Thursday, April 28, 2011

UFO Spotted!

In my last post, I was mentioning how you won't find too many UFO's in my knitting basket. Still, I do have a few of these UnFinished Objects lying about. Of the three I can think of, two of them are so far in the recesses of my mind (and shelf) that I do not suffer from the guilt that sometimes attends UFO's. I didn't get into knitting to court more guilt in my life-- I've already got a stunning guilt complex (which, if you want, I'll tell you about in detail when you come to the retreat-- don't worry, I'll make it a funny story).

my friend Margaret

But there was this one project that was really eating at me. It's a sweater I started last summer, made with hand dyed angora I got from Margaret Thierry, a fiber genius friend of mine in Astoria, Oregon. This yarn feels SO good. And I am in love with the sweater pattern I'm using. I think the only reason I put it down is because I started in on a small number of Christmas projects, and then I got sidetracked from there, and I kept telling myself I'd get back to the sweater but I didn't. It's sort of like how you promise yourself that if you have a productive day you'll "let" yourself read at night, but by the time you get to the book you're so exhausted you fall asleep after three pages. I had every intent of getting back to the sweater, but the more I postponed it, the more (mental) obstacles plagued me. I told myself I'd never remember where I was in the pattern. I told myself the pattern required quiet time knitting alone so I could focus on row counting. I became not exactly afraid of it, but sort of put-off by it.

My Hermit Crab Cage/Yarn Holder

This was made worse by the guilt and self-imposed pressure. Until finally, I just couldn't take it anymore. I got out the sweater-- I already finished the back and left front and had started the right front. There it was, waiting for me in the lovely little mesh yarn holder I got at the Black Duck on Monhegan Island. (This yarn holder is one of my favorite knitting-related objects-- it calls to mind hermit crab cages.) I sat down, looked at the pattern, looked at where I was at, noticed I'd left a note in with the project reminding me where I'd left off and realized-- oh, it's not hard at all. The pattern came right back to me. Now I am super-psyched to finish it. And to add to my motivation, today I went out and got the rest of what I need to make my NEXT sweater. Knowing that project is waiting in the wings is inspiring me to keep the rescued UFO on track this time, and not let it fly off into outer space again.

Knitting Daily has a piece about why projects become UFO's. You can read it here. What about y'all-- do you finish everything you start? Do you never finish? Do you allow dreaded guilt to creep into your knitting life?


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Knitting for Others-- Yay or Nay?

Years ago the Yarn Harlot posted a list which surely must be one of the most popular things she's published. It is a set of rules to abide by when knitting for others. It includes practical ideas for who deserves handknits and how to set realistic goals. I often think of this when I am considering knitting for others. I don't take a lot of requests. And as the years march on, I admit I become more selfish and mostly knit things I plan on keeping. This hinges on a few truisms about my knitting-- mainly, I'm just not that fast. I already have a list of gifts-to-knit-for-me that is long enough to keep me occupied for years. If I interrupt this list to make something for someone else, I have to know that it is going to be really appreciated. For example, a couple of projects ago I did make a pair of socks for my friend Eli, whose grandmother taught me to purl back when purling seemed like an impossibility (seriously-- for my first four years I only ever knitted rectangles).

Last month, I really put myself out there. I occasionally do commentary for Austin's NPR affiliate station, KUT. I am a huge fan of our public radio station and whenever I'm invited to record a piece for broadcast I get very excited. So I nearly fell over when they asked me to go live on the radio as part of their Spring Fund Drive. In my enthusiasm, I offered donors a chance to score a bonus premium. I said I'd knit hats for the first couple of callers to pledge X amount. It worked and the winners were very excited. I was excited, too, but then I had to get down to it and fulfill my promise. I wound up switching out one of the hats for a scarf. I knitted both up in Noro-- see picture above and below-- which I love with all my heart. And I have to say that, while the projects themselves were quite simple, the amazing color scheme of the Noro really added some oomph.

I honestly am a fan of the notion that it's about the journey not the destination, so I allowed myself to enjoy the process knowing that the projects would be sent off to others. On the other hand, I often like the destination-- that is, the finished project-- as much as the journey, which is why I don't have a basketful of UFOs. So what about y'all? Do you mostly knit for you? Or do you mostly knit for others? And what about journey vs. destination-- do you knit with your focus on the meditative nature of rhythmic stitching? Or are you in a big hurry to get things done?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fiber Fest-- Beginning Stages

I mentioned before how I like this idea of buying yarn spun from animals I've met. This idea has been fostered and fed by the trips we took in Maine, post-retreat, to meet flocks and their attendant humans. Well Lisa has a pretty exciting and sort of kooky idea along these lines, only we're not talking angora goats or fluffy sheep. She's got a pair of Labradoodles, and they've got some really gorgeous locks. So why not shear them and save up until there's enough to spin into some blend she can use to make... what? Hopefully a gift for me. Recently, she had the pair shaved and added the hairy yield to her growing collection. Above are before pictures. Below are the after pictures.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If a Picture Speaks a Thousand Words...

