Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy Birthday To Us!

Hey Y'all,
Happy Almost Spring! Also, Happy Birthday to Us! Just dawned on me that this is the tenth year of Knitting and Yoga Adventures. That's a whole lot of relaxing knitting retreats, considering Lisa has hosted jaunts to numerous places, including Italy, Vermont, and Maine. This year, the Vermont trip is all full (though you can get on the waiting list over at the registration page.) We do have SIX SPACES LEFT for the Monhegan Island Retreat which happens September 13-19, 2015. You can snap up one of those spots at the Monhegan registration page.

As you can see above, the never ending sweater project I've been telling you about is, literally, taking shape. If you missed my earlier installments, I'm working on an Adult Baby Surprise Jacket from an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern. It is at times incredibly tedious-- all garter stitch, size 3 needles. It is also at times incredibly mysterious-- many times I've thought Is this really going to work? Because it's knit in one piece, but very different from a top down sweater. I'm still not convinced that the sleeves will be wide enough but what choice have I but to carry on? Plus, can you say BLOCK THE HECK OUT OF IT. I have put so many hours into this one I will find a way to make it fit, even if that means wearing SPANX on my upper arms.

Though I swore a couple of months ago, when I picked that sweater back up after putting it down many times, that I would work on nothing else until I finished it, alas-- along came an irresistible request. I work in a tattoo shop and one of the artists brought me the above picture. He wondered if I might make something similar for a little friend of his. How could I say no? I'm figuring out the pattern as I go. On the one hand, I feel very pleased that I have a solid idea of how to make all the pieces. On the other hand, I got a nice reminder about the necessity of prototypes when it dawned on me yesterday that I had done way too many increase rows on the ball part, and that if I kept going I would wind up with a basketball sized toy, when what I really want is something much smaller. And so, back to the drawing board. But now that I know what I'm doing, I think I can knock this out in a couple of days.

In other news I'm trying to come up with a name for that feeling you feel when you see something someone else has knitted and it knocks the wind out of you. The above two sweaters were made by my yoga teacher years ago. She actually (gasp!) stopped knitting. I don't know why. Maybe because once you hit the skill level needed to make such masterpieces there's nowhere else to go? That theory has holes in it, I know. But supposing it were true, I can totally relax-- I could knit every day for the rest of my life and not manage such exquisite detail work. And I swear, as I held these sweaters in my hands, my breathing pattern really did change. I had this palpable reaction-- awe, excitement, disbelief. What should we call this feeling? WOOLBERGASTED? Nah. Need to work on that.

And now, just for fun, a picture of me in this great shirt I got at TESS in Portland during our yarn crawl back to the airport after our wonderful week of island knitting.

Hope y'all are thawing out and warming up!
Until next time,

Friday, February 27, 2015

Not Quite Spring Yet...

Hey Y'all,
Greetings from Austin, TX. It's been a little while since I introduced myself so in case we haven't met virtually or on a retreat, I'm Spike. That's not me above, that's me below. I help out Lisa with the Monhegan Island Retreat every year. I've been so many times I've actually lost count. And part of the reason for that, besides the fact I'm in my fifties and can't remember anything anymore, is because the island is SO relaxing I lose track of time when I'm there. Or maybe more accurately, it's ALWAYS knitting time. Except when it's hiking time. Or snack time. But if you're me, you just keep knitting through the hikes and the incredible food experiences. Pretty much the only time I'm not knitting on the island is when I'm sleeping or getting an amazing massage from Mary Alice.

I spend most of my time in Austin, my home. Though I travel often and visiting LYS around the world is the only hobby I have that's more expensive than building my stash. I've been to yarn shops in Canada, Argentina, France, Israel, Japan, England, and all over the US. And I'd love to hear the most interesting places you've gone to add to your stash.

Today in Austin it's raining and in the thirties which I think is what Lisa, who's up in Maine, refers to as "summer weather." But I am FREEEEEEEEEEEZING. A couple of posts ago I was talking about the sweater I've finally settled into knitting, dedicating myself to finishing it. Well I'm not done, which is too bad, because by the time I do finish it'll be in the triple digits here. On the other hand, probably goes without saying, but I have lots of other sweaters I've made (and socks and hand warmers and scarves and hats) to keep me warm, so I'll be just fine.

