Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meet Instructor Extraordinaire: Susan Mills

Susan Mills is the Creative Director and Product Marketing Manager for Nashua Handknits from Westminster Fibers, Inc. She’s also an awesome teacher who leads classes at the Monhegan Island retreat. I checked in with her to quiz her about her knitting life.

Spike: How long have you been knitting?
Susan: I learned to knit in high school but didn't really become a knitter until after college.

Spike: When did it occur to you that this was your big passion?
Susan: After college, while working yarn shop, I realized working in a yarn shop was way more fun than anything I wanted to do with my degree in Mathematics.

Spike: What can students expect from your classes on Monhegan? Do you teach all levels?
Susan: Since knitters of all levels come to Monhegan, I try to be prepared to have something to offer beginners through experienced knitters. This year I'm going to teach about cables and chart reading. I'll structure the class project to have different options so that it applies to all skill levels. For knitters experienced with knitting cables there will be an option of drawing his/her own charts. For someone who has never knit cables before, there will be a more simple, straightforward project. If you know how to knit and purl you can knit cables!

Spike: Can you recall a particularly satisfying teacher/student experience where somebody just suddenly *got* what you were explaining?
Susan: I love to see the light dawn on knitters when they get a new concept that was so mysterious to them - like learning to read charts, turn a heel on a sock, or make a thumb in a mitten.

Spike: What are you working on now?
Susan: I always have dozens of projects going at once. I have a hard time relating to people that finish one project before they start the next. I guess I'm more of a "process" knitter than "project" knitter. Most of my knitting is swatching for designs I do for Nashua Handknits. Right now, besides swatching, I have two easy to knit sweaters almost complete; an allover intarsia sweater (1 1/2 sleeves done - haven't yet decided how I will design the body of the sweater), and some simple socks. And I'm itching to start an all-over cabled pullover - I can see in my mind but haven't designed it yet.

Spike: I fantasize about being a knit designer, though I know in reality I'd be adisaster at it. What can you tell me about designing-- the process, the source of inspiration, favorite thing you ever designed?
Susan: With designing, sometimes the shape of the sweater comes first and sometimes the stitch comes first.I'm inspired by everything I see. I see cables in everything - fences, gardens, the painted lines on a parking lot, graphics elements and logos - I can't turn it off. And anything with an eye catching color combination inspires me to knit colorwork - paintings, nature, fabric.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Interview with Lisa Evans: Our Lovely Hostess!

Hi Y’all,
It’s time for another interview. This time, I, Spike, resident blogger for Knitting and Yoga Adventures, tracked down our fabulous head hostess, Lisa Evans herself, to ask her all sorts of questions. About her knitting. About her designing. And, of course, about her fabulous retreats on Monhegan Island. Here’s what she had to say.

Spike: When did you first get into knitting?
Lisa: When I moved to Maine in the winter of 1992, one of my new neighbors asked if I knitted and when I said ‘no’, Lisa: she replied, ‘All the ladies here knit.’ So it wasn’t long before I asked my new Mother-in-Law to teach me how. My first dozen projects were straight needle mittens, the same pattern, over and over again. I don’t think I’ve knit a pair since. But that pattern had all the basics so I was able to branch out on my own very quickly. My first sweater was a safe wool raglan. But my second was a very slippery black chenille tunic with an intarsia pattern along the bottom! Needless to say, it was a knitting train wreck, but I wore it anyway.

Spike: Do you remember the first thing you designed? How did it turn out?
Lisa: I have learned I am unable to follow a pattern, even my own! I just can’t seem to make it through without changing it somehow. So perhaps I started designing from Day 1. I don’t recall the first specifically because I have so many ‘studies’ – little bits of things started and set aside. But I do recall it being a bit over the top with a very challenging color work chart and assembly instructions only an engineer could follow!

Spike: Are you known for a particular style/specialty?
Lisa: Color work! I have worked almost exclusively with color knitting all these years and it has really become my forte. My particular style of design has really forced me to become extremely proficient in the technical side of color knitting.

