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Fair Isle

I’ve been putting off writing for a while – not sure why, although it may have something to do with having a manicure with “gel” which has made my nails longer and stronger, and totally messed up my already limited typing ability.  Therefore please forgive any typos that I didn’t catch.

The procrastination, however, is more likely to do with the fact that I just finished reading Sweater Quest my year of knitting dangerously.  For those knitters who haven’t read it, it’s well worth the read, describing the author, Adrienne Martini’s experience knitting an Alice Starmore sweater.  There is a lot of information about the Alice Starmore infamy, most of which I was blissfully ignorant.

Like her, I am in the process of knitting an Alice Starmore design, and she describes the trials of finding the right yarn, learning two-handed knitting, and the mystery and scary drama of CUTTING your knitting.  I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I have noticed that the closer I get, the slower I knit.  Or course horribly high humidity hasn’t helped.  Procrastination, you are legion.   But I will listen to the author, and read Meg Swanson & Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors which has good drawings and instructions, and then just do it.  The other thing I learned from “Sweater Quest” is that I am not really knitting a Alice Starmore sweater.  I didn’t use her yarn or colors, so apparently it doesn’t really count.  However the pattern does come from one of her books, and although the colors are different, I love them anyway.  Yarn of choice was Knit Picks Palette, far from kosher, but affordable and a really good color selection.  Oh well, it may be a little sacrilegious, but it’s working for me.

Early stages of Alice Starmore

The other author who slows me down a little is Stephanie Pearl McPhee.  I’m about half-way through All Wound Up and I am laughing out loud, and even read some aloud to Peter.  She is so amazingly insightful and funny, and says all the things I have wanted to say, only with more humor.  She has a wonderful chapter on dealing with folks who look at a knitter in a waiting room, and say, wistfully “I wish I had time to knit” – how many have heard that before?  Or “how do you have the patience for that”.  I’m tempted to say I knit so I won’t kill someone, but that’s probably not very smart, so I just smile and keep on knitting.

This is a fairly short post, but wanted to at least try to catch up a little.  More later, and keep that fiber flowing, life is good. . .

 

I had a long phone call this morning with Deb – my sister from another mother in Arkansas – and that made me realize I hadn’t posted anything since I got back from Knitting Camp.  So it’s about time.

I have a photo of a tiger, seen on my way to camp, but nothing up close and personal – bit of a disappointment, and now I can’t seem to post it – this who computer thing is sometimes a bit much for a self-taught 70 year old!!

But I made it to camp in plenty of time for the “meet and greet” – some new friends, lots of old friends and I was so happy to be there.

It’s very hard to explain Knitting Camp to someone who has never been there.  People ask me what I learned, and basically I learned how much there is to learn.  There are no formal classes – it is free time to ask questions and get answers both from Meg and Amy who run the camp, and from other people in the group.  How can anyone who hasn’t been there understand why 60 odd people will spend 20 minutes discussing the various ways of making a left-leaning decrease – for most knitters this is either slip one, knit one and pass the slipped stitch over, or slip one knit-wise, slip one purl ways and knit them both together through the back of the loop.  For non-knitters this means very little, but in that group we came up with about three other methods of making this decrease, and what is fascinating is that we were all listening carefully, trying it out on our swatches.  This was a serious discussion – the minutiae of advanced knitters . . . who else would understand?

Then there is “show and tell” with wonderful things people had made over the year – creative, innovative and works of art.  And the wonderful thing is, everyone’s efforts are applauded, not just “knitting royalty” but also the beginners, the learners and the bumblers.  The same with the contest – the theme was “A Secret Garden” – some of us took it seriously, others stretched the theme – a bra from Victoria’s Secret was a great hit.  There were some incredibly delicate lace shawls, and a wonderful pair of socks with flowers all over them.  Below is my entry – a stole with the words “The Magic is in You” worked in the piece.  To me that phrase just resonated, and it seemed to be the theme of the book.

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I am currently working on a Fair Isle vest for Peter – took it with me to get honest feed back and from what I was told I figured it was probably a B-.  Actually her words were “It’s OK”.  And I was so proud – that’s what I mean by humility.  But I learned a lot about working fair isle, and have made some major improvements after that.  Everything I do is becoming a learning thing.

I’ve also been inspired to do lace in finer yarn – something I’ve always been a little scared of – but got some wonderful patterns and ideas, and I’ve plenty of lace-weight yarn.  But then I’ve plenty of all sorts of yarn, let’s face it, it’s an addiction, but a healthy one.

Wish I could post more photos, perhaps at a later date – I need some tutoring in this field!!  Meanwhile, keep that fiber flowing . . . . 

