Teaching and Technology

Choices!

Choices!

Last week I sent some yarn to a customer who lives far away. She wanted to make socks out of Encore Worsted yarn. I sent her a picture of a few choices and we got it mailed to her. On Wednesday I got a phone call and she was stuck. She had gotten her leg and heel flap done, had turned the heel and picked up the gusset stitches. But despite having done all the “hard” work she was stuck on the directions to knit the next part – mostly on having the right number of stitches on each needle so she could decrease in the right spot!

Now, any of you who have ever tried to explain something over the phone understand how difficult it is, right? I think every teacher, at one time or another, assigns students to give directions in writing for someone who has never done something. Dialing a phone, making tuna salad? It’s not easy to fully describe any task where you are unable to see the person to whom you are giving directions.

So, I’m on the phone with a customer who is stuck on her sock. First I have to figure out where she is exactly. Next, I have to explain to her what to do next. Well, on Wednesday I didn’t do a good job. We couldn’t find a place where we could communicate with each other well enough to solve the problem. I was feeling like a failure and she was frustrated.

And then she suggested that she might send me a picture! It was a genius idea!

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This was the picture I got via email

This is the picture that I got. You can see where the working yarn is (at the bottom left-hand corner of the needles) and, if you’ve knit many (MANY) pairs of socks, you know exactly what you would do next. Right? But can you describe to someone over the phone what to do? Well, after spending fifteen minutes on the phone without making any real progress, we finally had a new starting place and new hope!

Once I saw exactly where she was, I could then explain to her what she needed to do next.

She knitted down the left-hand needle and then knitted half of the heel (top) stitches. This becomes needle number three. We are now at the new beginning of the round. Now she can begin her first round with gusset decreases – Needle one will be the second half of the heel stitches and the right-hand needle stitches, the bottom needle is the top of the foot and will be needle two. We already know where needle three is!

Working together with our photograph and the use of our wonderful new technology …

Success!

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Now she’s ready to complete her foot.

I am so grateful for the challenges that I am given as a teacher.  I love the brain work that it takes to figure out how to solve a challenge for the student and for me. And I have made some wonderful connections and created wonderful friendships, too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love teaching knitting!

knitonwithconfidence2

I’m a Mainer Now!

Welcome to Maine!

Welcome to Maine!

Well, we did it! We moved to Maine. Our house in Florida is sold, we have driven forEVER (four days) and we are here in our happy place.

The cars are unpacked, all my yarn is in totes and bags and boxes and is ready to have me knit with it. But first I have to do a little settling in … find some clothes to wear, clean the kitchen for use the next couple of weeks, clean the guest house cabin where we will live over the course of our house-building process and then move our stuff up there.

We have to do a test sleep up there because I recall that the bed we bought for the guest house was reported to have a sink hole in the middle of it (one person slept there?) and I absolutely refuse to fight an uphill sleeping battle for three or four months! My sleep is too important to me to sleep in a less-than-perfect bed!

Tomorrow night is my knitting group and I’ll be happy to see the ladies! And there’s a tea party at my LYS this weekend. Best get my work done so I can go relax and visit and knit!

Gone cleaning!

 

All my Yarn is Packed

Of course this isn't all my yarn!

Of course this isn’t all my yarn!

It must be an unwritten rule that knitters (ok, fiber people?) pack their yarn first when going on a trip. I know that’s my process for packing. So, when preparing for a move, the first thing I did was plan what yarn I would take and with what patterns. Makes sense, right?

My yarn is safely packed in the car with my swift and winder and all of my needles. My WIPs are on my desk, just in case there is some time today for knitting. I will make some time.

Movers arrive at 8am.

We’re moving to Maine!

Gone knitting. (OK, I’m getting dressed and drinking some coffee.)

Knitt-ah. N. A person who knits (in Maine).

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I love knitting. I love teaching people to knit.

In my next life, I want to work in a yarn shop or around yarn and teach knitting. I have come to know that I am a really good teacher and I know my craft well. I want to use the passion that I have for teaching and learn more about yarn and fibers. Working in a yarn shop will help me get there.

That next life is coming screaming around the corner on two wheels!

For Sale!

For Sale!

