I Made a Project Bag!

IMG_3660I made a functional sewn item! Yes, I did! Me! The one who wasn’t allowed to sew costumes at my childrens’ school!

When I over-knitted this summer at Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat, I decided that I needed to take some time to rest my left arm. I decided that I would make a project bag, following (loosely) the project in my Making Magazine. Initially I thought I would make it exactly according to the pattern … until I had to figure out how to “trace” the pattern for the embroidery onto a piece of linen fabric. That was way too much to expect from me.

I decided to “wing it” with the pattern. No tracing. I went to my LYS (where I work) and bought some linen fabric, some embroidery floss and needles, too. I worked the stitches to make flowers on the linen. It wasn’t knitting but it was making something with my hands.

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Once I was satisfied with the look of the embroidered flowers, I put the bag together.

 

Lucky for me, I have a pretty decent stash of fabric, too. I went (obviously) for some bee fabrics for the lining and the little bit that makes the space for the draw string. I chose a very light color for the lining because I hate a “black hole” in my purse or my knitting bag. I needed this to be super simple this first time. Next time, I’ll probably put a pocket in the lining. I love pockets!

I only had a bright yellow grosgrain ribbon for the drawstring. I have since found a ribbon (again, at my LYS) that is the same color as the lines on the fabric on top of my bag. I like it much better. I also made a small change to this part of the bag. I made it a little bit wider and stitched 1/4 inch along the top to make a more finished edge.

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Ta-da! I’m very pleased and will proudly carry this project bag … filled with knitting … for a bunch of years!

Gone (not) knitting!

Hurricane Florence & Working with Yarn Again

IMG_3598We have had the most glorious weather here in Maine in the last few weeks. It’s hard to believe that at the same time we were having beautiful sunrises, a few hundred miles south, a hurricane has soaked several states!

My heart goes out to those who have been affected by Hurricane Florence. I have one friend and customer who was in harm’s way and was evacuated and I have a few family members down south who certainly will see a lot of rain. It has to be frightening and even heartbreaking to have your home flooded. While the stuff can be replaced and life is the most important thing, it’s still a lot of loss to bear. It sure seems that we have been seeing more huge storms over the last decade or so.

I’m so grateful for my dry, safe home and I’m so glad that I have been able to do some knitting again. Short sessions of knitting and crochet helps my elbow/arm to continue to heal without hurting. I’m thrilled to have yarn in my hands!

IMG_3623On my crochet hook, the Virus Shawl. This is a free pattern on Ravelry. It’s really just a crochet chart but there is a series of several very good tutorials that help you get started if you’re a beginner like me. Initially, I was going to use some stashed Noro Kureon Sock  (above) to make this shawl but it was so sticky that I had trouble working with it. It might be something I go back to because I love the colors! I practiced the first few sets on it and ultimately I chose some Malabrigo Sock in the Kandombe colorway to make my (first) Virus Shawl.

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I’ve been slowly making progress on my Sleeping Cedars baby sleeper sacque. This is a gift for a new baby who is arriving in late fall. I am knitting with Universal Yarn’s Adore (machine wash and dry but still mostly merino wool) in a the Cloud Gray colorway (color #105). I really like working with this yarn.

I am fairly certain that the gauge was spot on but this garment looks a little bit on the large size for a newborn. It might be more a 3-6 months size. I guess time will tell.

This is a fun knit. The body of this garment is knit in one piece from the bottom to the underarms and then split for the front and back. The lace detail on the front is just perfect. I love it. I finished the body by seaming the shoulders and then picked up the stitches for the sleeves. I’ve completed one sleeve and started the second and my working yarn is looking like it’ll be a good game of yarn chicken. I think finishing the collar will be nearly impossible. (Emphasis on THINK!) Fortunately I have an extra ball on layaway at my LYS (where I work!)

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Last but not least, I am very slowly working on my Frosting Shawl in Manos’ Alegria yarn. (Click through to the Ravelry pattern page and you’ll see why!) This shawl is super simple with a reversible cable on the edge of rows and rows of garter stitch. What appealed to me about this shawl was first, the yarn and then the tassels!!! When I saw it on (I think) Facebook, I recognized the colorway and I knew that I was going to buy that yarn and knit this shawl! I would have been so upset had it been sold on my day off! I have an extra hank on layaway at work just in case I want to make it larger than the pattern suggests. I love Alegria! It has a wonderfully soft hand and I love the colors. I have several other hanks that will one day be socks … they’re going to be the best socks! The winding job that I did was less than satisfactory and I had to undo a huge knotty mess in the middle of my knitting so I will have a few extra ends to weave in! I’ll be happy to wear this shawl when it’s finally done.

