retreat

July 14, 2010


i’m finding it difficult to understand, much less describe, my experience at the knot hysteria silk retreat.
living up to its name,
i learned loads about silk
and was given the time to withdraw from the everyday.

i can’t remember i time when i focused so intensely on one thing, or when i heard so much laughter in such a small space of time. i met some crazy amazing women who were both everyday people and unbelievable artists. i was stunned at the level of skill, creativity, and expertise that surrounded me, not only from our teachers, but from my fellow students. it was humbling really to recognize that, while i can effectively execute a knitting pattern at a fairly high level, my knowledge of fiber arts is minimal.

i learned that i know nothing.

but i suppose a more detailed approach would make for a better read, so here i go.

i was in group three,
which meant i spent my first day of class with the depraved dyer herself, tina newton.

we learned about the chemical makeup of silk in order to understand why it behaves the way it does in relation to dying.
and then we got to go to town.

we dyed a skein each of silk thread,
silkie socks that rock,
silkmo,
some silk top,
and three silk hankies.

it’s hard to pick just one,
but i think hers was my favorite class.
it gave me the chance to access a creative part of my brain that doesn’t get much action. dying the various forms of silk,
and thinking about color in general,
was like eating a perfectly cooked steak,
or that feeling you have when someone rubs your shoulders,
releasing a tension you never knew you had.

dying filled up a space in me,

and a pretty big space in my stash.
(i also increased my stash at the little store they had. there’s no photo cuz knitters know where i live, and there’d be a yarn related b&e in pittsburgh)

later in the day, the dying continued.
we all got to paint silk scarves with tina and stephanie,

and dye silk noil skeins in indigo with judith.

some people even dyed their hair.

day two was spent with judith mackenzie.

i was one of the people who learned to spin to come to the retreat.
i took lesssons, and practiced every chance i got.
and while i wasn’t in the financial position to purchase a wheel,
judith let me use one of hers.

of course, everything i learned went right out the window.

let me explain.

according to judith, spinners have one of two souls.
either you’re naturally a woolen spinner or worsted
for those of you who don’t spin,
think of it as english vs. continental
or being right or left handed.
you’re brain just likes one or the other.

apparently, i’m a woolen spinner.
with some crossed wires since i use my left hand to control twist
even though i’m right handed.
which meant i was at a disadvantage since silk “should” be spun worsted.

so i was at square one all over again.

*sigh*

but i came to learn and learn i did.
i can’t even begin to collate everything i learned about spinning.

but this i know for sure;
after extensive observation,
i’m convinced judith is some sort of witch.
good or bad, she’s the witch of pacific northwest
i’d bet my life she’s the one who taught rumplstiltskin how to spin straw into gold.

just sayin’

my last day was knitting with stephanie
this was the class i felt most prepared for;
knitting was supposed to be my strong point.
it turned out to be the most frustrating of all my classes.
she kept throwing sample after sample of different yarn blends at us to knit, and my hands couldn’t keep up with the pace at which my mind was moving.

i mean,
have you ever tried to knit a lace swatch with silk thread?
i almost cried!

and knitting with silk hankies??
really pretty effect
but not so easy.

(here’s one hanky layer stretched to the max)

i probably learned more about knitting from stephanie in a few hours than i think i have in the past 6 months.

for instance!
have you ever heard that casting on over a larger needle (or two needles) will help if your cast on is too tight?
that is only true if you’re doing a single strand cast on!
such as knitted, cable, or crochet cast on.

if you do some form of the long tail cast on,
casting on over larger needles will not make your cast on edge looser!

i know what you’re all saying.

lies!

i said the same thing pretties.
i don’t have the ability to draw the picture necessary to prove it to you.
here’s what I’ll say: only one of your strands of a long tail cast on goes over needle itself, making a loop. the other only wraps around that loop underneath the needle and is therefore unaffected by the size of the needle. while the loop itself may be larger because you’re using more yarn, the edge will not be because you use the same amount.

the test?
do it yourself.

seriously, it’s true.
this is the face of experience

that evening after dinner was show and tell.
people brought some stunning things that they had made.
i orginally planned on giving stephaine the juneberry triangle then,
but upon further consideration,
it seemed really gauche.

so i gave it to her earlier, when no one was looking.
it was a moment i’ll remember,
and i’m glad it wasn’t public.

i’m home now,
hungry,
broke,
tired.

and i haven’t been this happy in forever.

i’ll miss you port ludlow.

whips and chains

June 10, 2010

i’m in an s&m relationship with jared flood.
or, to be more precise, his juneberry triangle.
initially, it destroyed my self esteem,
and seemed impossible to conquer.

i dried my eyes, dug down deep,
and countered with my own instruments of pain:
a mechanical pencil, graph paper, and a calculator.
and beat that mother into submission.