Our home here in Florida is on the market and we are looking forward to moving to Maine. It’s where we feel most grounded. N has had the constancy of the house there in his life for all of his life. We were there are crazy-in-love teenagers. We started our life together with a summer there after our divorces. It is home. The old house is coming down to make way for a very similar house that we can live in year-round. N will be hammering and sawing and nailing. I will be compiling my list of classes that I can teach and going around to meet yarn shop owners to  put it out there that I would like to teach in their shops. I also want to send a note to the LYS shop owner I know whose shop is closest to our house to see if she’d be interested in hiring me to work in the shop part-time and to teach some classes. All of this will be happening sooner than I can imagine. Life continues to zoom past at an increasing speed!

I’m putting it all out there. Being open to the ideas that may be created and open to the suggestions of my peers. I want to visit the markets and fiber events as a blogger and knitter and teacher. That’s where my heart is leading me and I’m choosing to follow my heart.

As our house sale comes together and the move starts to be planned, I am so grateful for the wonderful life that I live. My friends and family who support me (and us.) Life is so good!

Gone knitting.

Fannar by Shannon Okey (aka knitgrrl)

Yarn - Cascade 220  (Color #9401 Lot #0739

Yarn – Cascade 220 (Color #9401 Lot #0739

I am nearly done with my first test knitting “job”. It’s been a very rewarding experience, and beyond the knitting, I’ve been privileged to “meet” some wonderful and fun knitters. Enough so that I am hoping they’ll take me up on my offer to host a knitting retreat at our house in Maine next September (2015).

My pattern is called “Fannar” and will be in the new book, coming out soon, called “Frozen: Aurora Borealis Mittens.” (No, I didn’t get paid, since I know you’re all wondering!) When I received my yarn, “ordinary” Cascade 220 in a lovely ivory and grey tweed, I immediately felt some relief from my perceived design-envy. First lesson learned: You don’t have to use exotic (aka pricey) yarns when you design! Who knew!? I was so excited that I nearly tinkled! 🙂

The fabric - unfelted

The fabric – unfelted

The initial pattern that I was sent was a chart. Now, I’ve knitted from charts many times before but never for an entire pattern and it was intimidating for about ten minutes. Until I realized that I knew this! I know this! I had it covered and I could do it. And I cast on with a provisional cast on to leave some live stitches for the cuff.

I knitted up the largest size and after I’d reached the thumb crotch my gut was telling me that this puppy was absolutely over-the-top humongous! I sent a photo to Shannon and she, too, was amazed at its girth. So, I frogged the behemoth and we started from scratch. As Shannon was out of town, Andi stepped in and whipped up an entirely new mitten pattern. And I started knitting again … this time a more appropriate size, even knowing that it is going to be felted.

Thumb Gusset (part deux)

Thumb Gusset (part deux) – way more normal!

The second iteration of “Fannar” is much more normal and the knitting process is super quick. Since I got the one-color mitten, I think I got the easiest job in the book. It’s been super fun to follow the secret Facebook group and watch as other test knitters knit their patterns. And to learn about the comment threads via email, used to communicate. It makes me want to knit more color work. That may be my summer challenge.

I’m wrapping up the second mitten and will finish the second thumb today. Then my job will be over. I can’t wait to see the finished product – the mitten will be felted in Ohio and a cuff will be knitted on afterward (thus the special cast on). I think I am going to have to knit up a pair for myself and felt them and see how it turns out … just for sh#$s and giggles!

What an excellent experience!

Gone knitting.

Another Adventure …

What kind of crazy people are we?

We left Florida on December 20. Three dogs in the back seat and the truck loaded up with presents and a Honey Baked Ham … New York City and Christmas with two of my three children. We planned to spend one night in Richmond, VA on our way and then a night just shy of the city. Only one wrong turn which sent us into Washington, DC … at least we weren’t towing the boat! Smooth sailing!

Almost There!

Almost There!

With my daughter’s help, and having made good time, we ended up in Washington Heights and our little sub-let one night early.

The little apartment we rented was about mid-way between my son’s and my daughter’s apartments. Allowing for adjustments for all the dogs and super convenient for us – not to mention really reasonable rates!

Lobster Feast!

Lobster Feast!

Christmas eve was spent eating (mimosas started off our day) and baking cookies. Our family tradition is Spritz cookies. It’s still more fun to make them when you have someone else to decorate them. I love that my kids all value that tradition – started by my mother – it’s simply not Christmas without Spritz! A lobster feast for dinner, with thanks to my brother the lobsterman, had us all a mess and very happy. Christmas movies and lots of laughs … or was it the wine? I almost forgot to have the kids open their Christmas Eve gifts from Santa.

