, and he understands a huge bit of this, but he does not quiet completely get it.

That is why we were there. Waiting, talking, knitting and not feeling stressed. We were at peace with the wait and anticipation of the voice that makes us laugh at ourselves and feel in touch and understood by others. The voice that reassures us that we are truly an unlikely community of people as Stephanie would tell us, might never otherwise have met, or even thought of associated with one another. We get it.

I knit on my simple "emergency" sock as I waited in line for the precious signing of my newest addition to the Harlot library. It is the same stupid sock that I have been finishing for the past two months, but it is always there for me when I have a spare moment that shan't be wasted. The yarn snarls and wraps on itself, the pattern is the standard, plain, meditative (was that the "Theta" brain waves?, or "Alpha" or "Beta", I have got to get them straight!) but beautifully dyed color transitions are getting me through.

Happily, I left the signing with the first sock completed, kitchenered and all, and the next into the cuff. It was a good thing, since I bought a bit of yarn at Busy Hands (for myself) and the socks are for my husband.

My welcome home and somewhat interested questions about the evening returned the focus on this patient partner who shares my heart with yarn and a bunch of crazy knitting friends. We tried the single sock on for fit and relaxed a bit. Then, I picked up my knitting and settled in with my first and second loves, (not to mention, of course, the cat.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Language of Art

After being refreshed by an evening of yoga , I was asked about my recent trip to Prague. Now, with my energy revived, I was excited to share my enthusiasm for this journey. I named the wonderful sites and gave a short description of what kind of things caught my eye.

I also shared the fact that upon return, a walk into town has turned into a comparison of visual observations. I live in a wonderful city; we have a downtown area to shop, eat and peruse our local bookstore while enjoying the cafe. But absence does not always make the heart grow fonder. I tend to compare the recent scenery of a trip elsewhere with the state of my home surroundings.

So, as I described the trip and my return, I noted the differences. Yes, the weather was the same, cold, snowy and grey. But....the streets of Prague were stone, wonderful patterned stone. The buildings were from all ages, and all designs. Architectural texts could photograph a few blocks and have some great examples for incoming students. (I know that my own photographs provide a multitude of samples!) Every day there is a new coat of posters layered upon the old, advertising the next night's concert in a historic chapel or synagogue. Color, texture and culture were in abundance.

My walk into my own town after the trip seemed bland. The streets were not hilly and curving into the unknown. The pavement was flat and smooth, surely better for preserving the ankles and knees, but less visually stimulating. The architecture here is pretty much of the same age, with some variation, thankfully, but not much.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy my neighborhood and town. I can find interesting texture and color in my home surroundings. But traveling to foreign textures and colors sure opens my eyes. Art is a blessing and a curse. It helps to see things in a variety of contexts. It makes the enormous number of photographs so varied that surely someone will be interested is at least some of them.

As for the knitting...I would be surprised if some of these patterns and textures didn't start showing up in my designs. The wheels are already turning.....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

So this is Jet Lag!

This is not the first time that I have traveled and experienced a time change. This is, however, the first time that I really noticed it. The first sign was the lack of knitting. The only other time that I have found myself without needles in hand for more than one day was when I was really sick with the flu. Otherwise, illness is just a good excuse for staying in pajamas and knitting away. Coming home from Prague left me feeling really tired! Yes, I have worked on the green socks that should have been done 3 weeks ago. But not really worked at them. They should be done, they should be fun. I was figuring that something was seriously wrong with me. What if the fiber bug just up and left me with hundreds of pounds of wonderful fiber, but no inspiration to use it?! The horror!!!

No, it is not that severe. In fact, I returned late Friday evening and was happily knitting and chatting with the guild gals last night like I never left. Whew! I even made a couple of new purchases, just to get the glow back. Pictures will be forthcoming, since I still haven't deleted the 1500 new shots from the trip from the camera. But I will say that the new additions to my collections are real beauties and are screaming, "Cast on!" (you know the feeling)