This “not knitting a lot” stuff really is a challenge for me! I really am grateful that I am able to knit at all and I really want to heal completely! I find I am reading a lot more and I have been doing a bit of sewing, too. My Christmas gifts for all of our kids are going to be sewn this year. Not knitted! But I can’t tell you anything more about this for now. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag!

I hope we will all be kind to each other while we clean up and recover from Hurricane Florence. So many people are going to need every kindness we can muster. Our country is experiencing some of the nastiest times I’ve seen in my sixty years. It bothers me that the people we’ve elected to lead us are behaving like children and that they seem unable to work together for the benefit of those who they serve. I hope you’ll consider calling your elected officials and let them know how you feel about their behavior.

Gone (not) knitting!

 

 

Is There a Thing Called “Knitter’s Elbow?”

IMG_3480I’m entering week four … WEEK FOUR … of not knitting. Nearly four weeks of not knitting is a huge punishment for me. I always knit; every day! Even on those days that I teach all day I go home and knit.

This started at my fiber arts retreat (aka camp). I started to feel a pull in my left elbow but because I was at camp, I just kept knitting. When I got home on August 4th, I began my “rest” from knitting expecting a quick healing since it was a short time that it “hurt”. Well, here we are, three weeks and a little bit more later. And I still can’t knit.

What’s a knitter to do when she can’t knit?

IMG_3502 I bought a little bit of linen fabric at the Yardgoods Center in Waterville, Maine a few weeks ago. I also bought some needles and some DMC floss in six or seven different colors and an embroidery hoop. With my Making Magazine, “Color” issue in hand, I cut the fabric and started stitching. I’m making a project bag. It’s not knitting but it’s better than nothing! And it will be useful when I get back to knitting sometime soon.

I’ve been to pick blueberries (with my right hand!) and bought some peaches. I’ve made blueberry “Afternoon Cake” (two of them) and blueberry muffins. The recipe is in another Making Magazine “Dots”. I even made a peach pie with almost all of the four pounds of peaches. It was delicious! DH and I made blueberry ice cream, too … it goes very well with peach pie! And we’ve been getting pounds and pounds of squash both zucchini and summer from our CSA half-share. There are zucchini bread muffins and loaves in the freezer. So many frozen baked goods that we may need to buy a stand alone freezer!

 

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And today I finished my first Christmas gift. I can’t tell you what it is or who it’s for or I’d have to kill you (not really, but you know what I mean!) But suffice it to say that it’s a sewn and quilted gift for a very special person. It was the messiest project ever and I took it to a laundromat to wash and dry before I could put it into my machine to finish the drying process. It still filled up my lint thingy with lots of tiny pieces of thread. But I’m happy with the end result. Now it just needs a tag and some photographs taken. I’ll show more pictures after Christmas!

I’ve also read three books! I posted (here) about A Stash of One’s Own by Clara Parkes that I finished and was very moved by. I also finished my book club book The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn which I loved. I couldn’t put it down. Since I’m not knitting, I read it in record time. And I just finished The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg. That’s THREE books this month! You can tell I’m not knitting!

Next project is … oh, sorry, I can’t tell you that either!

 

Take up Space

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I finished reading Clara Parke’s newest book, A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting go of Yarn. It’s a sweet collection of stories and essays by knitters dealing with their “issues” around stashing yarn.

The sentence above was in the last chapter of the book. Sitting there, just waiting to kick in my ocular incontinence. (Thanks, Bristol!) It nearly brought me to an ugly cry as I tried to explain myself to my DH. Why did a book about yarn make me cry?

At camp this summer (Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat), I heard my newest favorite designer, Bristol Ivy, give me permission to take up space. To claim a space that is comfortably and happily all mine. I don’t have to be pretty or well-mannered there. I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations there, nor do I have to think about any societal rules about women (watch your weight, wear makeup, be attractive, speak sweetly, keep the house clean, cut the kids’ fingernails, don’t wear black, children are to be seen and not heard, you don’t need to know how to handle money, your husband will do that, etc.).

