Teaching This Old Dog a New Trick: Still Learning

Attic Heirlooms January 2019 Ornament

My wonderful co-worker provided me with a kit of wool and supplies for this month’s ornament pattern from Attic Heirlooms. I’d put it into the pile of projects that I am amassing and it seems that this morning was the morning to get it done!

As I stitched away, I realized that I was doing the blanket stitch all wrong. All wrong, all along. I pulled out the outside edge but decided to leave the stitching on the flower in the center just to remind myself that I can still learn. I grew up hearing “can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I am here to tell you that I am calling BS on this one! I am proof that you can keep learning no matter how old or young you are!

You can see that I have left the “wrong” stitching around the pink part of the flower and continued in the “right” stitching around the red leaves. I pulled out the green around the mitten after a little bit of thought because I really do want to be proud of my work.

I had always wondered why my blanket stitches didn’t really stay square. Now I know. I was doing it the wrong way! That’s what happens when you teach yourself (sometimes!)

All done! All I need is a little string to hang the ornament with and it’s ready for our tree … in a few months, anyway!

Attic Heirlooms is on Main Street in beautiful Damariscotta, Maine. You can find the free patterns or reasonably priced kits on their website. There are some cute shops, good food and a lovely coastal feel to Damariscotta. You should visit!

Gone knitting!

You can find me on Facebook at Queen Bee Knits by Linda Warner and on Instagram as QueenBeeKnits. I’m on Ravelry @lindar. I hope you’ll join me there!

A Safe Place for All People

An Inclusive, Accepting, Safe Place for all People

The community of makers: knitters, crocheters, stitchers of all kinds has been having a discussion around racism and inclusiveness in our community and the broader communities we all live in, in our country, in the world.

When my children were little, I volunteered to run a program in the elementary school called “Everybody Counts.” It was to teach young children what it is like to live with physical challenges. As part of the program, the children wore socks on their hands, walked blindfolded with a cane, wore eyeglasses covered with scotch tape, and more. The idea being that if they experienced what it felt like to live with these challenges then they would be compassionate and accepting of others who are “differently abled.” Who are different.

I wish that we, as adults. could all spend some time in the shoes /lives of others; those with different skin colors, those who live in different countries, who are a different gender, religion. To better understand their experiences. I have friends who are white and have children who are black. I know their experience of having sons is different from my experience. I never thought that my son’s life would be in danger if he was stopped for a minor traffic infraction. My friends do. This is not acceptable. My daughters aren’t (to the best of my knowledge) followed by clerks in stores. My friend’s daughter is. This is not acceptable. These are only two experiences that I know about. I’m sure there are many, many more.

I can’t step into your lives, your shoes, your bodies but I want you to know that I am listening to the stories on Instagram and elsewhere by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and I will continue to listen and to do my own work. I can do better. My goal is to make my little world here on the internet and in my classes, safe and accessible for all people. ALL people.

I see you, I hear you. I am listening. Thank you for your stories.

(Any negative comments will be deleted. If there is to be a discussion, keep it positive and civil. Thank you.)

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!

 

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.

 

 

Life is Good!

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This is the view from my studio chair this evening. I love when the shore across the lake is all lit up in the afternoon. It really is magnificent.

Today was a good day. Good morning, good day at work, happy to be home and then this view when I looked out the window.

Our plants are blooming and most survived the winter and it feels good to be home. Here are a few pictures of the plants that I took today. I’m no photographer but I sure do love to see things grow!

Wild rose, “ever blooming” rose and yellow iris. The iris have been here forever and continue to spread all across the shore. The roses are both new. Rosa Rugosa (the wild rose) is a native plant and fully expected to live happily against the lakeshore. We shall see about my friend Janet’s gift from last year but I love these flowers. They are fragrant and low-maintenance and bloom all summer long.

How did we get so lucky?

Gone knitting.

Sunday Fun Day!

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Yesterday morning, we woke up to a little fog on the ice and more open water than we’ve seen in what seems forever! Knowing that it was going to be sunny, we figured that the fog would go away and we’d have less ice at the end of the day.

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Before we left to go take a Sunday drive, this is what it was looking like. There were a couple of times when the ice came right up to the land and sounded like crystals being rolled around. The sound was so unique! I tried to get a video of the sounds but I didn’t think any of the three were audible enough to translate. Suffice it to say, it was really great!

