Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vogue Knitting Live!

In October, the Kalamazoo Knitting Guild chartered a bus to go to Vogue Knitting Live, in Chicago. Jess, Denise, and I joined the knitters on the bus.

We started in the dark, around 7 am. The sun rose on a beautiful fall day.

At the rest stop in Indiana

Denise & Jess on the bus

We arrived in Chicago shortly before 9, and had a splendid day. We hadn't signed up for any classes, and wandered about throughout the day, wherever our fancy took us.

There was "down time," when we sat knitting and chatting. We watched a Vogue Knitting fashion show (not that I'm really a Vogue kind of girl).

We took our time wandering through the market. We admired and touched all sorts of yarn (and tried not to drool on it). We chatted with Vicki Howell (Knitty Gritty) and Ysolda Teague (she designed Elijah the Elephant). We saw knitting in the wild that we fell in love with, such as the Bermuda Scarf. (Well, at least I fell in love with it, and I have just the yarn for it, in my stash...)

We stopped at one booth, Black Wolf Ranch, and Jess asked me if I thought, with that name, that they might be predator-friendly. The owner popped up and confirmed that to be the case, much to Jess' delight. They had an alpaca hat that was just slightly felted - I've been pondering ever since how to recreate it. (I have alpaca in my stash that could be put to that use...)

At Green Mountain Spinnery's booth, I saw a terrific little hat, the Ascutney Mountain Hat. And somewhere - no idea which booth - we saw the Waves in the Square Shawl, by Sivia Harding. It has an unusual construction, being knit as a square, rather than a rectangle. It's really quite lovely, but requires 1100 yards of light fingering weight yarn - more than the couple skeins I usually think to buy.

We saw a beautiful shawl, Ann Weaver's Lamp Shawl, along with other designs from her White Whale books. We saw jewelry, cleverly made from old metal knitting needles.

The Sophie's Toes Sock Yarn booth had magic balls, which are large skeins (525 yards) of sock yarn. They include 15 different colors of sock yarn, tied together and wound into a cake. They would be fun to knit with - but then you would have to deal with all those ends...!

Jess made her yarn purchase at Black Wolf Ranch's booth. Denise bought a book - Knit Red - and some splendid red yarn, at the Jimmy Beans Wool booth. (A portion of the sales of the book Knit Red go towards educating women about heart disease.)

I almost bought a kit to make a linen stitch shawl. The yarn colors - pastels - were beautiful, and I think it would have been a joy to knit.

But then I saw this yarn:

This is the same Swans Island yarn I'd seen (and not bought) in Wisconsin. This time, I didn't hesitate, and now it's in my stash, waiting to become the Panoramic Stole.

I was keeping an eye out for a new yarn to use for my Elijah Elephants. I stumbled across this, and thought it should work well:

I bought just one skein, and now wonder if it is a one-of-a-kind, since I've not been able to track it down online since coming home.

There was a gallery section, with works from different fiber artists. My favorites were pieces by Chris Motley. Here are two of her sculptures:

Love this guy!

We took a lunch break and walked across town to Portillo's, for Chicago-style hot dogs. Conveniently, our path also took us near a Trader Joe's store (where we used careful judgment in our purchases, since we'd have to carry them back to the show).

In October, Poetry Magazine was celebrating its 100th anniversary, which apparently included these displays.

These 'grasses' lit up as it grew dark.
And there were poems being read!

We enjoyed reading bits of poetry as we walked:

We arrived home late that night, tired but content.

In retrospect, I wished I had made the commitment to register and take one of the classes offered, and I wished I'd had time to explore some of the other features (the demo area, the meet-up lounge, etc). But, even without that, I enjoyed the chance to hang out with my knitting friends, to see so many different yarns and patterns, and to fire up my imagination. And recounting it all here has rekindled that same excitement.

So much knitting, so little time!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Scarves, Shawls, Slippers, Verse

When I started this blog, I thought I could write two blog posts a week. Now it seems that two a month is miracle enough! Perhaps 2013 will lead me to write more often; we shall see.

For now, I'll try for some catching up. I'll start with knitting (of course).

I finally finished the scarf for the Seita Scholars - and was very pleased with how it turned out. I liked using the random stripe generator, and three colors were easy to manage. In fact, Jim & I recently picked up some black, brown, and gold yarn, to make a WMU scarf and hat set (which is waiting in the wings).

I also finished my Pie Wedge Shawl. The above picture is not the best, but it gives a sense of the size and drape of the shawl. It is so lightweight, and yet cozy warm. I am delighted! I am eager to show it off! (I am keeping it!)

Another Pie Shawl shot

I finally finished this striped scarf. I used a Kauni yarn that ran through shades of red, along with a charcoal yarn, and was pleased with the result.