Hearing this was life changing for me. I grew up taking up very little space. My parents’ expectations were high but extraordinarily limited. I was taught to iron, sew and be a “good girl” with the idea that, one day, if I was lucky, I would gain a husband and a middle name. That was the reason that I went to college, too. Not to get a good education and grow as an individual but to find a husband. (The now-60-year-old me is groaning today!)

When I divorced my first husband, I continued in therapy with a series of wonderful women who helped me to identify what was important to me and to begin working on who I am today. Who I want to be. I have enjoyed the process of getting to know myself.

The idea of taking up space, however, was brand spanking new and threw open an entirely new door of personal development and a new way of thinking about my place in the world. AND it made me cry. It touched my soul to be given permission (so to speak) to take up space. To be myself, to dress as it pleases me, to speak my mind and to know that I am lovable and loved even as I am myself. To manage my own money and to buy things for myself and others. It was so incredibly powerful to hear that message and I’ve pondered (and will continue to ponder) that idea and how it applies to me and how to bring it into my daily life.

Today, when I saw the sentence above that says that women are expected to take up as little space as possible, it hit me again. Ocular Incontinence. (When I am brought to tears talking about something, I’ve learned, it’s a deep truth for me. I’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head. I am so grateful for the reminder that I have every right to take up space. And not just with my stashed yarn, either.

I have an extensive stash of yarn and two rooms in our home to use in any way that I wish. My DH is supportive of my creative endeavors (I have never hidden my yarn purchases from anybody.) I own my knitting and the supplies that I need to make it happen and I’ve always been unapologetic about it. I’ve been smart about it, too. Never would I be irresponsible and when I can’t really afford it, I head to my stash instead of my LYS. Finding a balance and being responsible are important parts of who I am. Who I have always been. But apart from my yarn, this reminds me to look at other ways that I take up space, to make some new boundaries in my life so that my time to create is sacred. Time with my wonderful, handsome DH is sacred. Time with my children and family is sacred. I want to have time to spend with all of them, and my friends, too.

So, today I put on my crazy flowered leggings and my cotton weird-edged tunic/dress and I am taking up space. I am worthy. I am loved.

 

Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat

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I went back to camp last week.

When I was thirteen, my parents sent me to Medokawanda Camp for Girls. It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute. I learned a lot about who I was at summer camp, away from the control of my parents. I learned to smoke cigarettes behind our cabin (not necessarily a good thing) and I learned that I loved singing and theater and being outside in the woods and on the lakes. I loved waterskiing, too. It was a special place and remains so today. So when I found out that there was a Fiber Arts Retreat at my old camp, I jumped at the opportunity.

Who knew that forty-two years later that the place would be just as special and that the women I met would be as welcoming and wonderful. I’m pretty sure that some will be lifelong friends.

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On Sunday afternoon, we all checked in to our cabins. I was in a “dormitory” cabin with three other campers; two that I knew (alumnae from earlier years, one a counselor of mine) and one that I didn’t. The cabins are simple but comfortable. Linens, towels, blankets and pillows are supplied by the camp and we were very comfortable. Most importantly for women of a certain age, there is a full bathroom and shower in each cabin. (I did get an extra blanket after the first night because I wasn’t warm enough. I also brought a box fan which was a good suggestion from a multi-year camper!)

Sunday night, dinner was the first official event and the food was amazing. The kitchen staff is incredibly accommodating to those who are gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian or who have allergies to food. The food is fresh and fantastic, healthy and mostly local. And it was amazing. Fresh bread, fresh vegetables, wonderful desserts and even a lobster dinner the final night. We ate well!

There was a great diversity of choices for classes, too. Weaving, writing, knitting, dying, wet felting, spinning, needle felting, and more. I took a 4-class series of knitting classes with the indomitable Bristol Ivy. Knitting being my first real love, I HAD to take this class and it was absolutely packed full of useful information that will make me a better knitter and a better knitting teacher. I learned some new skills, too.

