November 29, 2009

The loot of the century

Originally uploaded by miminh3
Since we (Wendy, Luann, and I) had filled the car on the way to the retreat with our contributions to the Stash Lounge, any non-knitter would assume that space would not be an issue on the way back. This assumption is unfortunately flawed: yarn, like gas, fills all the space available to it.

We visited the Stash Lounge and shopped at the marketplace. We brought back yarn and fiber donated by Martha to raise money for KR (little plug here: please go to the KR forums and see if anything strikes your fancy). As Luann said, I definitely tried to break several laws of physics to make my acquisitions fit in my luggage. Among them were:

- from the goodie bag: a skein of Sundara worsted merino in "crushed cherries" destined to become either a Koolhaas hat or Thanksgiving Day Mitts
- from the Stash Lounge: a trio of Shibui yarns in "wasabi" left by Clara that I hope to use in a textured shawl, as I did a couple of years ago with various Mountain Colors yarns
- from my Winter share and the marketplace: Foxfire Fiber cormo alpaca lace in two different colors for an Ishbel and a Swallowtail shawl
- enough String Theory caper sock in "viola" to make a sweater or a vest
- Spirit Trail's new yarn "Sunna" for a pair of socks and some "Frija" for a pair of Hedgerow mitts for myself

I set aside my new goodies as I am working on a Christmas present. When my in-laws were visiting us this fall, I lent my mother-in-law a pair of socks I had knitted out of STR lightweight. She liked them so much that I offered to knit her a pair of socks for Christmas. She wanted a soft variegated green so I found a skein of fingering weight yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts in "spearmint" in my stash.

The pattern is "Right Twist Cable Rib socks" by Ann Budd. When trying to lure non-knitters to the dark side of handknitted socks, I think it's better to start with a simple non-lacy pattern. This gets them hooked on the warmth and softness. After that, you can sell them on the color-coordinating possibilities and the coolness of the designs. If all fails, I can always buy the pin that Kathleen was wearing at the retreat "yes, I know that I can buy socks for $2 at Walmart".

Once I am done with these socks and the Fiddlehead mittens, I would like a matching Tanis kit for the Dipped Infinity Scarf by Laura Chau. I also want to tackle La Droguerie's latest hit, le Carre Magique Dentelle (in purple, of course!).

November 27, 2009

KR retreat - part 3

"Wedding" ceremony
Originally uploaded by miminh3
During Sunday breakfast, I tried to take pictures of all the tables (wedding style) so that I would be better at remembering names and faces. I wish we could mouse over the pictures to see the name of the knitter and the pattern/yarn used in the garment he/she is wearing... Next time perhaps!

That morning I was lucky enough to win an antique darning egg as a door prize (it is rather heavy so I'll have to figure out how to use it without damaging it nor the sock). And I got the courage to ask Ann Budd to sign my copy of "Getting Started Knitting Socks". She's such a fun down-to-earth person! I hope that she will join the retreat again next year, perhaps as a teacher.

(I tried to explain to Boy how much Ann has contributed to the knitting community with her books and while working for Interweave. I said "imagine the KR retreat is like a violin master class with Gil Shaham and Anne-Sophie Mutter. Having Ann Budd there is like Itzhak Perlman coming at the last minute". I think he got the picture.)

I chose the Fiddlehead mittens by Adrian Bazilia (kit by Tanis Fiber Arts) as my New Beginnings project. We all cast on (OK, maybe not everyone since some people were "protesting" and some people had already cast on) while Clara presided over a very special wedding ceremony between us and our projects. Let's see how that relationship blossoms over the upcoming year!

The Spirit Trail tailgate sale morphed this year into a full-fledged marketplace as we were able to buy from the vendors who had not yet packed up (is there anything as heartbreaking as the thought of the yarn you let go?). I hugged everyone one last time and promised Mary and Louise that I would do the dance of the seven veils next year (if sufficiently liquored up and in exchange for a bird house).

I remember how (unnecessarily) scared and shy I was at my first retreat. As each year passes by, I become more outgoing and get to learn more from the knitters around me. This is the weekend where I fill up with the good vibes from my knitting friends and they keep me knitting throughout the year!

KR retreat - part 2

Almost all the retreat participants had arrived by Friday dinner and we had our usual "Show and tell" after dinner. Clara asked us to describe our philosophy of knitting and where we were at with our knitting. We heard the themes of knitting for community, having too many projects at once, wishing we had more time to knit,... all of which I can sympathize with!