Spike: What’s it like, preparing for a retreat?
Lisa: It’s the same as planning a big party. I’ve always been a hostess, perhaps its my Southern roots? Creating an event is another design medium. The elements are the activities, the treats in the rooms, the food, all the pieces from the moment they get on the van in Portland until they leave the island. The principles are the flow of the day, the experience you want your guests to have, the balance of activities… At times I feel like a mother hen because I want to make sure everyone is taken care of and every detail attended to.

Spike: What’s something that really stands out for you at the retreats?
Lisa: Holden’s amazing cookies. The first year KYA made this trip we spent Friday out on the rocks instead of in the ‘classroom.’ Everyone in the group had the same thought, ‘What about the cookies?’ A cookie relay emerged that afternoon that had elements of the Keystone Cops and a treasure hunt combined. The cookies were packed in a box and passed from one hiker to the next, who then got lost in the woods, a likely story… The cookies never made it to Squeaker Cove but when we returned home, disappointed, there they were waiting for us in the living room of the Monhegan House. So we ate them right before dinner!

Spike: What do you have planned for this fall on Monhegan?
Lisa: This year I am going to focus solely on Intarsia. While I haven’t decided which handbag or backpack we will work on, I think it will be a flat pattern so we can focus on this style of color knitting and not worry about shaping at the same time. Don’t worry, it won’t be too hard, it’ll be fun!

Spike: There were so many things I enjoyed about my time on the island. One big thing I loved—you started off the week telling us we didn’t have to clean our rooms. That cracked me up and put me at ease. What do you like the most about the trip?
Lisa: There are so many things that make this an awesome week! But the biggest part is the camaraderie, the laughter, and the break from the real world. Though this isn’t exclusive to women, it often is and spending time like this with other likeminded women is extremely therapeutic. Surprisingly, this week does not fly by if you let yourself chill. It takes a day or two to let go, but by Day 3, you are on island time!

Friday, June 12, 2009

World Wide Knit In Public Weekend!

Don't forget this is World Wide Knit In Public Weekend. Whether you choose to whip your knitting out while standing in line at the grocery store or prefer to join a more organized group public knit effort, we hope you'll join in the fun. The website for World Wide Knit in Public Weekend is right here. Events are held the world over. And, if you knit in public while doing yoga we'll give you extra super bonus points!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Welcome Knitter's Review Fans

Hey Y'all,
If you're joining us here at the blog because you saw our link in Knitter's Review, welcome! Below you'll find posts I've written about my travels with Lisa Evans and a host of wonderful teachers and fantastic knitting companions. We're heading to Monhegan Island again in September and hope you'll join us.

For basic information about Knitting and Yoga Adventures click here.

For specific registration information click here
Note! The Early Bird Registration special has been extended to June 30!

To see pictures of the fun times we had on the last Monhegan Island trip click here.

Sure hope you can join us this fall!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Welcome to the Land of Wine and Poses

I was telling you a bit about Melora in my last post. Now let me show you Melora. As you can see in the short videos below, she is a most excellent and gentle yogi. She carefully guides us through poses, gearing stretches for beginners and well-practiced students alike. And, considering we're all at the retreat to knit, Melora loves to focus on shoulder openers-- poses that will counter-balance that rolling forward we sometimes do when we are really immersed in a project. Of course, there's no need to wait til September to start stretching with Melora-- you can do these poses at home on your own anytime.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Introducing Our Yoga Genius, Melora!

A lot of great people join forces to make sure every detail of the retreat is perfect from daily hikes to incredible meals to great classes. Melora Gregory is our in-house yoga instructor, at the ready with stretches for both newcomers and long term yogis alike. I asked her to tell me a little bit about her experience in general with yoga as well as her retreat time on Monhegan Island.

SG: How long have you been doing yoga?
MG: Since 1993

SG: What are your favorite things about yoga for you and for your students?
MG: The joy, centered feeling and connection it brings!

SG: Do you see a connection between yoga and knitting?
MG: Both foster first a state of concentration, which when sustained leads to a state of meditation. Knitting creates something beautiful and Yoga creates a beautiful expression.

SG: Tell me about your time on Monhegan last year.
MG: Friends had been urging me to go to Monhegan for years, and the magic they described was apparent from the moment we sailed into the lovely harbor! An ideal retreat location, remote, rustic, spectacular views, plenty of quiet nature time. But, the week was made most pleasant because of the amazingly diverse, endlessly interesting, and alarmingly hilarious group of knitters and yogis that attended the retreat. The excellent food and friendliness of the hotel staff was the final touch!