Christmas Day was low key – relaxing over coffee and muffins, Skyped with the missing daughter and her father in Chicago. The NY kids had to work but we hung with my boy and all the dogs. Ditto on Boxing Day.

IMG_2636Our big outing into mid-town was dinner and going to Kate’s show. We went to Qi for dinner and I love their food. Seeing my girl one more time as the star of Rock of Ages was a special treat for me – and my boy went with his old mom. N decided to skip the show and visited the Strand Bookstore at Union Square which he adored despite a couple of wrong turns and perhaps a wrong address (hence the wrong turn!)

On the 27th we packed up the dogs and presents and tearfully kissed the kids goodbye. Heading north in our truck to our “camp” in Maine.

camp /kamp/ n. A place usually away from urban places where tents or simple buildings (as cabins) are erected for shelter or temporary residence.

Camp Warner

Camp Warner

Think primitive. No running water. No plumbing. Think outhouse with a very (VERY) cold seat. And melting snow on the wood stove to wash dishes. Our mattress on the floor in the living room. Windows frozen with condensation. We carried all of our stuff in from the street with our Christmas snowshoes! A simple dinner in front of the wood stove and I was ready for bed. Too many late nights and I was ready for bed … probably long before I actually climbed in. Despite the “camping” and the cold, I wasn’t ready to leave when we heard that there was a Nor’ Easter coming in! I can’t wait until we are there for all the winter storms!

Next to Marblehead and a visit with my youngest brother and his family. We’ve loved getting to know their friends and love any chance to visit this charming town full of friends and family. So much so that I forgot to take any photos of the visit!

New Year’s Eve day we headed to Connecticut … a trip down memory lane for me at Shady Glen in Manchester and then a visit to the cemetery to check on the headstone for my parents. Then on to Westport to my college roommate’s new apartment … had to check on my “roomie” since we were so close!

What a wonderful trip! I am so grateful that my N loves my family as much as I do and that he’s willing to drive all the way to Maine and back so I can knit!

Gone knitting … Happy New Year!

“Can Do”

I have so enjoyed my teaching experience so far.

Today we had a short day – one class and then lunch with the Yarn Nook girls and off we went to sit at my brother & sister-in-law’s house on the back patio and knit! (Like we don’t get enough of it!) It felt good to have a short day after yesterday which was our marathon knitting and teaching day. We will probably not stay all day next week when I have three classes! Even crazy old me needs a break!

I love the challenge of teaching a student who is really stretching herself in a class. Challenging herself to do something that is really difficult and, perhaps, even something that she may not be ready to attempt yet. Those fearless knitters are the ones I admire. Partly because it’s so gutsy. Partly because I was not that type of knitter. Or at least that’s not how I classify myself.

There is a lot to be said for trying something that’s really difficult. It’s good for our brains, it’s good for our souls. The sense of accomplishment is incredible when you finally “get it!” I am happy with the progress that all of my students have made. They’ve worked hard. They’ve (mostly) had that “can do” attitude and it’s such fun to be teaching such a great group of women!

Gone knitting!

 

Orlando Distaff Day 2013

IMG_0830 I took one picture today at Orlando’s Distaff Day! One! (And it was as I was leaving to head to my car and home.) But who wouldn’t wonder & follow a sign like this?

The whole day was fun. Not a minute when I thought, “It’s time to go home” or “Ugh, why’d I offer to demo” or anything like that. I had so much fun mingling with knitters and spinners and weavers and felters of all ages! It was also fun to catch up with some of my “old” knitting friends and meet some new ones.

I arrived at 10am thinking I’d like to catch some great bargains at the “Garage Sale” or find something wonderful that I just can’t live without on the “free table”. While I did see things I liked, I reminded myself of the shopping binge in Mississippi and suppressed the urge! Next on the list was a chat with James the needle felter. This guy is super talented and fun to chat with … loved his sample of felted camel hair – who has a camel?!

IMG_0833I got some fun yarn from the gift swap! I was asked to be the “carrier” of the traditional gag gift (a horribly bright crocheted purse and bikini bottom that has been added on to over the years and now contains a bikini top and some fuzzy flip-flops!) and was glad to present my gift to a (horrified?) recipient of the gag. She was a super good sport! Lots of laughs during the game which was new this year and a lot of fun! (I hope she liked my gift!)