In my last post I delivered the news (don't glare at the messenger) that our 2105 Knitting and Yoga Vermont Retreat is SOLD OUT. But you can still get on the waiting list just click here. And we do still have some room for the 2015 Knitting and Yoga Monhegan Island Retreat, so if you want to join us, don't wait. SIGN UP HERE.

I hope you're warm wherever you are, and that the only storms you're experiencing are the ones you're knitting up.

Happy Almost Spring,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep!

Hey Y'all,
Not that we ever need any excuses to grow our stashes, knit more often, and spend our non-knitting time perusing patterns for future projects but guess what? We got one anyway! Yes, that's right, it's officially The Year of the Sheep. Very auspicious for us wool fanatics.

If you have been on the fence about joining us for our Knitting and Yoga Adventure on Monhegan Island in September, consider this the sign you have been waiting for! On the other hoof, if you were waiting for a sign to push you toward the Knitting and Yoga Adventure trip to Vermont in November, I have some baaaaaad news for you. That tip is sold out. BUT... hold on... ewe can still get on the waiting list.

So to register for Monhegan CLICK THIS LINK or to get on the list for Vermont CLICK THIS LINK. 

Hope y'all are staying warm and knitting up a storm.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Settling In On A Sweater

I have a distant memory of reading my friend Deb Stoller's book, Stitch 'N Bitch, a part where she went from not being really enthusiastic about knitting to settling down on a long train ride, getting out a sweater she'd started then stopped, and finally it clicked. Obviously it clicked in a really big way since Deb has gone on to build a knitting empire with a series of books, workshops, and all around superstardom in the knitting world.

When I first started knitting in 1986, I made one super tightly knotty scarf, decided I was not into it, and put the knitting down. For fourteen years. Then I picked it back up, and thanks in large part to Deb's book, I totally got into it. To the point that now it is a running, loving joke amongst my friends how I am never seen without knitting, be it at a concert, dinner party, or even on the hiking trails (which I like to do on Monhegan Island-- knit and hike simultaneously).

I'm thinking about this because I've been stopping and starting on the adult version of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. It's been giving me headaches. I chose really small yarn and tiny needles. At one point I totally messed up the decreases and had to frog a ton. Now I'm on the increases and I think I keep messing it up but I can't even tell. The pattern is very mysterious-- hence the word surprise in the title. And I've had my moments of thinking I'm going to quit. But then, I'm just too far along to frog now. So I'm doing some Faith Based Knitting, not religious faith but Zimmermann Faith. EZ is a goddess among knitters. I'm praying she won't let me down now.

Part of my procrastination had been helped along by the fact that I very often keep at least one other project going when I'm working on something tricky to me. The second project is always easy, and usually easy to the point that it gets bumped up to the Primary Project. Such was the case with a beret I recently finished, picture above in progress. Now I am very tempted to get some easy socks on the needles, but I think that, at least for a few days, I'm going to just keep going with the sweater, see if I can truly get to that Deb on the Train moment, get motivated to really power through.

And if it doesn't happen, well then Hello Easy Socks. I just need to remind myself sometimes that I'm in this knitting game for the calming, meditative aspect of it, not to become some Olympic Gold Medalist Knitter.

There are so many things I love about the Knitting and Yoga Retreats I'm fortunate enough to attend. A big part of it is the camaraderie with other passionate knitters. But more nuanced than the We're A Group of Happy Knitters is also this other thing. I have made so many knitting friends on retreat, many of them with skills so astonishingly honed they can knit circles around me. But instead of some competitive air, I get encouragement and reminders: have fun with it, it's not a contest, enjoy yourself, don't sweat the little errors, just keep calm and knit on.

I'm carrying my knitting friends in my head this week as I work to shift my attitude about this sweater in progress from I'm not sure I can do this to I'm sure it's going to be great because it's great already, just knitting and knitting. 