(the yarn is madelinetosh “pashmina” in copper penney)

the reason it was so difficult (at first) was because of the second chart.
if you look at people’s notes on ravelry,
all their trouble was chart 2 related.

the reason?
chart 2 doesn’t display a repeat per se.
rather, as the shawl grows
(from the yo’s at the sides and center spine)
one works the pattern into the new stitches if there are enough to do so.
remember, if you have enough stitches to do a decrease, you must do it’s corresponding increase. and vice versa. and you never do a double yo. that tip is key.

when you have completed the eight offending rows,
and are ready to work them all over again, there’s a twist:
the first stitch of the chart doesn’t correspond to the the first stitch on the shawl. instead, you continue working in the established pattern (and death death to all designers who use the phrase “work in patt”), stacking the diamonds on top of each other, and “growing” that pattern outward as more and more stitches are created. this coupled with the fact that there is patterning on both sides made me want to die a little.
here’s a closer look:

see how the diamonds “stack”?
that concept really helped me get over the hump.

i soon got into the grove of it.
since, actually, it’s a fairly easy pattern.
and banged out the second chart in an evening.

go me right?
not so much.

as i was finishing the second to last row of the section,
i saw a little “4″ flashing in front of my eyes.
a closer look revealed it to read 4mm.
that would be a u.s. size 6 needle.
not the 7 the pattern calls far.

fuck.

i am fairly sure that i started with a 7.
but must have needed them for a second.
(i use addi clicks so i probably clicked them off)
and then replaced them with 6′s for who knows why.
once again, the juneberry made me it’s bottom bitch.

*sigh*

my main point is this;
contrary to my original feeling,
this pattern is definitely doable.
it was just written in a way that isn’t standard,
at least when it comes to lace/charts i’ve encountered.

in my mind, it’s another example of a of a blight in our community: designers writing patterns, but not writing them for the dumbest possible knitter. if you’re good enough to design something like this, and then have one of your friends test knit it, of course they’ll get it. they’re probably good knitters, and they have you there to ask little questions. you need to have strangers test knit things, people who aren’t as comfortable with their knitting skills so that their problems will aid you in clarifying patterns.

and please, pay the extra money and write out a complete chart!
they’re already tiny so why not nix one photo of the shawl,
and put a chart there?

ok.
i’m done ranting.
something happy?
how about a couple of fo’s:

that’s anna’s february lady sweater,

and plain green socks for mitch,
a.k.a. lisa b.

(isn’t she a great foot model?)

it’s the fo’s that keep me going.
and photos like these remind me why i knit;
i knit because i love the feeling of making something beautiful with my own two hands.

so keep ‘em coming jared.
i’ll knit whatever you can throw at me!.

it’s been a day

May 14, 2010

this post was supposed to go out yesterday.
but my family lives in the land of dial up.
things take time here.

it’s been day.

or two really.

i wasn’t sure if this was the proper place to write about it,
or if it’s even appropriate to share this kind of thing with the world.
but life isn’t just amusing anecdotes and knitterly antics.

my grandma is ill.
her body and mind have mostly given up the fight, and my mom is her last line of defense. she went into the hospital two weeks ago and it became clear that, while she may get well enough to the leave the hospital, she’d never be able to go home again. my mom found a great nursing home (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. she assured me that is passed my requirement that it didn’t smell like death) where people seem to care and can handle residents with dementia. only a couple of days after she was settled into her new home, a fever spiked, and i got an early morning wake up call from home.

switched shifts.

cap and gown unclaimed.

diploma in the mail.

5 highways and i’m back in the great lakes state.

there were many hugs exchanged back at the homestead, reunited with parents and pup under midnight clouds. but a good night sleep in my childhood bed did little to prepare me to see my grandma this morning.

i came with the sole intention of supporting my mom; i wasn’t thinking about how i’d react. i definitely ate my tears to make it through the day.

the change from the last time i saw her is stark.
it’s hard to see in this frail, confused woman the grandma who played “farm stand” and “kick the sponge” with me when i was a toe-headed boy.

she may have forgotten,

but i haven’t.

and i’ll gladly remind her of what day it is, what time it is, where she put her purse, and any other question whose answer she’ll forget the moment i give it.

it’s the least i owe the woman.

while all this is going on, i get some crazy awesome news:
i got into the yarn harlot/knot hysteria’s silk retreat

(stolen from the harlot's blog)


i received the email confirmation yesterday,
and a call from stephanie pearl-mcphee today to go over the details.
(i promptly saved the number in my cell and did a gleeful jig)

i absolutely cannot afford to go to this retreat.
(and will unashamedly accept any donations you’re willing to give)
but why have I worked for ten years to build an excellent credit score if i can’t throw caution to the wind and melt my visa card every once in a while?

i don’t think it’s healthy having this level of emotional stimulation coming from two very different places.

or fair for that matter.

all I can do is form a plan of attack;
a strategy for coping so to speak.
so far, the list includes an obscene amount of diet coke, thai food, spindling, and casting on with impunity.

i cast on this sock:

and this february lady sweater without a second thought.

i’ve got a long weekend in front of me.
i’ll see you in pittsburgh on monday.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 591 other followers