We wanted to head to Skowhegan today to see if the Maine Grains “cafe” was open and if we could get a bite to eat and buy some oatmeal. It was not open, but it was a pretty drive.

My husband heard about a sculpture at his volunteer job at Colby College Art Museum. Colby Art Museum has a few pieces by this artist. Apparently when he died, his widow spread his works around the state and two are found in Skowhegan!

The Indian statue is HUGE! He is easily the world’s tallest Indian. It’s sixty-two feet tall atop a 20 foot tall base, He was erected in 1969 and dedicated, as you can read in the picture above, to Maine’s Abenaki Indians. The play area, which they now ask you to stay off of, is a two-sided stair-step of farm animals. Please don’t climb on them! These sculptures are a little gem of art and Maine history along the way. You can find this guy on the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and High Street behind the Cumberland Farms food mart. It’s free and worth a detour!

When we got home (after a stop at Giffords for a bit of ice cream) the ice was moving by our house again. And before sunset, it was gone. Ice out!

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We heard our first loons on the lake, too. It brought tears to my eyes. I love living in this place and feel so fortunate to be here.

Gone knitting!

 

“Terror Towel” Quilted Throw

 

Delivery ... and first thoughts

Delivery … and first thoughts

Several months ago a high school classmate asked me if I would be willing to make a quilted throw for him. He and his wife had collected “terror towels” from various sports events that he and his wife had attended.

I am a new but eager maker of quilts but this didn’t sound impossible to me but for months I’ve been “worrying” about this quilt. The terry cloth fabric is a different entity than the traditional cotton fabric. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the towels when I cut them to size.

So I picked peoples’ brains. I was advised that I should use a stabilizer on the backs of the towels. I was also advised that I should not use cotton fabric as a frame between the towels. The thought was that the two weight of fabrics would cause uneven wear. This made sense. Stabilizer, not so much.

As you can see from the picture above, that’s one funky shaped quilt. I had to somehow figure out how to make it square or rectangular … which meant making all the towels the same size.

Deciding on the design and directionality

Deciding on the design and directionality

What I ended up doing was using little paper “towels” to lay out my plan. If I could make the towels to a size of 14.5 x 16.5 inches I could piece them together and make a throw. After many hours of thinking and measuring, I had a plan. A few of the towels were not going to work in the size that I had chosen – three were too small (way too small) and one was printed in such a way as to make cutting it to any size difficult. But the rest of the towels, 16 in all, were going to work!

Day 1: I “ripped” out the stitching around the edges of the towels to make them a little bit larger and then I cut the towels to size. Even cutting the towels is a challenge. They really aren’t square nor are they printed with the designs exactly in the middle. But I used my 12″ square template to center the design and then worked around it to cut the two lengths thus making a 14.5 x 16.5 inch rectangle of each towel.

Day 2: I zigzagged the four sides of the towels to keep them from fraying. Terry cloth is a messy, messy (did I say MESSY?) fabric. Yuck! My studio is a horrible mess and I’m not even done yet!

Day 3: This is the moment … all the towels are laid out on the floor and I decided on the design placement. There are four towels with a different directionality. I chose to have them all facing the same (but different from the other 12 towels) direction. Here is the design that I liked best … the four towels with different directionality are not diagonally down the middle but one in each row and “randomly” placed.

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My final design … I’m ready to make strips!

So, today I started sewing together the rectangles. I decided that because terry cloth is so bulky that I had to sew the pieces together and then “tack” down the extra fabric on the wrong size by sewing them down. I sewed a 3/8 seam and then positioned my needle to the left and ran another line down each side of the seam tacking the bulk to the pieces. So far, I am really pleased with the strips. Tomorrow I will sew the strips together and then it will be time to find a backing. I am thinking that I would like to use two layers of cotton flannel. One white in the middle and a sports-themed print as the backing fabric. I will sandwich them all together but I haven’t decided whether I will simply stitch in the ditch or if I will stitch diagonally across the rectangles, too. I want them to be stable so that the towels wear well.

I’ll let you know how it progresses! I am thrilled to be working on this rather than “worrying” about it. Gone … sewing? (Actually my book club is coming and I’d best go get ready to greet them!)