And so here's to all my wonderful knitting friends-- thank you for support so big and strong that even when we are scattered across the country during the rest of the year, all the love I get from you on Monhegan Island carries me through.

I hope you're knitting something fun right now, and that any challenges are more exciting than frustrating. I also hope that if you haven't yet signed up for the Maine retreat or the Vermont retreat (or both!) that you'll do that soon. All the information you need is over at Knitting and Yoga Adventures. 

Can't wait to see you in the fall.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Knitting Family

Hey Y'all,
Hope you're getting through January swathed in hand knits. I certainly have been trotting out everything I've ever knitted as the temperature in Austin has dipped down into the upper 40s. Haha. That's a little joke for all of y'all up there in the North. Really though, it's all relative, and we've had a few days here in the 20s, which, I know, is not the same as the negative 20s some of you have to deal with, but to me, it's more than cold enough.

In addition to bundling up, the other thing I do is stay inside far more often than I like. Which means I have to keep myself occupied. Which, on the bright side, involves knitting and eating. So if I wanted to be creative, I could say that I am "in training" for the 2015 Knitting and Yoga Monhegan Island Retreat

In December, while I was pretending to be in training, I was hanging out with my friends-- key members of my chosen family-- Bart and Doris Ann, and their kids Leila and Will. That's Leila up top in the picture. She asked me for a knitting lesson, and I so delight in sharing the healthy addiction that is knitting, that I settled in and got her going. Leila is, at the tender age of twenty, an amazing tattoo artist. Here's a picture of some ink she gave me back when she was still a teenager:

Leila is also a black belt martial artist. What I'm getting at is that her physical coordination and spatial relations skills are top notch. So she latched onto knitting very quickly. In fact, I started her in the round, on DPs, working on handwarmers made from some cashmere yarn I got when the Knitting and Yoga Retreat gang stopped at Tess in Portland last year.

Leila has gotten into knitting so quickly and passionately, that a trip to the LYS was needed. I'd passed along to her some of my stash but not enough to keep up with her knitting hunger. She had been to the LYS once or twice as a kid, but that memory was distant. I thrilled watching her take it all in, float from display to display. And I admit I thrilled a little in using my hopefully not too know-it-all tone to share with her some of what I've learned about yarn and knitting in the fifteen years since I started. We wound up leaving with an impressive starter stash.

In this picture, Leila's mom DA and I are, you can see, having a good laugh. This was shot on Christmas morning, right after I was gifted the sweater I'm wearing. It's a vintage, hand knit Cowichan sweater from a thrift store in Canada. DA is also wearing a vintage Cowichan sweater. Years ago, I knitted Bart (DA's husband and Leila's dad) a Cowichan sweater featuring whales and waves. That was such a tricky project for me and I was pumped that I made it happen. Here's a picture of that sweater in case you missed the earlier post about it:

Speaking of family, this month I got a great surprise. I knew my son, Henry, who lives in Brooklyn, was coming to visit me in Austin. What I did not know was that he planned to stick around for a couple of weeks. Even though he's staying with friends, just waking up in the morning knowing he's nearby makes me so happy. We meet up in the daytime and hangout. Yesterday was great because it had warmed up enough to sit outside at a cafe. I did teach Henry to knit once, many years ago, when we were stuck in the car for around seven hours waiting to cross the border from Mexico back into Texas. Sadly, he did not take to knitting the way Leila did. But as you can see, he definitely is into the whole arts & crafts thing. 

And so we did what we have done so often since he was little, and all over the place from Mexico to England to Japan to countless points around the U.S. We just hung out and I knitted and he made pictures.

Which brings me all the way back around to reminding you about the Knitting and Yoga Retreats 2015, both the weeklong trip to Monhegan Island and the long weekend retreat to Quechee, Vermont. Both trips are excellent opportunities to chill out, hang out, laugh, craft, learn and share. I've been going on retreat since 2008 and so many people choose to return repeatedly that these folks, too, are part of my family. I hope you'll join us and see for yourself just what an amazing thrill it is to dedicate yourself to hanging out and pursuing your passion in some stunning natural locations.

