Attitude is most of it – Right?

You know, I try to have a can-do attitude.  I’m reasonably clever, I know how to read, I’ve got access to the internet, and that means that most of the time, I look at a task ahead of me and I think “Well. How hard can it be?” This usually works. I’ve changed the brake pads on a mini-van with just a library book and some borrowed tools, I’ve ridden my bike really far, and I can make all sorts of things. A lot of the time I feel like I’m in over my head – but it usually works out. The problem is that since I usually feel like I’m over my head, sometimes I don’t recognize it when I actually am. I’ll be chugging along, feeling a wild and vague sense of panic and hysteria, and then think, well, that’s not too bad – and the next thing I know voila. I’m actually underwater.  Examples? You betcha.

I sat down last night to pick up all of the stitches around the edge of the shawl, and two things happened. First, it turned out that I’d counted hopefully rather than actually, and as a result, I had six rows to go before I was really done. (No problem. Will only take a minute.) The second thing was that it turns out that I’d tried a new provisional cast on (How hard can it be?) and I didn’t do it right. How do I know?

snips 2017-03-03

It took about an hour to unpick the waste yarn, stitch by stitch, snipping it into little pieces as a went along, punctuating every sixth or seventh one with unladylike language of a pretty creative nature. The sides didn’t go much better, and I finished the one stinking round that it took to get everything sorted at 1:40am. (How hard can it be? THAT HARD.)

Then,  I decided that I’d do something special for Meg’s baby shower on Sunday (yes, yes it’s that soon, yes I know, knit faster) and after cruising Pinterest (MEGAN LOOK AWAY)  I bought some special cookie cutters and signed up to make some fancy cookies. Like this. Or this. Or those. Up until about 10 minutes ago it hadn’t really occurred to me that I don’t actually know how to do that, and my general sense of “How hard can it be?” was dashed when a friend said that if I got “color flow mix” that would really be good and I realized that I don’t know what that is, and now I feel nervous. Also? I think maybe it takes longer to make them than I thought. I’ll let you know.

Finally, I kept meaning to post and say that Debbi and I have good news and bad news for Strung Along. Good news? We unexpectedly have some spots free at the Strung Along April Retreat, but the June and November retreats have waiting lists. Usually things move around and open up on the lists (that’s what happened with this April one) and there’s a chance that we’ll have some spots, but – particularly for November the list is long, and it’s not looking great, and the truth is that if you were hoping to get to a retreat with us this year, we think April is going to be your chance. We don’t have many spots, but we’ve love it if you could come, and I know you have questions.

Question: Hey, there’s like… 8 million retreats. Why would I go to yours?

Well, ours is different in a few ways. There’s three full days of classes, and everybody goes to all three classes. It’s two days of knitting, and one day of spinning, and some relaxed, fun, optional stuff in the evenings. You’re in a tiny class (only 10-15 people) and you move with that group through the three days. Some retreats have more time for socializing, but we’re all about the classes. To our way of thinking, a fibre arts retreat should be all about the learning. If that’s what you think too, you’re probably going to love it.

resort 2017-03-03

Question: Who are the teachers? What are the classes?

This time, the teachers are me, Debbi Stone, and Judith MacKenzie. (She’s the spinning part.) Our theme is “Around the world in three days” and it’s going to be all about techniques and materials from the world over. We’ll talk about the history and traditions of knitters and spinners worldwide, and what they use, and how they use it. It’s going to be pretty great. We’re excited. (Can you say Latvian Braid? Oh yes, you can.)

shopping 2017-03-03

Question: I’m a brand new spinner, and I’m not that experienced a knitter… am I going to be okay?

Yes. Absolutely. We’ve got artists of every range coming, and you’ll fit right in, no matter what your skill level is. The classes are tiny enough that we can really personalize. You’ll be fine. We promise. (Also, if you don’t have a wheel, we can loan you one for the weekend. Don’t panic. We’ve got ya.)

ball winderr 2017-03-03

Question: If I’m going to go away for a treat, I want it to be nice. Is is nice?