On Saturday morning, we gathered outside to take our group picture and an additional special picture for Fran. We then proceeded to our classes, mine was Melissa Morgan-Oakes' class on finishing techniques. I really liked her sock class last year and since I have issues with finishing (let us not speak of the sweater that only needs to be seamed and has been languishing in a basket for the last year), this was the right choice! Our homework had us knitting nine swatches in various stitch patterns and we worked through the different seaming possibilities during the class (horizontal stockinette, vertical stockinette, ribbing, seed stitch). I just have a few more seams and I'll have a snazzy pillow cover!

I was (of course) first in line for the afternoon marketplace: don't let my small stature fool you, I can be pretty feisty if you come between me and the yarn I love! (I will post about my loot in another post). One of the highlights of the marketplace was Clara signing copies of "The Knitter's Book of Wool" (while we petted the sample garments from the book). I was a little star-struck when asking Melanie Falick (former IK editor, author and designer extraordinaire, the force behing STC craft books) to sign my copy of "Weekend Knitting". Melanie also had the swatches from Lynne Barr's new book, "Reversible Knitting", for us to look at (the techniques in "Knitting new scarves" had already bowled me over, wait til you read her new book).

Storey Publishing was kind enough to open its doors to us for a few hours so I was able to buy various knitting ("101 Designer one-skein wonders") and sewing ("101 One Yard wonders") books at wholesale price. I also bought a birding book for Boy so that he wouldn't feel left out.

After our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we reconvened for Melanie's presentation. I dutifully took notes as she explained how she got into knitting, her path from writer to editor, and how the books at STC Craft come to life. We even had a preview of the 2010 books (seen here - I am looking forward to Veronik Avery's "Knitting 24/7").

After the presentation, Luann happened to be at the right time at the right place (aka in front of the locked Stash Lounge as Karen of String Theory was dropping off her destash). Somehow Sara, Vicki, Luann, and I found ourselves huddled in the dark corridor using Luann's little flashlight to identify the various balls of yarn ("is this Rowan Felted tweed?" "No, I think it's Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool." "This is so soft, it has to be Malabrigo lace!"). Vicki even took what I thought were "blackmail" pictures, which would make a lot of sense had she not been guilty of taking some of Karen's yarn like the rest of us!

For next year I propose a "Yarn Off" (TM): 10 unlabelled balls of yarn which need to be identified.

KR retreat - part 1

Stash lounge
Originally uploaded by miminh3
A week has passed since we left Williamstown but I'm still high from the wonderful (extended) weekend I spent in the company of my fellow knitters.

The excitement about the retreat started long before Thursday afternoon, as Wendy, Luann, and I were emailing back and forth about our carpool. Luann had warned us that her destash would be of gigantic proportions and indeed, I think it was probably only second to Rosi's destash. In any case, we were able to make everything fit in Wendy's Camry though we could have spared ourselves some of the trouble (at the end of the weekend, we realized that the three of us just took from each other's destash in a very nice cyclic permutation).

Being part of the Thursday extension not only allows you to take one extra class but also to relax and fully enjoy the atmosphere. There's nothing quite like arriving at the retreat, being welcomed by Martha and Kendra with our generous goodie bags (more on that later), and being hugged by fellow knitters whether you have met them in previous years or only online. You let go of anything that your mind is preoccupied with (work, family,...) and just happily chat and knit away. You giggle as you go one more time to the stash lounge ("I'm walking there purely to get some exercise"), pet other people's garments and ask them what yarn and pattern they used.

On Friday morning, I took Shelia's beginning/intermediate spinning class. It was a lot of fun to see people have a "aha moment" when doing park and draft with their spindles. Shelia lent us square spindles from Spindlewood Co. (which I had never tried before, they're beautiful and perfectly balanced) and gave us different fibers to use including roving from her own Shetland/Gotland sheep Ingamar (who now has many fans -- let's hope it won't go to his head). I reacquainted myself with my wheel and Shelia showed me how to spin long-draw. I hope to practice often enough that I'll be able to spin both short forward draw and long-draw.

