Posts Tagged ‘knittersreviewretreat’


January 1, 2014
Shiny and new

Shiny and new

I knew one thing heading into 2013: this would be a different year from any other.  That there would be nothing routine about it would prove to be an understatement.  To focus on rebuilding Owl Manor, I left my full-time job.  Just as I was getting into a routine, my freelance client needed a growing number of hours.  Simultaneously, as befits the cosmic sitcom that is my life, disaster befell us with the rebuild, requiring us to halt the project and start anew.

Somewhat surprisingly (to me at least), this time knitting did not fail me ~ if blogging about it did.  Looking back at my “output,” it’s clear that while my head was wrestling with knots, my hands stayed busy.

Projects completed in 2013:  13

What were they?  5 cowls, 4 shawls, 3 hats and a pair of fancy gloves

Yards of yarn used:  4,115, almost .8 miles

One-skein projects: 5

Projects never posted on ravelry but worked on: 3 (yes, I will get them up there)

Projects waiting to be blocked:  4 or more.  Sigh.

So many WIPs, so little time

So many WIPs, so little time

WIPs OTN:  Oooh, shudder.  Off the top of my head, 12.  I’m sure there are more.  Yikes.  But I pick up and put down what feels good to me.  That’s okay.

Goals I wanted to achieve in 2013:  Wisely, I didn’t really set a bar, per se.  There is a pair of colorwork mittens I would have loved to make, but I just didn’t get to them.  I did achieve something on my knitting “bucket list” though I failed to tell you about it yet.  (I’ll get to it, I promise.)  Because looking at the baker’s dozen projects I did complete, I note that only 3 stayed at my house.  The rest were either gifts, charity projects or samples.  The shoemaker’s barefoot children come to mind.  Which is why all four of the projects you see here are staying chez Owl, especially the ball of beautiful bulky Morehouse Merino, which will become a cowl for Darling Girl as soon as I unearth my graph paper.  Or just buy more …

The recent posts on Amy Herzog’s design blog put a word in my head that’s been ricocheting about for the past couple of days as I considered next year.  It talked about knitting intention.

My fingers are itching to knit more.  And there is one gaping hole in my knitting over the past yew years.  I haven’t knit a sweater for myself in quite awhile.  I had one I really liked on the needles but it got

Destined for frogging and a new project

Destined for frogging and a new project

so darned complicated to rejigger it for the gauge I got with the yarn I was using that I just got stuck.  It is going to the frog pond immediately so the sweater’s worth of Spirit Trail Fiberworks Sunna can be repurposed.

Now armed with my CustomFit measurements from taking Amy’s class at the Knitter’s Review Retreat, I will be swatching some Sunna and purchasing my CustomFit version of Afterlight.  No need to think.  Just knitting a pattern that is written for me.

That’s my knitting intention for 2014.  That and getting some woolies done for Darling Girl, because there are constantly growing fingers and ears to warm and there is no excuse for allowing Jack Frost to nip at those.

Thanks for hanging with me this long.  I will try to connect more in the months ahead.  My absences here are largely due to activity over at the other blog.  In the meantime, happy 2014!


Home and away

November 23, 2011

If home is where the heart is, then I suppose it does follow that driving six hours to a place you’ve never seen can be a homecoming.

They grow them blue here, apparently

The location:  Canandaigua, New York.  The Inn on the Lake to be precise, for my sixth Knitter’s Review Retreat.  Four days sans lunches to pack, calls to field or Sesame Street songs to hear.  (The part about disconnecting from work didn’t quite happen at the beginning, as early-morning server failure forced a few minutes of work on arrival, but then, complete and total severance from the World of Work.)

Ten years of KRR

It doesn’t matter whether we are at Jeronimo Resort, the Seven Hills Inn, the Williams Inn or the Inn on the Lake, what matters is that we are together.  Me, world’s-best-roommate KnittingKittens, Luann, Bullwinkle, Lanea, Jane, Marfa, Jennifer, Rosi, Nancy, Nanci, Tree and more, led, of course, by Clara, who makes all things possible.  This being the tenth anniversary year, the Oscar-worthy swag bags got awfully swanky ~ an official logo and even zippers on top!?!

Oscar-worthy swag

As for the contents, they could make a knitter’s knees go weak.  Knitter’s Pride needles, books, journals, patterns, buttons, coupons, a commemorative coffee mug, and yarn.  So much yarn: Classic Elite Kumara, Berocco Comfort Sock, Rowan Sweet Harmony, DirtyWater Dyeworks Julia.  At dinner, our plates were graced with even MORE yarn – laceweight Filatura DiCrosa Nirvana, too.