IMG_0832I won a door prize – some yarn from Four Purls Yarn Shop! (And I never win prizes, it was  a happy moment!) The demos were super! Needle Felting, Kumihimo braiding, and my weaving in ends as you go, weaving and more. You can always learn something at Distaff Day! You can also see what everyone’s knitting at the fashion show. This year’s “biggest hit” was a woman who had knit socks to her panties! Yes, I mean it! She started to knit a pair of socks with her left-over bits and pieces of sock yarn and ended with a pair of hand-knit pantyhose … attached ever so carefully to a pair of panties! She was showing them off in their best light, of course, by wearing flip-flops and shorts. Knitters have such great senses of humor!

I loved the “make ‘n’ take” this year, too – a pair of earrings or stitch markers made of tiny fabric squares and beads. Thanks to a really great manicure and gel nail polish, my fingernails are so long that I struggled with tying the last knots but managed after a couple of attempts!

A fun fiber-y day with friends old and new. If you missed it, you’re no doubt sorry today but  don’t worry, there’s always next year!

Gone knitting!

 

Provisional Cast-On … Easy Method

Three Shades Mohair Cowl – Color Choices

Years ago, when I entered what we were allowed to call the Ravelympics, I had decided to  try to make my first lace scarf. I hit a road block when I read the patter for the first time and saw that there was a provisional cast on required. Since this was before the Internet really took off in my house, it was really difficult to find instructions that were clear and well-written (and illustrated) for this very visual knitter. Needless to say, I fell on my needles and was injured enough to totally back out of the challenge. (I also had kids at home and was working … not a lot of time to spend on doing something for myself back then!)

Fast forward a few years and I have learned how to do a couple of provisional cast ons. One with a crocheted chain that you then pick up stitches in the little bumps on the back (do not try this with black “waste” yarn) and another where you use an extra needle and let it hang at the bottom of your piece. Since I’m not an adept crocheter, my bumps are never consistent. The extra needle hanging at the bottom is a little bit cumbersome. So, I was looking for another option and this morning I found it!

Wendy Bernard over at Knit and Tonic has a great illustrative article on this long-tail provisional cast on where, in essence, you make a slip knot with your working yarn and your “waste” yarn (preferably something that is slippery) and then with your waste yarn over your thumb (toward you) and your working yarn over your index finger/pointer finger (away from you) you cast on just as you would normally. When you’ve gotten to your desired number of stitches (don’t count the slip knot/first stitch) cut your waste yarn and start your project.

The waste yarn is sitting nice and neatly down at the bottom of your work and can be easily unwound when you need to put your stitches back on your needles at the end of the project. Cool, yes?

I’ve just cast on 80 stitches in no time! Thanks, Wendy! I love it when you can learn something new and apply it to your day to cut off a few hours of tedious work!

My new project is another mohair cowl. It’s knitted a bit on the bias which makes it a little bit more interesting. This one is a custom order from a client in New York. After I made the first one, I thought about making one in three shades and she liked the idea, too. So we’re using a silver, a charcoal and a denim color – I think it’s going to be lovely! Kind of like the ombre garments and home furnishings that you’re seeing everywhere! The yarn that I’m using is called DK weight (but I’d say it’s more a fingering weight) and it’s Rowan’s kidsilk haze in charcoal #639, Debbie Bliss Angel in denim #15008 and kid seta Madil in a silver (#408) colorway. I will start with the charcoal, then head into denim and last, add the silver. I’m pretty excited to see what it looks like – I’m sure we’ll all be delighted at the results!

So, there you go! Learn something new today!

Gone knitting!

Destruction before Construction

The short story is this …

N. bought this house from a bank. Our inspector found a bunch of stuff wrong with it. The bank and N. came to an agreement over the price. The bank neglected to share that there was a known permitting problem with the county. A year or so after the closing, N. was “served” with notice, by the county, that he was being taken to court because of a lack of permitting on the “addition” … we were clueless!

Banks are unethical in every way. Not only do they loan money to poor suckers that they can’t afford but they also don’t have to (and don’t choose to) share potential problems that they know about because they don’t live in the house! Ugh.

So, now our back wall is being taken out (at our expense) and it’s hurricane season!

Before – just without curtains!

Off we go on another adventure!

Gone knitting!