Dudes, it’s super nice. We’re ridiculously proud of the wonderful food, and there’s optional paired wine flights with dinner. There’s a fireplace and Jacuzzi bathtub in all the rooms, and the staff at the resort is fantastic. It’s nice. It’s so nice you won’t want to go home.

dinner 2017-03-03

Question: I’m sort of an introvert and I would be coming by myself and I won’t know anyone. Do people come by themselves? Will it be weird? Will I be lonely?

You’ll be fine.  From one introvert to another, it will be fine. Lots of people come alone – most people, actually, at least at first. We’ve got lots of knitters who came by themselves and made friends with other knitters, and now they look forward to seeing them at the retreats. It’s a welcoming, open place, and there’s lots of time to yourself, if that’s how you like it, and I promise you won’t feel weird.

bathtub 2017-03-03

Question: I have other questions. What do I do?

Write to us at info@strungalong.ca and Debbi or I will answer you. There’s lots of information here on our retreat page too.

Last Question: I’m not able to come, but I hear you guys have goodie bags, and I wondered if I could put my stuff in it?

We do have goodie bags, and we’d love it if you put stuff in it. We’re happy to showcase anything you’d like knitters or spinners to see. Your product goes in the bags, and on our social media feeds, and we’re as grateful as you can imagine. If you’d like to talk about it, email us at info@strungalong.ca, and we’ll get you the details.

Forever

I am going to be knitting this blanket forever. I see that now, as plainly as I understand that I am destined to never catch up on the laundry, and that email can never be truly finished. I also see that a large blanket knit from laceweight might have been a bit of an overshoot, if you catch my meaning.  I have only about a month left, and this blanket pretty much refuses to get done, despite much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

swatchblankie 2017-03-02 (1)

Today, I have gleefully and delightedly finished the centre. It’s a small centre, as planned, and now I’ve got to make a move to get this thing sorted to be knit in the round. Tonight I’ll leave the stitches at the top live, and then pick up stitches down the first side, then unpick the provisional cast on along the bottom, and pick up more stitches along the second side. I don’t have time to make a mistake, so I’ve spent a little time today picking up stitches along the side of my swatch.

Swatchblankie 2017-03-02

Obviously, one side had too many (you can see it flare out, there on the right) and the other one looks pretty good. That’s the rate I’ll be going with.

Forever. And ever.  Send wine.

Randomly, on a Wednesday

  1. I finished the cowl that I was knitting, after several runs at it, and a mistake or two concerning gauge. (Note to self, still always knit a swatch, no matter how cocky and experienced  you feel.)

cowl peek 2017-02-22

2. I am home from Madrona, and it was, as always, the event that fills my cup for the year to come. Wonderful moments with teachers I love, students I miss, and vendors that make me give them all my money.

3. I gave them lots of money. (Hello Creative with Clay, I’m looking right at you and my new salt and pepper shakers.)

4. A big chunk of my hair is purple. I can’t talk about why, because it has to do with the Teacher Talent Show for Charity that I host, together with Lucy Neatby, and mutiny. On the upside, the show raised more than $12 000 for the Global Fund for Women, MSF, and Heifer International. That’s worth purple hair. (Also, Lucy? It’s not washing out like you said it would.)

5. The blanket proceeds apace. I’m halfway through the centre. I need to get a move on.

blanketcentrehalf 2017-02-22

6. I accidentally gave a whack of money to Habu Textiles, which is both unavoidable and normal. I also accidentally started knitting the kit I bought, but I’m putting it down. (It’s silk and paper. I can’t even.)

whoopshabu 2017-02-22

7. I’ve got to knit that blanket.

8. I leave for the West Coast Knitters Guild on Friday. (I think there are still a few spots.)

9. There’s no point in trying to fix the jet lag. If I stay messed up, I’ll be bang on for Friday.

That would be a negative

I’m at the airport, getting ready to head to Madrona, and because the universe is out to get me of a problem with my flight, I’m going Toronto to LA, then LA to Seattle. It means that from the time that I leave my house until the moment I fall helplessly into a hotel bed will be about 13 hours of travel. I’m trying to see the upside of that, which is a pretty awesome chunk of knitting time, which is great, because you wouldn’t believe the crappy knitting I did I had a few knitting problems over the last few days.  I knit the daylights out of a cowl that I’m making (no pattern yet, stand by) and was feeling pretty good about how things were going. A nice big cowl, and I had about 5cm of the ribbing done, when I was forced to admit that my gauge was complete bollocks a little off, and had to rip the whole thing out and start over.