But knitting a scarf with that yarn weight (sport) just about drove me over the edge. I worked on this, off and on, for seven months, and bound off the instant it seemed to have reached a decent length. I think it looks good on Mr. Owl here, although it did seem a bit short on the recipient (I think he was happy to get it, even so).

I did two bits of Christmas knitting (not counting the Kauni scarf; although it was delivered at Christmas, it wasn't actually knit as a Christmas gift).

These are slippers that I knit for Jim. I'm really pleased with how they turned out. I used Shepherd's Wool yarn, which is a delight to knit with, and - as you can see - they felted nicely. Jim says they are a tad big, so I need to felt them again (carefully!), and then I may add a sole - both to prevent wear, and to prevent their being slippery (it's bad form when knitted gifts lead to broken bones).

I knit the slippers holding two strands of yarn, so progress was much faster than with that Kauni project!

This is a shawl that I knit for a friend. The pattern is for a prayer shawl, but I think of it more as a "hug shawl." The yarn was from my stash (one of Jim's contributions). It was an absolute delight to knit with, and created a cozy fabric. We included an owl charm, which you can just barely see in the above photo (near the corner of the shawl). (The charm was made by a local artist, Amy Culp.)

This, by the way, may be one of my quickest knitting efforts. I started this on December 4, but then had to frog, and started again on December 11. I finished the shawl just two weeks later, on Christmas Eve. Lightning fast for me! (Thanks to Jim for helping me find extra knitting time.)

This rather blurry photo shows the owl charm, and also the lovely wale of the shawl.

I also want to share a bit from a poetry book I picked up, Susan Blackwell Ramsey's A Mind Like This. (I was Christmas shopping in our local bookstore, and succumbed to temptation.)

I first heard of Susan Ramsey (aka Rams) when Stephanie Pearl-McPhee visited Kalamazoo; she blogged about it here.

(If you go to that link, and look at the first audience picture, you can see my friend Jess and me, in the third row. We went there to celebrate Jess' birthday. It was not long after that visit, that I fell down the knitting rabbit hole...)

Anyway, the poems in this volume are delightful, full of humor and wit and insight. Here is a snippet from Mariah Educates the Sensitive, in which Ramsey asserts that no one is really allergic to wool, and sings its praises. The poem ends,
Wool is proof of a benign, personal God,
is grace, divine intervention at its best.
It's why sheep are mentioned in the Bible
more than any other animal.
I made that up,
but you believed me, proving
you've had your own suspicions
all along.

When mercury freezes,
hang your quilts on the wall.
Curl under wool.
Wool knows you're a mammal.
It's sympathetic, doesn't just conserve
body heat - it radiates it,
melting your bunched muscles
into something capable of sleep,
making sure your dreams
fill with green fields.
Other poems that I particularly enjoyed are  Mount St. Helen's, May 18, 1980, and The Kalamazoo Mastodon:
. . . we may contain,
just beneath our asphalt, below our brick,
something big and buried, something wild.
Find yourself a copy, and enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Musings on Sandy Hook

On Friday, 20 children and 6 adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut. I keep trying to make sense of it - but there can be no sense to such a tragedy.

How could anyone snuff out so many lives, so many innocent children?

And what are those parents going to do? What will they do with the Christmas presents they've been hiding, the stockings that won't need to be hung, the vacant place at the table, the empty car seat?

* * * * *

I don't want to ever forget.

Friday, December 14, 2012.
20 children and 6 adults, dead.

6- and 7-year old children:
Benjamin, Caroline,
Catherine, Charlotte, Chase
Daniel, Dylan, Emilie, Grace
Jack, James, Jesse,
Jessica, Josephine,
Madeleine, Noah,

The adults who tried to protect them:.
Anne Marie, Dawn,
Lauren, Mary,
Rachel, Victoria. 

* * * * * 

Friday afternoon, I took Bonnie for a walk, carrying my camera. It was a clear day, the sky brilliant blue. I thought I would look for something beautiful, to balance the day's tragedy.

This is what caught my eye - a tree, leafless and stark, with a child's baseball and football caught in its branches.

Childhood games, interrupted

* * * * *

This image has been circulating on Facebook, a reminder that the victims of Friday's violence are safe now.

"Security," by David Bowman

* * * * *

As I learned of the deaths at Sandy Hook, this poem came again to my mind. The first time I heard it, I recognized the grief of a parent whose child has died at birth. Now, it seems equally appropriate as I ponder the future for the bereft parents of Newtown. 
by Dana Gioia

Now you'd be three,
I said to myself,
seeing a child born
the same summer as you.

Now you'd be six,
or seven, or ten.
I watched you grow
in foreign bodies.

Leaping into a pool, all laughter,
or frowning over a keyboard,
but mostly just standing,
taller each time.

How splendid your most
mundane action seemed
in these joyful proxies.
I often held back tears.

