Sunday, May 22, 2005

At Last...

Pictures and lots of them. If I update the blog during the week, it's usually late in the evening and it's really a major hassle to get the camera, download to the laptop, upload to Blogger, "unpublish" all the pictures, then incorporate them into the actual post. For some reason, Hello publishes one picture at a time. I'd prefer to publish multiple pictures in a single draft post, then modify it. Oh, well...

Anyway, this was the view from Kirkridge:

Kirkridge is located near Pen Argyl in northeastern Pennsylvania, not too far from Delaware Water Gap. It's very secluded and is the perfect location for a retreat, secular or otherwise. The Appalachian Trail runs through the property, giving knitters the opportunity to exercise a different set of muscles, should they so choose. However, the trail tends to be steep in places and quite rocky, so hiking boots are highly recommended.

Here are some of the intrepid knitters:

All are quite happy because they just figured out what was wrong with sample they were working on.

Gina knit this at the beginning of the retreat:

Can you guess what it is? A Willy Warmer, destined for a lucky co-worker who was giving her no end of grief for going to a knitting workshop. If you would like to knit one up for that special man in your life, you can get the pattern here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we learned a lot of techniques that were new to me: backwards knitting, intarsia, entrelac, domino and modular knitting, and Fair Isle. I doubt that I'd be able to learn the majority of these techniques from a book, unless the book was heavily illustrated. Having instructors who can watch what you're doing, analyze it, and correct it if necessary are worth their weight in gold. And Susan and Jill are excellent instructors...they manage to keep a class that has novices as well as experienced knitters running smoothly.

Here are the samples that I knit:

Clockwise, from the left:

--Mitred corner with bands
--Entrelac triangle
--Argyle square
--Fair Isle
--Short-row triangle
--Intarsia square joined by a three-needle bind-off to two mitred squares

Given the newness of the techniques and the fact that I haven't been knitting for that long, I'm pretty happy with the way the pieces turned out. The tension is fairly even and there aren't too many mistakes, except in the Fair Isle sample. For some reason, I kept reading the chart backwards, going from right to left when I should have been going from left to right, and vice versa.

One very nice feature at the retreat was that Susan brought the travelling version of her yarn shop. As the week progressed, the yarn stock depleted. I thought I was going to get away without doing to much damage, but then I got "inspired" and bought this:

It's hand-painted pima cotton yarn, color Elizabeth Blackwell. It's destined to become this, most likely as a Christmas gift for someone (unless I decide I just can't bear to part with it!)

And then I got inspired some more and got these:

The Suede is destined to become a poncho for a Christmas gift; the soy silk and Malizia will become a shawl for me, and the Rio will be my first design attempt. It told me that it wanted to be a sleeveless shell when it grew up. I've got the design sketched out and have started a swatch to get the gauge and the stitch pattern worked out. Next step is to do the math and write the pattern. Much easier said than done. Look for the completed garment in the next couple of years.

And speaking of completed garments, check this out!

The socks are complete! And the best part? They match, mostly. The part where the striping got a little off will not be noticed by most people. I mean, really? How many people are going to inspect the toes of your socks to see if the stripes match? And no, knitters are not "most people."

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ahhhh...The Knitting Experience

What a great five days in northeastern Pennsylvania! The experience started with an in-depth exploration of the rural roads between I-78 and Stroudsburg, undertaken because I-78E was closed due to a chemical spill. After sitting in traffic and travelling two miles in one hour, I decided to head left at the detour point, instead of right like everyone else. Rationale? On these two-lane rural roads, this volume of traffic just isn't going to move. Yeah, right. I discovered that no matter how quaint these towns are, somehow, someway, all the people who have cars within a 20-mile radius gravitate toward the same stoplight all at once. Add some really messed-up stoplight timing and we have...traffic jam! I was an hour and half late to the first class. My friend, Gina, however, sat in the I-78 and US-22 traffic and got there on time. It took five and a half hours to get to Kirkridge (note: it took three and a half hours to get home).

And once I arrived? I immediately whipped out my knitting needles, proceeded to cast on 20 stitches and commenced to knit backwards. Doesn't that sound like a migraine in the making? Surprisingly, I managed to wrap my head around the process without getting a headache. Backwards knitting (and purling) is very, very convenient when you are working a small number of stitches because you don't have to turn your work! The only thing that you need to remember is that when knitting backwards, the backwards knit stitch takes the place of the normal purl and the backwards purl stitch takes the place of normal knit on the rows that are knit backwards.

