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.

 

 

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!

 

Addition by Subtraction Lit-a-long

 

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Charcoal and White are dark and light. Gray speckle is blender. Gold is “pop” of color!

Several of us at the Yardgoods Center are working on the Addition by Subtraction Lit-a-long by TryStitchual Designs. This is an intriguing and unique MKAL (mystery knit along) as far as I am aware. There is a wonderfully funny and clever mystery story that accompanies a MKAL.

The MKAL requires that you start with four yarns. Fingering weight. One in a light color, one in a dark, the third unifies the two colors and the fourth is a pop of color. I used two stashed yarns that I bought last summer at the Maine Fiber Frolic and two new yarns that I bought at the shop.

Chapter One – I really love garter stitch. This garter stitch section uses all four colors and is broken up by three columns of stitches with twisted stitches on the edges and a knit or purl stitch in the center. There are also short row wedges in the “pop” color. At one side is an i-cord edge (see below) and an edge that contains a regular yarn over sequence of stitches.

IMG_2769The i-cord edge hides the yarns as they are carried up the side of the garment. It’s a brilliant idea! I’ll admit to having a bit of a challenge getting the i-cord edge started, but I figured it out in a couple of rows! There is a TON of knitting in this chapter! Phew!

I was almost finished with this when Chapter Two was released.

Chapter Two – I’m starting this a little bit behind and so I “rushed” to finish chapter one and get chapter two started. Chapter two uses three colors. The “pop” has been cut and set aside for this section. We are heading on with a slip stitch section between sections of alternating three-color garter stitch. This was a challenging start because I was following the written instructions rather than the charted instructions. I found out that the chart was the better way to go and had no trouble after the third row. I love this section and it makes me happy to see how interesting it is.

Chapter two also has a lot of knitting.

I am hardly half-way through Chapter two when Chapter three is released. No way I was going to catch up on this week … I had a shawl to knit as a store sample for the Maine Yarn Cruise that takes place beginning on Memorial Day weekend. Oh well. As I tell my students, “knitting is not a race”, time for this teacher to take a dose of her own medicine!

Chapter Three – This section is called the Illusion Section and as such, the knitting looks like an illusion. I think this may be my favorite section yet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this and it’s fascinating!

Once again a color (this time the speckled “blender” colorway) has been cut and we are now working with two colors only. The two colors remaining, light and dark, are alternated in pairs of rows. The second of which alternates between knit and purl stitches. It’s fantastic!

When I was ready to start chapter three, the clue for chapter four had already been released so I am now a full week behind! I’m laughing at myself for keeping track.

IMG_2938Chapter Four – OK, this chapter was released and I hadn’t even begun the previous one. I am telling you, there is a lot of knitting each week. If you work at a job or are a stay-at-home parent, or do anything but knit, you will not have been able to keep up with this MKAL! I  am a relatively quick knitter and I’m waaaaaay behind!

Chapter four is a lace section. Both sides of the section are the same (it’s reversible!) and the i-cord and yarn over ends are still going on as through the whole project. The lace section is very simple and very graphic (I think that’s the term) … it’s not lacey lace, it’s squared off and linear. I’ve just now gotten to begin it and I think it’ll be a good addition to the shawl. I’m getting closer and closer with each row and each decrease. It’s repetitive enough that I can remember this section’s pattern so I don’t have to count every stitch and watch the graph too closely.

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A stitch is dropped at the end of each section … creating a “line” parallel to the i-cord edge.

Did I mention that at the end of each chapter, a stitch has been dropped?

The stitch between the columns of twisted stitches is dropped after Chapter One. A second is dropped after Chapter Two. I happen to like dropping stitches and seeing how that changes the look of the stitches. There’s one more stitch to drop at the end of section four. With twisted stitches on either side, the dropped stitch is “controlled”. I am eager to finish and block this baby!

Having gotten this far writing about this project, I wanted to let you know that there is an Epilogue. Yes, there is! The epilogue seems to consist of an i-cord that is about 84 inches long that is woven through the yarn over side of the shawl. The pattern wants the i-cord to be in color C which for my shawl is the gold color or the “pop” that was only in the first chapter. Yippee! I was hoping that color would come back!

I’ll update you when I have finished and blocked the shawl!

Gone Knitting!

 

You can find out more about my knitting projects on Ravelry. I’m “lindar” on Ravelry!