I take an awful lot of pictures each year on the Monhegan Island Retreat. And so does Patty. Well, okay, everybody seems to take a lot of pictures, but Patty is the official photographer and I'm the pinch hitter. You can see a great slideshow over at the Knitting and Yoga Adventures website. And when you join us on a retreat, you can count on a final evening party that also includes a slideshow. But I thought it would be fun, from time to time, to pull out a couple of pictures and post them here and tell you either what I was thinking in the moment, or what I think of now, as I sit at home, counting the days 'til I can get back to the island. Here are a couple of shots and what they mean to me.

The little red piece of paper you see above is, as you can read, a boarding pass for the ferry that takes us from Port Clyde over to Monhegan Island. When I hold one of these in my hand, I feel like Charlie finding a golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory. By the time I reach this point in my journey, I've flown from Austin to Portland, then taken the van from Portland to Port Clyde, eating delicious snacks along the way. (Patty is a great snack packer.) I'm usually a little tired from the plane and van rides, but my giddiness invigorates me and ultimately trumps any sleepiness I'm fending off. I can't wait to hand my ticket over to the folks who load our luggage and guide us across the water on the boat, because I know the ticket gets me more than an hour out at sea-- it holds the promise of a week of total relaxation, hiking, yoga, homemade sweets in the afternoon and, of course, the sort of knitting time I wish I could have all year long.

This shot, on the boat, shows some of my co-knitters getting settled in. I like to ride on deck, too, so I can watch Port Clyde recede in the distance, and smell the salty water, and watch the seagulls gliding on the wind currents. I also love the conversation-- even though a lot of us only see each other once a year, and are often too busy in our day-to-day lives to send regular emails, the minute we're back on that boat together it's like no time has passed at all. We pick up conversations where we left them, revisit goofy jokes from the previous retreat and, of course, get to know all of the newcomers who are discovering the glories of the trip for the first time. This is uber-bonding at its finest.

Funny-- I was watching an episode of Mad Men last night, which might sound like an odd aside but hold on and I'll explain. One of Don Draper's love interests was explaining to him that when she's feeling down or facing off with something she'd rather not be, she just looks at her calendar. And why's that? Because she can almost always find something there to look forward to. Of all the things that could've popped in my mind when I heard that line, the thing that instantly flashed across the old mental projection screen was Monhegan Island and the retreat. Seeing that picture above of the beginning of the journey-- this is a picture I carry in my head and heart all year long. I have come to count on September with my knitting friends the way some people rely on more traditional holidays. It is a supreme annual highlight for me. Okay, I better stop now before I get all misty with nostalgia and anticipation.

More pictures soon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Carrying the Retreat Everywhere, Every Day

When I say I carry the Monhegan Knitting and Yoga Retreat with me all through the year, I’m not just talking about memories. I mean I carry a physical reminder nearly every day. On the 2009 trip, we had—as we always do—a pretty raucous final night (not to say the other nights were are all tea and crumpets and extended pinkies but this was one heck of a party). There was show and tell. And that was the year Eva convinced me it was high time I put on some makeup for once in my life. More accurately, she convinced me it was high time I let her put makeup on me.

Consensus was that I pretty much looked like a drag queen-- surprise surprise I can't seem to find any photos to let you see what I mean-- and the laughter this makeover prompted lasted well into the night, and spilled over to breakfast the next morning. So, no, I did not take to wearing makeup on a regular basis, and this is not what I’m talking about when I talk about carrying a reminder.

I'm talking about something else Eva gave me that night, something way better than “beauty tips." I’d admired a knitting bag she was carrying with her. She happened to pick up a new knitting bag (or six) over that the Black Duck during our stay, and so she gifted me her old knitting bag. (Please note that I also admired her diamonds, but my flattering acquisition technique did not extend to these sparkly rocks.)

Well I have since taken that bag all over the world. It’s been to the South of France and Paris. It’s been to Buenos Aires, Mexico, and Israel. It’s been all over the US. And just today I was readying it for my upcoming trip to “the other Portland,” out on the West coast this weekend. I love that bag so much, and it has become such a part of me that it's like a third kidney or something.

While I don’t ever need a reminder of how much the bag means to me, I got one recently. I was at a restaurant having dinner with a friend—and of course I had my knitting bag with me. I was focused on dinner so I didn’t notice that a woman seated at the next table over (which was practically up against our table) accidentally picked up the bag and took it with her when she left, mistaking it for her own black bag.

Fortunately, she figured it and returned to the restaurant to hand it over. I insisted that she look at what was inside, as I emphasized to her what a very good deed she’d done. I was halfway finished the second of two socks (and, maybe this pair was cursed because a few nights before I dropped the finished one at a restaurant—fortune shone on me that night, too, when a friend who stayed later than me spotted it and brought it home). Upon seeing the socks, the woman immediately voiced dramatic regret at having returned the bag to me. And you know, I think she was only half-kidding.