 

This post was started at the end of June, and was originally titled “That Was the Week that Was”.
What a week – started off Monday, getting ready for the Bamboo Rod Gathering – got the FROG ready [turned it basically into a men’s dorm], and worked on the food for the open house on Wednesday. Tuesday our rod-making guests arrived – supper, working on the food for Wednesday and then sitting round the table while the guys sipped Scotch. Both these “guests” are really good friends, and both Peter and I thoroughly enjoy their company.
Wednesday was the open house. This started off as just a couple of friends coming round for lunch, but over the years has ballooned up to somewhere between 30 and 40 people just wandering in and out, talking bamboo rods and the equipment needed, talking fishing and just talking. Peter and I made pulled pork, beans, cookies [from Gordon Foods, GREAT cookies] and Peter’s famous curry sauce. Peter’s head count this year was 37!

Then there was the actual Bamboo Rod Gathering – and I do enjoy these events – I get more hugs in one weekend at a Rod Gathering than in the rest of the year!  And the more of these I go to, the more friends I make – not only rod makers, but their wives. In my experience, most of the men involved in this have wives who are very much into fiber arts. At the Catskill’s gathering in the fall, we have a group known as the Nodeless Knitters, and the Nodeless Sitters, although this year we’ll be making stepping stones with pieces of glass – a new venture for me, hopefully not another slippery slope.

So now I’m on my way to Knitting Camp – left today [Wednesday] and plan to visit the De Young Family Zoo in Wallace on my way. One of the things at the top of my bucket list is to get up close and personal with a tiger – there is a slight possibility of doing this there. Photos will be posted if this happens!! So that’s tomorrow’s trip, then on to Marshfield and Knitting Camp. This is set to be the best long weekend in a long time. I’ll post more then!

Meanwhile keep the fiber flowing . . . . 

I’ve never had as much difficulty writing a blog as I am with this one.  Deb, my friend from Arkansas and her husband Nick, arrived last Tuesday.  This visit seems to have been months in the making, with plans, emails, texts and phone calls, but the time finally arrived.  And now the visit is over, and I am really missing her.  We are extremely close, and luckily our husbands also enjoyed each other’s company.  This was a good job, as Deb and I spent the better part of three days on the road.  I was so lucky to meet Deb, not even 2 years ago, and we developed a friendship that continues to be the most intimate friendship I have ever had.  So this entry is part diary, and part sadness in that it will be a while until we all spend time together again.  Our turn to head to Arkansas in the fall.  So this is what we did. . .

Wednesday we drove into Grayling – my bad, the Parrot’s Perch was closed, but we went round a couple of galleries, and visited a brand new quilting store, where I was offered a teaching job once they get the yarn side up and running.  Then we wandered around a couple of stores, picked up a few vitals such as limes [gin and tonic], grapefruit juice [to go with the vodka, and general nourishment to go  with the liquids.  Then back to the guys, so they know we haven’t left town, at least not yet.  Tomorrow a real yarn crawl.

Thursday we headed out for Alanson and the Dutch Oven.  Incredible amounts of yarn, almost too much choice, and we were welcomed by friendly people.  I bought a couple of skeins of yarn,  fingerless mitts for Christmas gifts, and then we headed for Petosky and Gloria’s Too.  Again lots of choice, but I did restrain myself – bought a Steven West pattern, however when I got it home I couldn’t make any sense of it [the photo showed mainly stocking stitch, and it was not knit in the round, but I could find no purl stitches] so I’m going to follow up with the designer and see if I’m missing something.  Deb bought some DK yarn and a shawl pattern [I think, although things became a little blurry and the yarn stores  tended to merge into each other].  I did find a couple of really nice hair clips.  We also spent time in the best hardware store – Meyers’s Hardware – where we looked at all sorts of great stuff, and Deb did pick up a couple of things, including a Trout doormat.  I love that hardware stare, probably my favorite place in Petosky.  We had planned a visit to Stonehedge, but ran out of time and energy, so headed into Gaylord for some group knitting.

Deb finally got to put faces to names from the time she was a distance member of the Gaylord Knitters, and the Gaylord Knitters got to meet this person I’ve been talking about.  A good afternoon of talking and knitting, several conversations going at once, our usual short attention spans were evident.  But we both enjoyed ourselves.  As Deb says, now when I mention someone, or a yarn store, she can picture it well

The next day we were having some major work done on the road in, involving some heavy equipment, and lots of moving of earth, so Deb and I lit out of here early.  Didn’t want to get trapped in by a front loader!  So we head out for Traverse City and points beyond.  First stop was probably the best.  A gem of a yarn store called Thistledown in Sutton’s Bay, where we spent the better part of the morning.  So friendly, such a happy place.  Lots of great yarn, tucked away in four [or is it five] rooms with great choice, wonderful fiber and a good selection of books and patterns.  I felt a real connection with Cathy, the owner.  Her goal is to teach knitting the way Elizabeth Zimmerman knits.  She has been to knit camp, and has had Amy Detjen, Meg’s right hand girl at Knitting Camp, come to the store for workshops.  I’m impressed.  And was even happier when she suggested that I might do a workshop for her.  No specific plans, but it will be a lot of fun.  I bought some Blue Heron yarn – a rayon/metallic yarn in a pale lemon and very pale orange/pink.  The colorway is called Day Lily, and there is enough to make two beautiful scarves – the design is called Mystery Scarf, and it looks like it’s going to be fun to knit.  Deb bought the same yarn in a different colorway – more fall colors, but all their colors defy descriptions.