I learned about cleaning, carding and combing raw fiber from Rachel Bingham Kessler. This was a fabulous class, especially after having learned about all sorts of different yarn types, particularly worsted spun and woolen spun yarns. I learned that carding and combing fibers changes the way the fiber “organizes itself” and that’s how roving is made. I truly believe that I will be able to recognize the difference in the fiber I see and sell in the future.

IMG_3350I learned to use a drop-spindle and spin yarn! Casey Ryder from Portfiber in Portland, Maine was the spinning teacher and she made this experience so much fun. We were provided with a borrowed spindle and some fiber (two combed and two carded) and it was really fun to see how the fiber is manipulated into something you can knit or weave with! (I bought the spindle. I want to keep doing this!)

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I went to a yoga class at 7:30 in the morning, before coffee! I was so glad I did. It made me feel energized and ready to face a very hot day.

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The View

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The Studio

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The icon – with Bristol, an icon in the making

We went on two field trips. The first was to the studio of Katharine Cobey in Cushing, Maine. Katharine is a gem. A successful poet, Katharine chose to make knitting her career. Her husband built her a beautiful studio above a finger of the ocean. She has become an icon of knitting and knitting as art. She has studied the process of knitting and is perhaps one of the most wise and wonderful knitters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Katharine held a mini-class describing the ONE stitch that there is in knitting – the knit stitch. The purl stitch is just a knit stitch viewed from the back. We swatched an i-cord that was knitted and a garter stitch i-cord. And we learned Portuguese Knitting at her feet. I fell in love that day with an 80-year-old woman. I’d like to study at her feet. She is my new knitting idol.

The second field trip was to a fiber farm and mill in Waldoboro. Only minutes from camp, New Aim Farm is a working mill. Nancy and her husband are raising pigs for meat (they’ll keep one and sell the others) and some sheep for fiber. Nancy runs the mill and takes fiber from other farms and she’s very busy! It was a fascinating time spent learning about the milling process (and buying some very pretty yarn!) Nancy also is the current president of the Maine Fiber Frolic, the only fiber fair in Maine and the first of the New England season.

IMG_3352One evening I learned to needle felt. It was a loonapalooza! Once again, Casey organized a wonderful class and we had some really good belly laughs. I laughed until I cried … mostly because my loon had a very large beak. But everyone succeeded in creating a loon and we all had fun. Emily named them Zebra, LooLoo and Kandoo.

This is a beautiful place, close to nature. At the top of the hill was our cabin, the yurt, a field full of wild Maine blueberries, free for the picking. The dining hall, the Lodge, the barn and the lawn were all places for classes. Surrounded by perennials and Morning Glories, bird song and pine trees. It’s still a very special place. A place that I have visited throughout my adult life, a place that has tugged at my heart since I was thirteen.

Some of the classes that I wasn’t able to take were weaving on a rigid hettle loom, weaving an amulet and a doll as part of the Weaving a Life program. I didn’t take the slow sewing class or the wet felting class or the lichen, safflower or indigo dying classes … all of which looked like lots of fun, too. Next year, I’ll try more classes and I can’t wait to go back to camp.

I’m so grateful to have been able to return as a camper, surrounded by creative women, wise and knowledgeable teachers, and a beautiful spot. It was the best vacation that I’ve taken since moving to Maine and I look forward to returning next year!

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I’m a happy camper!

PS- I haven’t written about everything here. I’d have written for days. So, suffice it to say that it was an amazing week … a life changing week … a life challenging week. I know I’ll be working on so many pieces of my life, enhancing and creating. Check out the details at the website for Medomak Retreat Center.

 

 

Regia Pairfect Tips & Tricks

IMG_3277.jpgI have never really worried about having socks (that I have knit) match. I have been working on a sock drawer full of handknitted socks for me and out of them all, only two or three match. Maybe only one. Anyway, Regia has a great new sock yarn that sets you up for success when you want to knit two socks that match! Regia Pairfect.

I’ve been looking at this sock yarn for quite a long time and I’ve had a lot of questions from our customers about how it works. The knitting instructions, if you can call them that, are inside the ball band so they’re difficult to read unless you buy the yarn. Even when you read them, they’re not very detailed and I did make a mistake when I was starting sock number two.

