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. 
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