I’m not so sure that would have completely broken my spirit bothered me, except that at the same time I discovered a nupp that was disintegrating completely and threatening to destroy the integrity of the entire blanket not quite right, and had to rip back several rows of that work too.

knitting bag1 2017-02-15

(Pictured here, the bag of travel knitting I’ll be trying to fix so that it looks like I can knit better than a drunk ferret how to knit enjoying today.)

So, there you have it, and in case you ever wondered, there are times when I spend hours knitting and am further behind than when I started  and completely waste two days of precious knitting time and my one wild and beautiful life make little mistakes. I’m hoping to get my &%#@@% together today will be a little better.

Slow Learner

I suppose what I’m living right now could be considered a failure to learn from my past, but I like to think of it as a terminal sort of optimism. Every time I book trips really close together, I look at the calendar, do the math and then think “Oh, it’ll be just fine.” It’s like I think that everything that was difficult about it every time before this is a problem that’s entirely gone away – or that I’ve suddenly become a completely different sort of person. Then my plane lands, and I start the process of a two day turnaround, and realize that I’m still me, and this is still a problem, and this is all a long way of saying I’m rushing to get out the door early in the morning for Madrona after returning  home late Sunday night, so here’s a short blog post, just to show you a finished thing.

bermuda5 2017-02-14

Pattern: Bermuda (but I faked it at the end and made it bigger so that I’d use up every inch of my yarn.)

bermuda4 2017-02-14

Yarn: The January Shipment of  the CaterpillarGreen yarn club. It was an extra large skein (170g) of shawl striping, MCN fingering.

bermuda3 2017-02-14

I finished it the last day we were in Scottsdale, and it looked so at home there that it was almost a shame to bring it home to the snow. (But I did.)

bermuda2 2017-02-14 bahamas 2017-02-14

Voila! Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go and continue semi-hysterically unpacking and re-packing a suitcase, while making a mental note that I’ll do this again next week. I expect it will go better then.

On the Move

Ah, here we are… this post comes to you from Scottsdale, Arizona, where I am working poolside in the sunshine, while Joe does likewise. We made our way here from the Grand Canyon, a quick stopover between Vegas and here, and I gotta tell you, I’ve felt ridiculously lucky these last several days. Joe’s relationships have really worked out for me. I’ve managed to fit in work and (most of) the things I need to do as we go from event to event and place to place, and every day I’ve seen something amazing. I saw The Valley of Fire again (still a favourite, and the only hiking we had time to do in Vegas) and I saw Elton John live (just as amazing as you’re imagining right now.)  I watched the sun set and rise  during 20 glorious hours at the Grand Canyon.  I walked on the top of the Bright Angel Trail that leads to the bottom, and I hiked seven kilometres around the southern rim.

grand canyon 2017-02-10

I saw elk, I had lunch in Sedona, I saw cactus in the desert, and we looked longingly at San Francisco Peaks as we drove by. We took the scenic route every time we could. We’ve eaten good food, we’ve enjoyed the company of great people, and I have knit, and knit, and knit. I’ve knit in the car, at dinner, during social events, at concerts… I finished a pair of socks…

finished kama3 2017-02-10

Yarn: Muststash Kama Sutra. (Well look at that. I looked it up to get you a link, and it’s actually a colourway you can order. it’s a miracle! Usually stuff’s been kicking around the stash so long that’s not a thing.) Pattern: I faked it, but Smooth Operator is really similar. Needles: 2.25mm.

finished kama 2017-02-10

They fit like a dream, and I adore them. I’m so glad that I recognized up front that I wanted these to be mine and knit them in my size. I’d be really hard pressed to give them up.

