Progress … Two FOs

I’ve finally finished the two pairs of fingerless mitts for my French grandchildren. They asked for these when they were here earlier this summer. (When it was so much cooler!) My grandson, Oscar, asked for the Rainbow yarn which he found in my atelier. He loved the bright colors. His little sister, Rose, likes unicorns. This American grandmother is happy to oblige!

I used bits and bobs of yarns that I had left over from previous mitten knitting. The rainbow yarn is WYS (West Yorkshire Spinners) Aire Valley DK in colorway #822. The white in the unicorn mitts is Berroco Ultra Wool DK in colorway #8300 (Snow). I hope they’ll fit when the weather turns cooler in the fall.

I followed, for the most part, the Aurora Unicorn Mittens DK pattern by Craftling Designs. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. The differences are that I didn’t bother purling a stitch on the rainbow mitts because they don’t have a mane to attach later. I followed the directions to where I thought the mitts would be the appropriate length and then did four rounds of K2, P2 ribbing. Same for the thumbs. They’re pretty stinking cute, don’t you think!?

I have traced the hands and feet of both kids so I can potentially make them some socks, too. I love these two kids so much! I hope to see them again before they’re married! (Ha! Ha! That’s a joke!)

Gone knitting.

Collaboration

I’ve completed a collaborative knitting project with my friend and lady farmer, Mary Perry of Winterberry Farm, the last organic farm in Belgrade, Maine. Winterberry Farm is also animal powered … not a tractor to be found!

My DH and I have been fans and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members for several years. This year, I helped Mary at her farm store on several winter days when the interns aren’t yet arrived to help with the farm. My DH fed all of the animals a few times when Mary and her family were away overnight. I learned a lot about what it takes to own and run a farm. Anyway, I got a call from Mary a few weeks back and she wanted to put together some knitting kits with her yarn and needed some help finding simple patterns that would work with her yarn that she has spun at a mill nearby.

I chose three patterns: a simple hat, a simple scarf and socks.

The hat pattern was knitted up in the blue colorway and is Barley Light by Tin Can Knits. What I love about this hat is that it is a simple stitch pattern that results in a lovely hat in a lighter weight which is good for the border seasons of fall and spring.

The scarf pattern that I chose has been a favorite in my knitting classes for students who are starting to feel more comfortable with their knitting and are willing to branch out and try something new … and a bit more “complex”. The Workday Scarf by Sue Flanders is one of my favorite simple scarf patterns. I chose to knit the shop sample in the neutral, undyed/natural colorway and it is stunning! There is nothing better than a lace pattern (or any pattern for that matter) knitted up in a light natural color yarn. Both the yarn and the pattern are allowed to shine!

The sock pattern is being knitted up for Mary by her sock knitter, a local woman who knits socks for purchase (in case someone doesn’t knit their own) in the Winterberry Farm Shop. I sent the pattern for the socks to Mary and they’re being knitted for the shop. I guess you’ll have to stop by the shop to see which colorway was selected and what the socks look like!

Winterberry Farm is located at 538 Augusta Road (Route 27) in Belgrade, Maine. Come see the farm and shop for yarn! Or buy a kit! They’ll be available soon. Meanwhile, come visit the farm, join the CSA and shop for pies, farm-made canned goods and frozen foods, and yarn!

Gone knitting.

Friendship

I got a text message from my former neighbor in Ohio today. They’d had a wonderful snow storm and she sent pictures of the old neighborhood under newly fallen snow. It hit all the buttons for me. Memories of raising my three kids there and the wonderful people I met there. I was content there for the most part and I felt very connected to my across the street neighbor.

We’ve not lost touch and I’ve been able to watch her children grow up through the miracle of Facebook. I feel close to her despite the miles between us. Maybe it’s a “mom thing” or maybe it’s because I witnessed her deep sorrow and devastation at the loss of a child and the birth of a child all at the same time. I don’t know what it is, but I feel a kinship with this woman although I only knew her for a short time before I left Ohio.

The text message and pictures brought tears to my eyes. It is meaningful to me that I was thought of and reached out to. I’m so grateful.

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.

 

 

Passage of Time

With the impending arrival of Father’s Day tomorrow and Mother’s Day in the past, I have done a lot of reflecting on my own experiences with my parents. How they raised me, their only daughter, in the late 50’s and early 60’s while keeping a deep and very dark (to them) secret.

Shortly after my mother passed away in October of 2008, we found out that she had given up a baby boy for adoption in May/June 1956. Had she given birth to that baby boy, she’d have been ostracized. She’d have been labeled a strumpet, a hussy, a tramp. She would not have been allowed to marry my father if anyone had known. My father, however, would have been left to continue his life as before.