I used the Yankee Knitter Socks for the Family pattern as a basis for my Pairfect socks. I cast on 60 stitches on a US2 DPN. Because of the self-patterning yarn, it’s not necessary to do anything but knit the majority of the sock. The directions tell you to make a K1, P1 rib until the green yarn is used up and then start the leg, knitting until the blue yarn appears. I’ll suggest that you follow your favorite sock pattern, one that you know fits you.

So, here are a couple of tips and tricks that I discovered while I was knitting my matching socks with Pairfect yarn.

First, at the end of the yellow yarn, measure how far along the green yarn you start your cast on. Write it down so you remember it when you’re ready to start sock #2.

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My first short row heel!

Next, I’d suggest checking out the short row heel that Arne and Carlos use. This way they’ll look like the ones on the yarn label. There’s no surprise. Their short row heel is a quick and easy way to knit a heel. I think mine fits quite well. (Mine are going to be a gift for a friend who shares my size 9 foot size. I hope the socks fit her as well as they do me.)

Third, I misunderstood the directions on starting sock two. What you need to do (not what I originally did) is to finish the toe of the first sock and then start winding off the yarn beginning at the same place you just cut the yarn. Your yarn ball will be green and then yellow and THEN when you see the green again, you can start sock two.

I hope you took tip #1 and wrote down how many inches it was to where you started your cast on!

IMG_3278.jpgHere’s what my socks look like all finished. I hope you enjoy knitting a pair of matching socks (the easy way!)

Gone knitting!

 

Finished Objects, WIPs and taking flight

Today I had a day off and I wan’t feeling quite right. (If I don’t eat before noon, you know something’s “off”.) Despite feeling a little bit off, I had a wonderful day.

My Radiant Reflections quilt is finished! I actually finished it last night but it was too dark to take photos. I am really pleased with this quilt! I started it as a class a couple of years ago at the Cotton Cupboard in Bangor, Maine. We used templates on this project to cut all the pieces. It was a technique that I liked and it helped my corners match up really well. I think it’s the best quilt that I’ve made yet – maybe it’s because with more practice, you’re bound to improve your techniques. Regardless, I love the colors, I love the pattern, it was a challenge and I was successful in completing it on my own.

I also finished my “halloween” socks. I wish that I remembered where I bought this yarn because I really loved the feel of the yarn as I knit the socks. I also love the stripes! A friend reminded me that they are the colors of the Cincinnati Bengals and I like that idea, too. My son and I used to watch sports on television when he was younger and those were fun times. I’m not sure how he learned so much about sports because neither his father or I knew diddly about sports. Go figure! I’l be wearing these socks for any Bengals games and on Halloween, too!

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On the needles, and currently in rotation, are two shawls that I am really pleased with. I’m making progress on my Protest is Patriotic Shawlette by Craftiest Elizabeth Sovern. I know that my red yarn is a Malabrigo Sock in the Ravelry Red colorway. The white is a Cascade Heritage sock yarn and the blue is something that I have no clue what it is. It’s been in my stash and my stash has been moved, organized, packed, and moved again. I’ve lost a few labels. I bought the beads online because the only beads I could find locally were really too small. I am using 3/0 glass beads. I love the way they pop off the blue yarn! I’m hoping to have this done for the 4th of July week!

The other shawl is the Brambling Shawl by Bristol Ivy. This was one of the projects, perhaps one of the first projects in the Year of Techniques project. I really liked this “class” and I have enjoyed each project that I have attempted. I also bought the yarn kits for each season. I love the yarn. This yarn is fyberspates cumulus and it’s really soft and sticky … this is a “don’t make a mistake because thinking back is going to be difficult”! The colors aren’t necessarily ones that I would have chosen but I like them and I am happy mohave my boundaries challenged! I have not ever “studied” intarsia and this project has made me feel very confident with this technique.

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Perhaps the best thing that happened today was watching a family of barn swallows who were flying all over in front of our house. I noticed the swooping birds and went to look out the window of my atelier. There were two baby birds sitting on the roof … learning to fly! Later, I checked again and the parents were coming up to feed the babies … all FIVE of them! I spent the day watching them in complete fascination! Mother Nature is absolutely amazing and I loved this part of my day. Here is a pic of the babies! Mom and dad were way too speedy on the wing to catch in a photograph!

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It was a good day! Gone knitting.