All the information you need is at the Knitting and Yoga Adventures website.

See ya next month,

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Registration for Monhegan Island, Maine & Quechee, Vermont Retreats Opens January 1st!

Hi Y'all!
Happy New Year! Isn't that an adorable little handwarmer I made for my adorable little friend Zoƫ? Actually, I splurged and made her two handwarmers. I used Freia hand painted yarn and besides being incredibly beautiful, it's also wonderful to work with. Nice hand! (Get it?)

Speaking of incredibly beautiful and wonderful to work with... once again Knitting and Yoga Adventures will be heading off to Monhegan Island, Maine in September for a weeklong retreat and Quechee, Vermont in November for a long weekend retreat. REGISTRATION FOR BOTH TRIPS OPENS ON JANUARY 1st! Space is limited and there is an Early Bird Discount, so be sure to head over to the website and REGISTER NOW

If you've been with us before you already know the magic of the places we go, the camaraderie we funny fiber fools forge, and the wonderful designers who help us take our knitting to the next level. If you're new to Knitting and Yoga Adventures, I invite you to scroll around this blog and take in some of the photos and posts. I've been the KYA blogger for seven years now and I never get tired of recording what a great adventure it always is: hiking, food, yoga, massage and, of course, KNITTING KNITTING KNITTING!

This year for the Monhegan Island trip designer and cable genius Norah Gaughan joins us. And in Vermont Rachel Kahn will be our guest designer teacher.

I can't wait to meet you all and show you the wonders of Monhegan Island, and sit by the fire with you, and rock the needles.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Hey Y'all,
Hope you're having a great December. I am so happy to report that I FINALLY FINISHED IT! Yes, the grandfather clock sock I started maybe a year and a half ago is now DONE! It measures 79" in height and 64" around. I sure hope it fits. I'll be delivering it to my friend soon and we shall see. I made it with pencil roving, the same sort I used for a Cowichan sweater a few years ago. When I first started with pencil roving it felt like knitting with cotton candy, I broke and tangled the strands a lot. But now I'm so accustomed to it (after nine million hours) that I might just order another Cowichan sweater kit and try to make a new and improved one.

This is not all I've been working on. I knocked out a hat for a friend and made some progress in my Adult Surprise Jacket, based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. I thought I was doing great when I discovered I'd made a huge mistake. Hint: when the pattern says s1 K2Tog psso it does not mean ssk. Several rows into this wrong move the whole thing had gone awry. I thought I was going to have to unravel it down to the studs, but I frogged for a spell, got it back to a not-messed-up spot, wondered how I might get nearly 300 tiny stitches back on the needles, then remembered the blessing that is an embroidery needle and an after-the-fact lifeline.

To insure I would (hopefully) make no more errors, at least not of the variety already made, I broke down and watched a couple of YouTube videos laying out just how to work the Surprise Jacket. I don't know why I don't watch these videos before casting on-- SO HELPFUL to have it explained. Because even though EZ was a genius, and her knitting prose (and even patterns) are deliciously conversational, there are definitely spots in her directions where it sure helps to get pointers from someone who's gone before you. I just read ahead a bit in the pattern, started to panic, then remembered that I'll check out more videos before proceeding to the next section.

Beyond that, I got on the needles the start of a beret, using a pattern I picked up at KnitWit in Portland and... I admit it... the wonderful Swans Island yarn I was supposed to be using for my lace half-pi shawl. I'd put that down to focus on the clock sock, picked it back up, convinced myself that the many errors weren't so egregious, did a few more rows, realized I was not relaxing, accepted that I am powerless over lace, and then decided to just unravel. That yarn is so soft, so amazing to work with, I decided I wanted to use it for something simple and fast, so I could focus on the feel and not tear my hair out over my ongoing difficulties with charts.

I still will try charts again-- see aforementioned goal of another Cowichan sweater. But I'm going to wait until after the holidays, when all this end of the year chaos gives way to something calmer. Hope you're working on lots of cool projects, too.

Don't forget you can Early Bird Register for the 2015 Knitting and Yoga Retreats starting January 1st.