finished kama2 2017-02-10

I finished my Bermuda shawl, and it’s drying in the sun right this very minute – pictures of that beauty when it’s dry – but best yet, I made my swatch for the beginning of Impending Grandson’s blanket.

swatch done 2017-02-10

I took a few of the suggestions in the comments – though I’m keeping most of the symbolism quiet until the right time. I went down a needle size after a few rows, finding the work too open – and I did my best to block it, considering how limited my resources were in the hotel room (I’ll be adding a wee container of pins to my travel kit) but I’m pretty sure I like what I’ve got now. The yarn is Juniper Moon Findley – 50/50 merino/silk, and it’s a perfect choice. I did the math for the middle part, cast on provisionally yesterday (in the car, somewhere around Flagstaff) and this afternoon when it’s quiet, I’ll get my first few rows in. It’s full speed ahead to blankieville and I’m practically giddy with excitement.*

*Thanks for being the people that I can say that to. I’m here with non-knitters, and while they’re quite lovely about it, it would be safe to say that if I told them that I was giddy with excitement about a blanket centre, I’d certainly be misunderstood as an artist.

I’m always dressed wrong

Through a pretty amazing set of events in October, I wound up in in Las Vegas, and realized about 46 seconds later that it really wasn’t my bag. It’s very interesting, and everyone should see it once (if only to believe it) but I’m not a Vegas strip kinda gal. The flashing lights and mobs of people drive me wild, we don’t gamble, and Joe and I quickly discovered that though the strip was not built for us, the area around Las Vegas is absolutely ridiculously gorgeous and totally our bag, and we’d visit that a thousand times. That’s what I was thinking about when I found out that Joe’s trip was planned for here and yesterday I got my wish. We straggled out of our hotel and drove an hour away, and really had a good hike through Valley of Fire State Park. It’s a really amazing place, with petroglyphs and rocks all the colours of the rainbow, and we saw a big horn sheep, which got me so excited that I’m reasonably sure that the couple that we brought along with us now think that I’m a complete lunatic. We liked it even better than we did last time, and I think that’s because it wasn’t as hot as Satan’s armpit outside. It’s winter here, which is a term I feel this part of Nevada shouldn’t even be allowed to use, considering that we hiked very comfortably in jeans and tee shirts.

rocksfire 2017-02-06

I even finished my cowl in the car on the way there.

finishedgrus 2017-02-06

Pattern: Grus Yarn: Woolfolk Far (colours are as suggested, #01, 02, 03, 04 and 05) Needle: 6mm.

finishedgrus3 2017-02-06

I’m as in love with this project now as I was when I started, and despite wanting off the needles so I could start something else, I’m a little sad to see it go. The yarn is spectacularly elastic, soft, and entertaining, so much so that It was a pleasure to weave in all the ends, and that’s not my normal feeling about the task. It’s a shame that this thing is done just in time for it to be not needed. (Hang in there a few days though, there’s a change of venue planned – this trip has three legs.)

Today’s been a work day, Joe’s busy with his stuff, and I’ve been in the hotel room, busy with mine – but the yarn for the baby blanket arrived, and tomorrow, my petals, is swatching day – though I’m still trying to figure out what stitches I’ll swatch. Let’s think about it tomorrow.

In the meantime, we’ve just opened registration for the April Retreat at Port Ludlow.  Our theme this time is “Around the world in three days” and it’s a retreat for knitters and spinners (you don’t need to be good at either.) There’s details on the retreat page, and we’d love to have you. If you wanna talk about it, you can email us at info@strungalong.ca

The Push is On

Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to tidy up. Not the  house, that’s madness – I mean, I worked out a long time ago that most housework is pointless. I tidy up, someone (usually me, which is really disappointing) trashes it, and I do it again. Now that I’m a woman of mature years, I’ve largely consigned my hopes for a pristine house to the abyss. No, I’ve been trying to tidy up the knitting. The time draws near for me to start a baby blanket, and so I’m looking to get a few projects off the needles, so that not so much is lurking about. There’s a pair of socks to finish – though I’m not really fussed about that. The blanket will be tricksy, and so I’ll need something simple with me so that I can knit dark places, or places where people need to think I’m listening, and the Bermuda Shawl is pretty simple too, but I’d still like to finish it before I start the blanket. Mostly, I want this one off the needles:

grusalmost 2017-02-02

It’s the Grus Cowl, Knit from Woolfolk Far (colours are as suggested, #01, 02, 03, 04 and 05 – one skein of each.) There’s not much left to go, and the next few days should be perfect for getting lots of knitting done.  In what I would like noted as a serious display of Marital Goodwill, I’ve agreed to go with Joe on a work trip over the next while – and I’m having the blanket yarn meet me at our hotel – I aim to get this (and maybe the shawl and maybe the socks) done before that. Joe leaves tomorrow, but I’m staying behind for a day – Most of you will recall that Ken had a cycling accident quite some time ago, and his shoulder didn’t heal properly. He’s having it fixed tomorrow, and this family sticks together for stuff like that, so I’ll have hours tomorrow while I wait at hospital for him, and see him safely home, where Amanda will take over Ken care, and I’ll jump on a plane the next morning to join Joe. Between hospital waiting and the plane, there should be buckets of time. It’s just one of the many benefits of being a knitter. What other people might see as wait time… we see as opportunity.

Tonight I’m perusing all my stitch dictionaries (doing a little actual tidying) packing my bag, and getting together all I need for a blanket epic. 10 weeks till impending Grandson, and he deserves a blanket designed to be all his own. I like these blankets to have stories, to use stitch patterns that reflect who they are, and where they come from, to be specific to the child. Myrie’s had pines, for the camping her parents love, and waves, because they both come from islands, and Luis’ had snowflakes for his Canadian mum, and Spanish lace for his Spanish dad… and my grandson? No ideas yet. I’ve got until Saturday (or Monday, if the mail  is its usually jerk to me) to come up with a plan.

I’m totally open to suggestions. The yarn is a laceweight, and I have A. Lot. There’s no way I’m running out this time.

False Start

Well, it turns out that I could indeed take knitting into the courthouse, and it turns out that I was not even the only one.  I thought that I’d been so proper and good, bringing in a project on wooden circulars, and I passed through security with no trouble at all, only to settle myself in the courtroom, heave a sigh of relief, and look over to see the lady in front of me beavering away on a green sweater back (front?) with nice big, straight metal needles, not a care in the world. She made good progress too, by the time the judge came in and we had to put everything away to “give the judge our complete attention”, she had at least 10cm of rib and a chunk of garter. Me, I had this:

caterpillar 2017-01-31

A goodly piece of a simple top down shawl, knit with January’s installment of the CaterpillarGreen Yarn club. (I joined two short term clubs this year – I swear I’m committed to knitting them both up as soon as they arrive. I’ve already fallen behind on the other one, so this has to get done.) I grabbed a needle I thought would work, and headed out the door. By the end of the day I had this, which is… well. It’s nothing, because it took a swift trip to the frog pond.  I knew right away that the gauge wasn’t right, but I didn’t have any other knitting with me, so I just kept on going, hoping that it was going to improve. (Shocking bit of knitterly delusion, that.) It didn’t. (It never does.)

Now, somewhere, a knitter reading this just thought “Balls to that. It’s a shawl. The gauge isn’t that important. I’d have never ripped back. You’re a lunatic.” To them I say that they may have a point with the latter, but not the former. Gauge always matters. It’s not just how big something comes out – it’s got to do with the quality of the fabric, and see this?

caterpillar2 2017-01-31

It failed my number one test. If I put my finger beneath, and wiggle it upwards, the strands of yarn move out of the way to let my finger poke through. It’s not being able to get your finger through that’s bad though (but it ain’t good) it’s that when the fabric is mobile like that, when it’s knit loosely enough that you can move everything around, then I know that everything is going to move around in the finished piece. It won’t keep it shape, it will look bedraggled sooner. Gauge matters to how things hold up, and it matters to quality. I’m a very tidy knitter and I knit pretty evenly, but at that gauge, everyone’s work looks uneven and a little shoddy, and I’m not going to work that hard to produce something that doesn’t look as good as my work is. So, to the frogpond it went.