From there we headed up to Cedar and the Wool and Honey yarn store.  Another gem – friendly, and they had roving too.   I bought some Blue Faced Leicester roving in a pretty purple color.  I love spinning BFL roving, it has such a lovely feel to it.    I also bought a couple of hanks of  some Canopy yarn, a deep maroon and a pretty medium blue – 50% baby alpaca, 30% merino and 20% bamboo – really soft – more fingerless mitts for the Christmas Box.  Our final stop was The Lost Art in Traverse City – they moved and we had a tough time finding them, in part at least because we were pretty bushed by that time.  Small purchases only, but the new store is bigger than the old one, with a good layout.

My “Christmas Box” – I tend to knit more for the process than the finished product, so I often find myself knitting something I will never wear, just because I wanted to knit it.  A true knitter will understand this, although my husband doesn’t.  So these things get put into the “Christmas Box” and are there whenever I want a gift for someone, or a raffle prize for a conservation organizations.  Not a bad idea for any compulsive knitter who sometimes finds they have too many shawls, scarves, socks, etc.

I have no photos of Deb and my time together – somehow we were too busy in the moment to take time to make pictures.  There were a couple of extremely photogenic moments, but these were on the river, and no way will I take my phone on a kayak trip, specially when I have the dog with me.  Suffice it to say Nick, Deb and I had a couple of hours on the river.  Very pretty, and they both enjoyed it, however I had some dreadful mosquito problems – I would slap at a mosquito and kill three or four in one swat.  Then of course I had Max with me.  He refused to go home with Peter when we started as there was a family of geese and he is, after all, a bird dog.  He got too close, then the goose family called in backup and there were two more adults, so Max backed off a little.  But there was no way he was going back with Peter, so he was in the kayak with me, and in and out and in and out.  He’s a little heavy to haul in when wet, so we almost dumped and by the time we got home I was as wet as if I had dumped. What a trip.  He was so pooped that when we got to the dock he wouldn’t even get out of the kayak.

Enough for now – lots of wonderful memories, and we’re missing Deb and Nick, but I deal with that by knitting – as I deal with everything.  Keep that fiber flowing . . .

Spring Fiber Fling

Well I had this entry started, and it just disappeared into cyber-space somewhere. I’m sure my computer has a black hole, despite anti-virus programs, etc., and sometimes things just seem to get lost. So, let’s try again.

I just spent the weekend in the UP at a fiber event put on by the Country Spinners and Bridge Shuttlers. A wonderful gathering of 80 or so fellow fiber folk. This is the “big sister” to the Fall Fiber Retreat in November [we’re coming up to our fifth gathering], and the weekend was full of friends, old and new, learning and teaching with lots of both formal and informal classes. I got somewhat hooked into the craft of beading, something I never thought I would because it is a little slow-going and needs some fine motor coordination I didn’t think I had any more. I have Flo to thank for her patience – and next time I see her I might even ask for a tatting lesson. Her work is wonderful.

 

first beading

What else did I learn? Well I learned that no matter how much some people think I know, I still have a lifetime of learning to go, and some wonderful friends to learn from.  And in July I go to Knitting Camp again, and the process repeats itself.  I haven’t started a steeked sweater yet, probably running out of time, or is that just an excuse?  I know what I want to do, but I’ve got to order the yarn and get going pretty soon if I want to have something to show.  OK, once I say I’ll do something here, it means I have committed to it – here goes, I’ll order the yarn.

Meeting with another wonderful group of women every Monday now, the Lovell’s Loose Threads.  They are quilters, and I’ve a horrid feeling they are going to drag me down another slippery slope.  I ordered the pattern for a tote/purse on my last trip out with them, and Wednesday we’re going to go back to the quilt shop and pick it up and pick up the fabric.  As I said, another slippery slope. Why didn’t I start to do this stuff when I was younger – oh yes, I was working for a living!

Oriole
Meanwhile we have birds galore at the feeders.  I’ve never seen as many Baltimore Orioles as this year.  I put jelly on the windowsill, and they come right in and feed while I’m typing away.  If they run out of jelly, they perch and cheep at me until I put more out, loudly enough that I can hear them from the bedroom at the other end of the house.  And Rose-breasted Grossbeaks like jelly too, I didn’t know that.  Even had an Indigo Bunting the other day too – wonderful photo-ops with my “smart” phone, which is actually much smarter than I am.