Thursday dawned bright and early. Gina and I were up at 6:30, with Gina in search of coffee. After finding said coffee, out came the needles and the knitting started, with a short break for breakfast. Then class, which was learning to knit with two colors, and a little bit of Fair Isle practice, before moving on to knitting an argyle square. Knitting stopped for lunch and dinner, but just barely. I got an absolutely yummy massage, followed by a great yoga class later in the afternoon. Dinner followed yoga, which was followed guessed it...more knitting.

I can't remember Friday's class and the handout is upstairs. But it's safe to say that we did more knitting on Friday, as well as some pretty serious stash enhancements. I found Cascade's Rio, which just screamed out to be a sleeveless shell and I started working on the stitch pattern design. And I can truthfully say that by the time bedtime rolled around on Friday, I had pretty much had my fill of knitting.

But Saturday dawned and I was up at 6:30, needles in one hand, coffee in the other, ready to knit some more. The class material on Saturday was close to being a migraine trigger. We started tackling short rows, which thankfully I knew how to do. For socks. Making little mitered squares and triangles and mitred corners with an attached band nearly drove me over the edge. I didn't finish my mitred squares. I'm not going to. That's the only technique that I learned that I didn't like.

Sunday we were up again, early, and knitting, trying to figure out what went wrong in one of the techniques. It took some doing, but we did it, with a lot of help from Jill (one of the instructors). And then we put everything together. We learned a 3-needle bind-off (how cool!) and 3-needle bind-off with applied I-cord (how cooler!). Then we ate lunch and came home.

In addition to all the new techniques, I learned a lot about me. My knitting looks pretty good compared to other knitters' knitting, even women who have been knitting for decades. I'm able to actually learn a technique and provide assistance to other students. I don't like mitred squares.

I learned a lot about the other women who attended. We come from all walks of life: flight surgeon, pediatrician, "just" an administrative assistant (not!), dairy farmer, home economist, knitwear designer, attorney, medical equipment engineer. Some are mothers, some are grandmothers and some have no children. All are very interesting, witty, funny, strong, and most had very moving or inspiring stories to tell. Most found their need to knit increase after 9/11. Some have been knitting for 40 or 50 years, others for only a year or so.

I learned that California doesn't have thunderstorms like we have in the mid-Atlantic region. There was a rather long, lazy thunderstom Saturday night and Starr was so entranced by the lightning. I discovered that groundhogs don't exist in California, so of course we reported groundhog sitings. Hmmm...I wonder what Californians do on Groundhog Day?

I discovered that there's a designer inside me, wanting to get out and that I (almost) have the courage to tackle the task of designing a sweater or shell (I actually have four sweaters rolling around in my head trying to get out). My color sense and texture sense is improving. And I'm loving it.

I came away with yarn and patterns for several new projects and a new-found confidence in my knitting competence. I've got pictures, but downloading them to the laptop and then uploading them to the blog is more effort than I'm willing to invest tonight.

The next Knitting Experience on the east coast will be the last week in October in Shelburne, Vermont, and will be on the topic of Knit-to-Fit. Alas, I can't go. However, I'll be back at Kirkridge next spring for Finishing and Embellishments.
Susan and Jill run great workshops!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On My Way

The weekend has started! Yes, I know. It's Tuesday. But tomorrow I pack up the car and head up to Bangor, PA for the Y2Knit Knitting Experience. We'll knit, eat, knit, eat, knit, do some yoga, knit some more, go for a hike or two, knit. Did I mention that we'd be knitting?

Lots of new techniques for me to learn this weekend. Intarsia, entrelac, domino and modular knitting, and backwards knitting. That last one has me worried. It sounds like it requires a major mind shift. The last time I tried that was when I was trying to get my head around short rows. The result? Extreme frustration (I'm a knitting failure) and a major, major headache.

I should lighten up. I hadn't knitted in years. What was I expecting? Perfection? Of course!

Anyway, my knitting skills, particularly my ability to read my knitting, have improved over the last two or three years. Other than being the world's slowest knitter, I should be fine. Tune in next week to see if the Knitting Libran survived the Knitting Experience.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mothers are Love

I'm returned from my trip home to visit my folks. I spent a little bit of time with my grandmother, who is in a nursing home. She's 94 and is still going strong, mostly. I only visit a couple of times a year and she's always so glad to see me. Her face lights up and she smiles and seems to be pleased as punch. While I'm glad that my presence can give her such pleasure, I feel bad that I don't visit more often. I'm such a bad granddaughter in that respect.