Luckily, I was called back for a second day, and I was just going to start over with a smaller needle, until I was cruising Ravelry and decided to copy someone else’s better idea. (jtremblay74’s to be precise. Thanks for the good thinking.)

caterpilar3 2017-01-31

So now I have something else.  A decent start at the Bermuda Scarf (though I think it will be properly shawl-ified by the time I’m done.) Knit on a 3.5mm needle, and looking much nicer than the first.

I think it looks like water and wind and everything the yarn reminds me of, and Jury duty is over.

Maybe Pencils

Tomorrow’s a day I’ve been thinking about for a while.  A month ago I got a summons to appear for Jury Duty selection. My first thought was that it was sort of cool – it’s my first time and I sort of like the idea of doing my civic duty. My second thought was that it was going to be a pain in the arse, but it is for everyone, so I let that go. My third thought was the one that we concern ourselves with here today.

There are no knitting needles allowed in the courthouse.

Well, let me clarify, there are no knitting needles allowed past security, and I admit that I’m not sure if this first part, the choosing of jurors, is past security or not, but I have a very bad feeling that it does. I went to court for a traffic ticket I got on my bike (don’t ask, it got thrown out) and when I arrived there, the very nice people at security told me that my sock in progress couldn’t accompany me. I must have looked stricken, because one of them offered to hold it for me and return it at the end of my visit, and she said it was a very nice sock, but I wasn’t there long, and the other agent didn’t like it much, so I get the feeling that relying on finding a knitting sympathizer on the other side of the desk isn’t my best bet.

I’ve been thinking it over, because a whole day without knitting, especially a day without knitting that involves mostly waiting, and an hour each way on the bus and subway isn’t something that I think is going to bring out the best in me. The idea of it actually gives me a cramp in the pit of my stomach – though I’m sure I can do it if I have to. A friend suggested that I bring a book, and of course I will,  but she’s forgotten that I knit while I read. I’ll tuck a paperback in my bag as insurance, but I’m not totally ready to give up on the knitting thing. The way I see it, there’s a few ways that tomorrow could go down.

My knitting isn’t allowed in, because it looks dangerous, and they’re sticklers for the rules.

This is the worst case scenario, because it means that I’ll lose my knitting – there’s nowhere to put it if it’s declared a danger to the masses. If I were driving I could run out and put it in the car, but that’s not an option with a subway arrival. If worse comes to worse I’ll leave it under a bush outside and hope that it’s there when I come out, but really I think that my best bet is to take yarn and needles that I won’t cry over – should we be parted forever. So, that means my current project is out, because I love it and it was expensive and in the name of all that is woollen and good I will not be parted from it, and cannot predict my behaviour should that be the case. I don’t think the needles look particularly dangerous – they’re blunt and 5mm,  and… well, sometimes we knitters are misunderstood as artists, so I’m not counting on common sense to prevail.

grusmostlydone 2017-01-26

Pattern: Grus Yarn: Woolfolk Far (It is completely delicious.)

It turns out they are slaves to their metal detector.

That means my current sock project is right out. I love both the yarn and the needles and even I (sporting several 2.25mm puncture scars on my body) can agree that they pose a tiny risk, should I turn out to be some sort of maniac.

toopointy 2017-01-26

Pattern: I’m faking it Yarn: Must Stash OCD Perfect Sock/ Kama Sutra #20  Needles: 2.25mm Signatures.

That means that whatever I choose should be on wooden needles, something that won’t upset anyone, something breakable, blunt, and benign looking. Maybe wooden circulars? 8mm? I’m thinking that a ball of yarn and two pencils might not be the worst thing I could tuck in the bottom of my bag.* Part of me wants to educate, to try and tell them that knitters are so much more dangerous without this stuff than we are with it, but I have a feeling that won’t work.

What’s the most innocent looking knitting you can think of?

*As a public service, I can point out here that a standard pencil is about 7.5mm, as are chopsticks.

(PS. I just tried to sharpen said pencils, and discovered that the family pencil sharpener is full of what I am pretty sure is black eyeliner.  Thanks Sam.)