Now you are twenty-one.
Finally, it makes sense
that you have moved away
into your own afterlife. 
editted to add labels

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Squirrels and Husbands

I started this post ages ago, and then never finished it. (I think I was distracted by this election thing that was going on.)

On one of our fall walks, Bonnie and I encountered this squirrel, happily eating a walnut:

The we discovered his 'hiding' spot, in this old tree:

Walnuts at the top

Walnuts at the base
Clearly Mr. Squirrel has been industrious, but I'm afraid those are not particularly secure hiding spots!

Another squirrel - a competitor? Or is he, in fact, the same critter??? In any case, he made me laugh, clinging to that spot until the last minute. They like to play chicken with Bonnie, and often peer around tree trunks, before scampering up into the branches.

I know I promised to avoid further fall photos - but you'll forgive me these two:

And who is this good-looking dude? Kasey Hunt took some pictures for us (a bartered transaction), and this is one of my favorites:


Our nephew Chris recently assisted in the creation of the exhibit Bags Across the Globe (BAG). The installation was exhibited at SOFA Chicago, so Jim and I were able to see both Chris and BAG, along with other awesomeness.

The plastic bag at the top is made of 350 typical bags - the average number used by a person during one year.

The reusable bags were made by students from discarded fabric swatches. Each cloth bag is estimated to replace 1000 plastic bags.

Jim, Robin, and Chris

Jim and I spent most of the day looking at the displays, along with Jon. We took breaks to visit with Chris, and had lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern. We watched part of the Corning Museum of Glass Hot Glass Roadshow. But mostly we looked at the artwork. At the end of the day, we gave Chris a lift to Dave and Joyce's house, and enjoyed pizza with them, and with Jon & Laura and Paul & Rachelle (and two delightful little boys).

SOFA stands for "Sculpture Objects Functional Art." We didn't see much Function in most of the pieces we admired, but we did see lots of beautiful and lovely and interesting pieces. Here are some of my favorites.

I love the colors in this piece by Lesley Nolan, and the sense of happiness and camaraderie:

Lesley Nolan - Memories of the Dance
Fused glass panel

Marc Petrovic displayed a number of wonderful sculpted glass birds. He had a video running in his booth, showing how he made the birds - amazing work.

Marc Petrovic
Sculpted glass bird

Claire Brewster cut these birds were cut out of old maps:

Claire Brewster
Hand cut map

Courtney Timmermans had several pieces made with air rifle BBs, which I found fascinating. The texture appealed to me; I wanted to reach out and pet the bear (I restrained myself).

Courtney Timmermans - Urban Herd: Bear
Air rifle BBs, cast resin, mixed media

I noted that this sculpture is by Marta Klonowska, but I neglected to record a title. Apparently Klonowska is known for canine figures; I'm guessing this fellow is a fox!

Marta Klonowska
Sculpture - Glass on metal framework

These two pieces I liked for their texture and color. The first piece is by Michael Behrens.

Michael Behrens - Seaforms 2012
Kiln cast glass

And the second is by Toots Zynsky; the texture on this was marvelous (and wouldn't this be a delicious colorway for yarn?).

Toots Zynsky
Fused and thermo formed color glass threads

This piece by Toland Sand caught the light so beautifully:

Toland Sand
Dichroic glass sculpture

Kirra Galleries sponsored several artists that impressed us. We also were able to chat with the artists, who were delightful (love those Australian accents). Harriet Schwarzrock created these glass pieces:

Harriet Schwartrock
Glass and stainless steel

Rob Wynne showed us how he makes the designs on his glass bowls. Basically, there is a layer of glass and then a layer of iridescent metal. He covers parts of that metal with vinyl (the parts he wants to remain iridescent), and sandblasts the rest away. What remains is the colored glass and the iridescent design. (Of course, it's much more involved than this explanation - and quite amazing.) (Wynne also happened to be the demonstrating artist when we stopped to watch the Corning Roadshow.)

Rob Wynne
Glass and surface decoration

And look at these pieces by Richard Ritter. I wanted to touch these, too (I refrained).

Richard Ritter - Les Pommes Verre
Blown, etched glass and murrini

I have no idea who created this owl - we couldn't find a name anywhere - and frankly, we thought the face was a bit weird. Still, it is an owl, so I snapped a quick photo (actually, I think Jim took the photo; it was mounted too high for me!):

Last but not least - I think this is my second favorite piece - a sculpture by Giuseppe Palumbo. I love the whimsy in these sheep!

Giuseppe Palumbo - All Together Now
It was a great day!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Hat and a Scarf and a Beagle

I've been knitting for the Seita Scholars, and recently finished a hat.

A Dorky Hat

Unfortunately, I'm not very happy with it. I used this Lined Beanie pattern, but my hat came out rather large, and not nearly as handsome as the picture in the pattern. Still, it fits Jim, so hopefully it will fit some young Seita Scholar as well.