On Friday afternoon, Eva and I were lucky enough to help Jen of Spirit Trail set up her booth for Saturday's marketplace (what passes as an act of altruism is really a self-serving way to fondle the yarns and "pre-shop"). Chris (Roosien, not to be confused with "the other Kris") and Anne Hanson of Knitspot made a homey Briar Rose corner by the fireplace, Kathryn Alexander showcased her colorful bundles of yarn, her books, and her sock pattern in "The Joy of Sox", Jane was setting up the book signing tables for Clara and Melanie Falick while Barb and Holly took care of the Foxfire booth (including the luscious new Cormo Alpaca that was part of my Winter Sheep Share).

November 15, 2009

Lost in translation

Back in February, I heard Jenny and Nicole's podcast on Japanese knitting patterns and was quite intrigued. Clara has reviewed Japanese stitch dictionaries in Interweave Knits. Knitters post on KR about beautiful lace patterns or aran sweaters they have seen in Japanese books. Several of the French blogs I read regularly use Japanese sewing patterns. Judy Sumner mentions in her book, Knitted Socks East and West, some never-seen before stitches. Here was this wealth of resources that I had not yet looked into, I had to remedy to it! So I'm signed up for a class entitled "Explore Japanese Knitting from Charts" with Donna Druchunas next May, during our Alaska cruise.

But before then, there are plenty of things for me to explore. Because Japanese patterns only give one size, the easiest thing is to start with accessories: there's just one size and gauge doesn't matter as much as for sweaters. So I am building a library!

While visiting String Theory this summer, I picked up a copy of Aran Knit. As I was already ordering yarn from Julija's shop, I had to order this book of socks. De Afstap in Amsterdam had a copy of the very handy Clear and Simple knitting symbols.

On the fence

Fence row socks
Originally uploaded by miminh3
While in Europe, I knitted nine swatches (my homework for the KR retreat) and finished a pair of socks, the Fence row socks. The pattern is by Lisa Lloyd and the yarn is Fox Sox from Foxfire Fiber designs in "Willow".

The 4 round repeat is easy to remember and I am looking forward to knitting more patterns from Lisa Lloyd, especially the ones from "A Fine Fleece". Unfortunately, I haven't seen her patterns in Wildfibers magazine lately but I hope she will be back with more patterns.

I believe that Barb Parry is no longer dyeing the Fox Sox yarn, as she is focusing on her Farm Yarn collection from her own flock. The textured stitch of the socks showcases the yarn color beautifully as the little purl bumps reflect the subtle color changes. Taking a dyeing class with Barb is on my wishlist for 2010!

I had plenty of Fox Sox yarn leftover so I was able to knit a charity hat to bring to the retreat. That's four hats so far so I'm hoping to knit a few more between now and the end of the retreat.

November 13, 2009

"Purple is a fruit" (Homer Simpson)

Waves in the square shawl
Originally uploaded by miminh3
I was going to post about this project earlier this week but my laptop screen unexpectedly died after six years of faithful service. Also forgive the horrible indoor picture -- I will try to take a better picture of the shawl outside this weekend (it gets dark around 5pm in Boston so no sunlight when I get back from work),

I started this shawl almost two years ago as my New Beginnings project at the KR retreat. It was the lack of portability, not the pattern, that made this such a long process: I needed to see the chart, the rows were very long, and silk lace is slippery. I credit Fran and her "ten minute rule" for helping me see this project to completion.

The pattern is "Waves in the square" by Sivia Harding. Like the Diamond Fantasy shawl, it is very clear and easy to follow with both charted and written directions. The construction is quite clever: this is not your regular triangular shawl but a trapezoid with two adjacent triangles (but knitted in one piece). The triangles allow you to tie the shawl in the front and the trapezoid corresponds to your back (the straight edge doesn't empasize one's behind, as a triangular shawl of this size would).

The yarn is Sundara silk lace in "black over violet" which first intimidated me because of its fineness and slipperriness. But I got used to it and switched from the Addi lace needles to the regular Addi turbos to knit faster. Sundara did a fantastic dye job (as usual), there was no excess dye when I was knitting. When I blocked the shawl however, a large amount of excess dye came out. Following Sundara's recommendations, I left the shawl soak in very hot water for at least an hour and rinsed it afterwards. The water was still colored after a dozen of rinses but I had no dye on my blocking board.

I am quite happy with the finished project and will proudly wear it with my new purple coat to the KR retreat next week!

Next post: a pair of finished socks and my foray into japanese knitting books.