Being the next child born, and a girl, I can only imagine that I was a disappointment and it explains a lot about how she raised me. She was disconnected, aloof, often angry, not encouraging or loving. She was always heavy … keeping a layer of protection around her. Please don’t get me wrong, she fed me, did my laundry, drove me everywhere. I didn’t want for anything. Except her love. None of this was my fault, of course, and I didn’t know that I was getting treatment that was different from my younger brothers or my peers. But it was different and I was scarred by it. (Thank God for therapy!)

I say this today because I realized recently that many of my friends on Facebook seem to miss their parents and were deeply loved by them. Sadly, I don’t have that same feeling. I’d love to have them back to ask them questions about why they did what they did. Why they kept the secret after we were adults. Why they never told me they loved me or were proud of me. (They really didn’t unless it was after a fight and then it would be, “of course we love you” said in anger and frustration.) My brothers had a different experience. Psychologically, I’m certain that it was because I was the first born “after the adoption” and I wasn’t a boy.

I was encouraged to find a husband and marry … that’s why a girl goes to college. I was born to have babies, that was where I would find happiness and fulfillment.  I was taught to iron and sew, to play the piano and guitar. I was given ballroom dancing lessons at Mary Jane Spencer’s. My peers were encouraged to pursue a career, told they could do anything that they set their mind to. I didn’t know that until I had children of my own … and had been in therapy for depression and a failing/failed marriage that lead to an ugly divorce.

img_0121.jpgToday I am happier. At nearly 60 I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful for the life I was given and I know that my parents never meant to cause me harm. They did their best. Sadly, it wasn’t good enough to give me wings to fly. I had to find those for myself.

Today, one of the things that makes me happy is yarn. Everything around yarn. I love people who use yarn in their creative endeavors. I love the animals who provide the fibers and the process that leads to the yarn being available to buy. I love feeling it and working it into a garment. I love the shop keepers and the customers. I  am grateful for the shared wisdom of women and men who share my craft and the love of yarn. I love that I have found a wonderful man with whom to share my life. He loves me as I am even when I don’t.

Life hands you some bizarre twists and turns and I’ve learned that it’s all about what you do with them that makes you who you are. I am grateful for them all because I like where I am today. I wouldn’t be here without all those experiences. I’m strong and resilient and happy. I’ve started over many times and I’m sure I’ll start over again.

Speaking of starting over … I started something new yesterday.

IMG_3065Born out of frustration with the fit of my nearly-done Malabrigo sweater, and in an effort to use some of my stashed yarn, I cast on the Brambling Shawl.

The Brambling Shawl by Bristol Ivy was one of the projects in A Year of Techniques. It’s a study in Intarsia – the use of two colors in the same row. The yarn used in the pattern (and that I bought) is Fyberspates’ Cumulus. It’s a lovely blend of baby Suri alpaca and Mulberry silk. The project calls for five colors (camel, slate, plum, sea green and silver) and is worked from tip to tip with increases and decreases to make a triangular shawl. I’ve just gotten started and have yet to add the second color, but I love being able to learn a technique with practice.

So, tomorrow I will celebrate my husband who is a great father. Patient, loving and kind. I will also celebrate the fathers in my life, my brothers, uncle, cousins, and my own dad who did his best. He did teach me to love pistachios!

Gone knitting!

 

Knitting for Good

kfc_poster2008As knitters, it seems that we are programmed for using our craft to make the world a better place. Knitting chemo caps, hats and mittens for the homeless, blankets for women in domestic violence shelters, sweaters for penguins, purple hats for babies, helmet liners for soldiers, “knockers” for mastectomy patients. The list of charitable knitting ideas is endless. You can find something to knit that makes the world a better, softer, more loving place.

penguin sweatersI’ve knitted almost all of these opportunities. Almost. Most recently, I’ve knitted “knockers” for women who have had breast cancer and have had mastectomies. I’ve also knitted a couple of hats for children who have undergone chemotherapy.

Knitted-KnockersNow, I’m working on a hat and mittens to go to one of my students’ granddaughter’s second grade special needs class. Every year her class gets a hand-knitted gift from their teacher. Last year Alice knitted 21 sets for the class all by herself. This year, my Friday Knitters are helping. I am knitting a “hunting orange” hat and mittens because what second grade boy wouldn’t want one? We do live in Maine. after all, and people love to hunt here! Even if you don’t hunt, you (almost) need to wear that eye-piercing orange to walk to the mailbox or if you’re going for a walk in the woods. We even put it on our pets!

redhatsKnitting for good is a wonderful way to give back. I am so privileged to be able to knit and afford to buy yarn and needles (it’s an addiction!) I am happy to be able to knit for others who may not otherwise have access to warm, cozy garments. I don’t care to have my name attached to it, my giving is nameless and faceless. The “payback” for me is knowing that I’ve been able to do something for someone else. And it feels so good.

 

Gone knitting!