Also, I closed the top using the Kitchener stitch, instead of just drawing the stitches together, which gives the top a nice, clean finish.

It is self-lined, which will make it snug and warm, which is another plus:

With the lining pulled out

I've started a matching scarf, which I like much better:

The more satisfying scarf

The colors in this photo are off, so you can't tell that one of the colors matches the stripes in the hat. Trust me, it does, and hopefully my photo of the finished product will reflect that. Really, the colors are much nicer than these.

The pattern is a simple 1x1 ribbing, as in the Noro Striped Scarf. I'm using three colors of yarn, and I set up the stripe pattern using the Random Stripe Generator found here. I asked for three colors; widths of 2, 4, and 6; and 100 rows (which I am repeating as needed). It's very satisfying to see it unfold, and it's knitting up fairly quickly (it's half finished).

This last photo is not knitting. This is Bonnie the Beagle, hoping hoping hoping for a treat from Jim.

Gratuitous beagle picture

Monday, October 8, 2012

Healing Spaces and Michigan Fall

A week or so ago, I was walking Bonnie on a Sunday morning. It was quiet. The trees were starting to turn, and the morning sun backlighted the leaves. I was listening to an episode of On Being, and concluded that one of the benefits of having a dog is that she regularly forces me to get out and enjoy such pleasures.

The On Being interview was with Esther Sternberg, the author of Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. Sternberg asked, do our surroundings have an effect on us? Talking about her family, she said
... my parents explicitly instilled in me the knowledge that we should look, hear, smell, touch everything in our surrounding environment and savor it because this could be your last day. They actually said that to me a number of times, especially the sunset. Look at it as if it's your last.
That idea resonates with me. I love walking Bonnie, in all seasons, and marvel at the constant beauty. Admittedly, some days I drag my feet about getting started, but I am always happy once we're on our way. (And Bonnie, of course, is beyond happy.)

Later, Sternberg described an experiment that I found fascinating:
Roger Ulrich is an environmental psychologist who took advantage of a naturalistic experiment, if you will, where in patients were admitted to a ward for gallbladder surgery. Back in those days, you actually stayed in hospital for a number of days after you had gallbladder surgery. And some of them randomly were assigned to beds with a view of a brick wall and others had a view of a grove of trees. And he simply took the clinical data and measured how much pain medication these patients needed during their recovery, how long they had to stay in hospital, in other words, how quickly they healed, the number of negative nurse's notes where they were complaining or had pain or such, and he controlled for everything: age, sex, you know, med — other medication use, other disease use. And all of these patients were taken care of by the same doctors and nurses. So it was an extraordinarily well-controlled study. And even with all these controls where the single variable that differed between patients was the view out the window, what he found was that the patients with a view of a grove of trees left hospital on average a day sooner, needed less pain medication, and had fewer negative nurse's notes than patients who had a view of a brick wall. 
Imagine that - just looking out the window at trees made a difference in the healing process; just looking out the window at trees was therapeutic.

Sternberg talked a lot about creating an environment where healing can occur. I thought about my office at home, where I spend a good bit of time. It is, to put it mildly, a disaster area, and not the least bit peaceful or healing. Shelf space is taken up by things I don't care about; books and magazines I want to keep are stacked on the floor; my paper trail winds from piles to boxes (and avoids the filing cabinet). I need to take the time to cull and throw away a lot of stuff (I have been making progress, but there's a long way to go), and paint, and rearrange things. But my heart isn't in that effort. I prefer to just put up with it, and find my healing spaces elsewhere.

On the other hand, I do love our living room. In our house, this really is the room where we do most of our living. Clutter is under control here. There is plenty of light, from north- and west-facing windows. And those windows look out on trees and bushes, so there some greenery, and a bit of privacy. I enjoy sitting there with my knitting, or a book, and find it very relaxing.

Sternberg also pointed out the need to find our healing places within us, through prayer and meditation - something I'm not particularly good at, but continue to work at.
I think the most important point that I came to in my own journey in writing this book is that we really can create places of peace not only in our real world, in our physical environment that surrounds us, but in our own mind's eye. And those kinds of places of peace are portable. As you said, in many different traditions, like the Buddhist tradition or in virtually all religious traditions, you close your eyes and you visualize something. That's a way of carrying these environments, these healing places, within you. It's wonderful if you can go to them, but if you can't, you can bring them to yourself.
Here are some photos I've taken over the past week or two, as fall has settled in. These were all taken on walks with Bonnie - either in our neighborhood, or in the woods and fields behind Friendship Village. I've tried to capture the wonderful colors, and the light at different times of day. It's what makes fall so beautiful, and gives me such pleasure and joy.

Warning: there's a good number of photos here... I deleted some, but - there's still a lot. I'll try not to overdo it the rest of the season. But - no guarantees...