I was doing show and tell with the socks that I've knitted and Dad told me a story: A woman is driving along and while she's driving she's knitting. A trooper goes by and is horrified that this woman is driving and knitting, so he turns on the lights and sirens, rolls down the window and shouts "Pull over!" She looks at him and yells back "Scarf!"

My father cracks me up.

My mother wasn't feeling very good on Saturday, so we didn't do much other than visit my grandmother, go to Bon Vivant to pick up some Belgian beers for my husband, and go out to dinner. Despite having reservations at 7:00, we still had to wait 30 minutes before we were seated. And during that time, my mother started feeling worse and worse. Dinner, when it came, was pretty good. The desserts did not thrill, though. Back home we went and Mom went right to sleep.

On Sunday we went over to my brother's house for a picnic. My other two brothers were there and five nieces and nephews. It was so much fun and the food was so good! Steamed shrimp, fried shrimp, fried flounder, hushpuppies, coleslaw, potato salad, shrimp gumbo, garlic bread, and the piece de resistance, homemade vanilla ice cream! Yum, YUM!

The older kids are at an age where they're not quite so sullen. I played hacky sack with the two nephews (I'm pretty lame at hacky sack) and swung on the swing with the youngest nieces. Jenna, the youngest niece, kept skipping around and saying "ribbit," pretending she was a frog. So I joined her and hopped around like a frog and ribbitted. There's something very freeing about being silly. I should do it more often.

On the knitting front, I cast on the second sock (thanks to the advice from Claire and Dudley). I've finished the leg and half the heel. That's a record for me, I think. And the best part? The stripes on the self striping yarn are matching up! Woo hoo!

Pictures time tonight.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Big Weekend

Well, it seems like the whole world is going to be going to Maryland Sheep and Wool this weekend. I was planning to go. But then I started thinking (always a dangerous thing for me to do). It's been nine years since I visited with my mother on Mother's Day (which corresponds to how many years I've been married). And I haven't visited since Christmas. And the weekends are filling up fast. So fast, in fact, that this is the only free weekend before we head out on our Caribbean sailing adventure. And I wanted to visit the family before we leave.

So, Mom (and the rest of the family) trumps MDS&W.

The good news is that I'll get some knitting done while I'm there. The bad news is that my husband is going to stay behind to do more house renovation and I'll have to drive, which means I won't have hours of enforced knitting time.

The knitting life is actually going to get way better for me next week. On Wednesday morning, I head up to Pennsylvania for Y2Knit's Knitting Experience. This spring's retreat is going to be Color Work. Two color knitting, backward knitting, entrelac, intarsia, etc. You can see the schedule here. Susan and Jill run great workshops...very low key, lots of individual attention, great food, yoga, massage...chocolate. What more can one ask? They even set up a yarn shop so there's always an opportunity for stash enhancements.

I need this time away from work. I've been working in the software industry, and primarily start-ups, for almost 20 years and I'm getting tired. The last five years have been particularly frenetic. One software company imploded, which was very sad. I joined the current company before they even had a product. While I've learned a lot, I'm beginning to run out of gas. So getting away and immersing myself in knitting will be a wonderful break. I'm hoping that I'll get the courage to try a little bit of design work (I've got three sweater ideas rolling around in my head) and sort of come up with a plan for increasing the amount of knitting in my life (read fewer blogs, perhaps?)

So, for all of you who are going to MDS&W this weekend, have a great time! I'll see you there next year!

Sunday, May 01, 2005


And that's why Buddha is smiling. I finished Sock 1 of Pair 2 this morning.

I'm rather pleased with it, although it might be a bit short in the toe. It certainly feels good on my foot.

Now the dilemma is should I start and finish my sock's mate or should I start on a pair of socks for my husband? Given that I can squeeze in about 2 hours of knitting per week, I'm torn. If I make something for Tom (or as gifts for other people), my knitting is justified. If I am making something for me, then I feel as if I'm having too much fun or being too self-centerd. Hmmm...there's some odd Puritan work ethic stuff going on here.

Perhaps I should follow the Buddha's example and accept what I do (and what I feel) without judgment, from me or others.

On the home renovation front, Tom finished sanding the floors in the little front bedroom, primed and painted the walls, and has started to prime the windows and baseboards. The yellow that we chose for the room (it faces northwest) is not quite what I envisioned but it will do. It will be nice to have one more room done. I'll post before and after pictures after the painting is complete.