 

On that note, I’ll lea089_89ve you with a picture of the woods from the back deck at sunset.  One of the reasons I love it so much here.

Keep all that fiber flowing, keep learning and loving. . . .

Well it finally really is spring.  Clothes on the line, Baltimore Oriole on my feeder, daffodils in bloom,  For me there is something so satisfying about a clothes line full of clean clothes blowing in the breeze.  I’m lucky to live somewhere the air is clean and fresh and smelling of the outdoors.  Can laundry be a hobby?  It certainly gives me a lot of enjoyment in this sort of weather.  If you look carefully at the second photo, there is an Oriole on the feeder – and they sound even more beautiful than they look.

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The shawl for Knitting Camp is done – and photographed, posted below.  I’m really happy with it, and am looking forward to showing it off.  And knowing this came out of my head, rather than from a pattern, makes it that more special, to me anyway.

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Things are really working into the busy season right now, particularly when married to a fly fisherman.  Next weekend is the start of the Wounded Warrior bamboo rod building week – it’s not held right here, but we usually put up instructors.  This is a wonderful week – six vets come up to Northern Michigan to be initiated into the mysteries of turning a long, large stick of bamboo into a finely crafted fly rod.  The make the rod, and then go on a guided fishing trip in an Ausable Riverboat.  In between all this is a lot of bonding between the vets and the instructors, and some really great growth for the vets, particularly when a major part of the disability is PTSD.

Then at the end of that week, I head up to Pickford in the UP for the Spring Fiber Fling.  A wonderful weekend with old friends and new, spinning, knitting, and all sorts of other fiber related pastimes, classes and sharing, teaching and learning.  One of my favorite weekends of the year, and one I look forward to.  It is the “big sister” of the Fall Fiber Retreat that some friends and I put together in November, based on the fact that none of us could wait a whole year for the weekend.

When I get home from there, I will have some time to turn round and get ready for a visit from my “sister from another mother” – a wonderful friend from Arkansas.  Deb is coming up with her husband, Nick, and the guys can go fishing, and Deb and I can catch up and make road trips to yarn stores.  It will be wonderful to spend time together, she is a friend I met only a couple of years ago, but we both feel we have known each other for years, hence the “sister from another mother”..

After that, it’s time for the Grayling bamboo rod gathering – Grayrock.  Peter is heavily involved in that, and the Wednesday of that week we usually have an open house with a house full of fishermen and rod builders.  Last year we had about 30 people, and this year Peter is expecting more.  Oh well, paper plates, plastic cutlery and basic, simple food – hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork and cookies.

Early July I head off for Knitting Camp.  So how on earth did I have time to work?  Retirement is not for the faint of heart, but it does keep me young.  Meanwhile I keep knitting, mainly to keep sane in the chaos that is the fishing season.  And now it’s warm, I can take my spinning wheel out on the porch and let all the scraps of roving drift off into the winds for the birds to use in their nests.

Keep that fiber flowing . . . . .

 

Finally Spring – Almost

I know we will probably still get some snow [it always snows on my blooming daffodils, and they are just buds], but I look out of the window and the gold finches on my feeder are showing lots of yellow, last night I could hear the peepers in the swamp [more about the swamp later], and all the birds are looking brighter and in courting colors.  The bird songs are different too, again it’s courting season.

We have been literally marooned in here – water rushing through the culvert and over the top of it on the road – definitely not safe to drive through, and flooding in the driveway – more water than we have seen here in the thirty years plus since we bought the property. Luckily we did a good grocery shop the Saturday before the big downpour, April 12th, and I didn’t leave the property until April 19th when we left to go down to Saginaw for a quick trip to see the family – 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, 2 beautiful granddaughters and my wonderful 16 year-old grandson.  It’s not often we are all together in the same place, so this was quite an occasion, to be treasured.

Of course, the forced “isolation” was actually wonderful knitting time.  I finished my shawl for the contest for Knitting Camp and blocked it, and I’m really pretty proud of it – the theme was “A Secret Garden”, the children’s book, and the shawl has a brown border, to indicate the earth, and the rest is in green, with lace flowers and the words “The Magic Is In You”, a theme that runs through the book, worked in lace, thanks to Bridget Rorem’s Lace Alphabet [School House Press].  It was fun to knit, although challenging, and I kept changing my mind all the way through, but I’m happy with the results.

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As for living in a swamp – this is our driveway, with Max trying to figure out how to get through without falling through the ice!  This was taken April 15th!

 

So now most of the snow has gone, it’s wet and as I look out of my window I see it’s snowing again, but not sticking.  But I’ve become somewhat of a wimp after spending Easter with the kids and grand kids in sunshine down in Saginaw.  Oh well, I know Spring is just around the corner.

Keep that fiber flowing . . . .