SG: At the retreat you work with all levels of students, including some real beginners. Tell me a little bit about that-- do you gear your classes accordingly?
MG: Most importantly, I honor where the student is at, and mindful of any physical issues, I try to gently guide them to find freedom in the poses. In my everyday life I teach beginners, intermediate level, and also more challenging flow style classes. I study regularly with Master Yoga teachers and continually learn ways to incorporate all levels of students in class, giving modifications or substitutions as necessary. Last year there were a few well-practiced knitting-yogis who wanted a more advanced class so we met after the All Levels class.

SG: Tell me about your knitting? I seem to recall the sound of one needle falling several times. Is that like the sound of one hand clapping?
MG: With patience, encouragement, and humor, last year's knitting-yogis re-taught me how to knit. Just something let go at the end of every row and tinkle-tinkle down went my needle.

SG: What's your favorite part about the retreat?
MG: The freedom from life's daily encumbrances and getting to know a group of really awesome people.

SG: What's your advice for folks thinking about trying yoga but feeling a little tentative?
MG: Yoga is a science of life, it does not ask you to believe in anything, it is a way to explore your body, balance your emotions, and quiet the chattering mind. Find a teacher that comes recommended by your friends and who knows about body mechanics and injury prevention, go with an open mind, and feel welcome to try many different teachers before choosing one.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Welcome Newcomers (and Old Friends)

Hi Y'all,
Some of you have been here before but many of you are newcomers-- we've been really working to get the word out and if you're reading this then no doubt you already figured that out. If you've never been to Monhegan Island with us (or if you want to relive memories from the last trip), here are some links to posts I published while we were on the island. To say we had an extraordinary time is more than a small understatement. Right now, I'm sitting in my house in Texas, the heat's been climbing like mad, I'm on a crushing deadline, and the main thing that's keeping me motivated to deal with the heat and the deadline is that week I've blocked off on my calendar: September 20 -26, 2009, when I know I will be, once again, plopped down in a chair, up to my ears in knitting projects, laughing my head off with my fellow knit-a-holics, and being fed unbelievable treats at regular intervals by Monhegan House's inimitable innkeeper, Holden.

So please, click a link, kick back, and enjoy a little vicarious thrill as I tell you all about what awaits you if you'll make the excellent choice to join us this year.

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

And as if that's not enough to get you to sign up today, we're extending the Early Bird Discount to Rowan International Members. Check out our website for more information.

One hundred and six days and counting...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Preaching to the Choir: The Chill (Out) Factor

If you're reading this, chances are pretty good that you already know about the benefits of knitting. But just for fun, let's take a minute to really think about it. So how beneficial is knitting? Okay, let me (try) to count the ways:

1. There's the tactile delight of running your fingers over fiber.
2. There's the visual joy of walking into a knit shop and seeing all those colors.
3. There's the rhythmic, meditative element of gentle repetitive motion.
4. There's the not-exactly-instant but still very gratifying moment when you finish a project.
5. There's the pleasure of either enjoying your project yourself or gifting it to a loved one.

My friends tease me about my knitting sometimes, seeing as I am never show up anywhere without some work-in-progress. It's gentle teasing and, in fact, I've taught more than a few of them the craft. In fact, I'll teach anyone who asks me-- I've given my contact information to complete strangers in restaurants and other public places when they've stopped to ask me what I'm working on and then wished aloud they might be doing the same.

So I wasn't surprised when I read this article recently about how one avid knitter has taken it upon herself to cheer up folks stressed out by the economy by teaching them to knit. Sher Gunden King, a yarn shop owner in Goshen, Indiana started YO! (Yarn Overcomers!) to show folks just how soothing knitting can be. She got a lot of instant support from other shop owners who were quick to donate supplies to help her get the project going. (There's another story about the project here.)

And, not that we really need any more excuses to knit, but in addition to the immediate uplift knitting can bring, there are also some cool long term benefits, too. Check out this video to learn how one study has shown knitting can stave off Alzheimer's and dementia.