But all that stuff is just ~ stuff.  I go to see the people who sustain me the other 361 days of the year.  To scooch over on the couch and knit side-by-side instead of conversing in front of a monitor.  To touch fiber and compare pattern notes and wonder whether you have enough yardage to make one.  To eat a meal in each other’s company.  To laugh and laugh and laugh some more.

Knitters, knitters everywhere

In a room so full of knitters, some absences weighed heavily.  How I missed SandyT and her good sense and laughter.  And HappyStasher’s boundless enthusiasm.  It’s not the numbers in the room, but the people who make up those numbers that make this gathering what it is.  People who care about each other, brought together by a craft.  True, we can be rather goofy.  At least one new attendee was a little thrown to be asked, “What yarn would you marry if you could?” but it was all in the spirit of good fun.

Certainly a legend, never a diva

One of my delights in attending each year is the opportunity to spend time with the knitteratiwho have been so important to this craft.  This year, I was tickled to spend my weekend class time with the incomparable Ann Budd.  She has forgotten

Now you see argyle ...

more about knitting than I will ever know.  She also has a better sense of dry humor than most people inhabiting the Earth.

We started on Friday learning the fundamentals of shadow knitting.  It’s not the easiest thing to photograph, but in essence, it allows for all sorts of interesting colorwork to appear (and disappear) based on alternation of colors in two-row sequences of garter and stockinette stitch.  Those of faint heart with charts, you might want to skip this technique.  Or be sure to bring those

... now you don't!

cheaters and highlighter tape with you.  It was illuminating to see how different color combinations were easier and harder to see – stark contrast versus tonal versus complementary.

All I could think about was how hard it must have been to photograph all the samples for Vivian Hoxbro’s book, much less knit them all!

As always, it seemed like we were fed endlessly, moving from one buffet to the next.  I love how the tables all fill in at mealtime, allowing for new friendships to take root even as old ones are reaffirmed.  There is always room for one more.  And always time for one more row between courses.

Ann conquers kitchener

On Saturday, Ann took on the challenge of 30 students and the oft-dreaded Kitchener Stitch.  Having taught it before, it’s amazing how intimidating some knitters find it.  While I have my own way of teaching it, Ann had some utterly common-sense suggestions that had even the most experienced knitters in the room saying, “How did I not know that?”  That, my friends, is the mark of a great teacher.

Spirit Trail Holda in Spice and Chipotle

Later, I got to help plan out some upcoming sample knitting, setting up the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth and setting aside what I will be working on in some of the months ahead.  Let me tell you know that Holda is not to be missed.  This is yummy and cozy:  80% Lambswool / 10% Cashmere / 10% dehaired Angora.  It knits up and fills in deliciously at 18-20 st/4 in.  There is a largish cowl in the works.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Verdande - Tuareg Blue

In addition, Jennifer brought out some new colorways in one of her other new yarns, Verdande.  V is the most substantial of the now-four sisters with the same fiber makeup – 75% Merino / 15% Cashmere / 10% Silk.  (In order, they are Nona, Sunna, Birte and Verdande.  If left on a desert island with any of them, I could hardly be disappointed.)  Verdande is 4 plies versus the 3 in  Birte, and she feels more substantial and “rounder” on the skein. This new colorway is called Tuareg Blue and it is utterly dark and rich.   There are other new colorways this season that are equally lovely – Chipotle (seen in Holda photo above), Kismet (green), Winter Solstice (midnight blue), Fig (purples).  Catch them while you can.  Provided I left any.  Cough.

Fit for a Queen Bee

This being the Big 10 event, a mere sparkly tiara simply would not do.  So the powers that be made sure that Queen Bee Clara had appropriate headgear for a night walking down memory lane.   It was a quick and fun journey, particularly seeing the four earlier years I did not attend, before the retreat moved far enough north for me to not be afraid to go.

Work and play are one and the same

Through it all, everywhere you looked, there were busy hands, working quickly, some picking, some throwing, some Continental, some English, some something in-between.  There were even some secret projects, but more on those when it is allowed.

And then it was time to leave.  All events come to a natural stopping point, and KnittingKittens and I knew instinctively when ours was.  A picture texted to me of  Darling Bebe on a playground waiting for me was tugging.

Time to return to my other life, and make this one “virtual” again. Until next year’s homecoming, wherever it may be.

Packing it in

November 17, 2011

It is deep in the owl-hours.

The car is half-packed with  yarn to destash, tools and class materials for not one but TWO sessions with the delightful legend Ann Budd.

FOs are labeled for those who want to know yarn and pattern details.

Yarn is wound to start something new.

Last year’s New Beginning’s project is packed for “recommitment” or another try in the event I am not distracted by some “shiny” new thing, like the newest Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Briar Rose Fibers or String Theory offerings.

There’s half a case of Diet Coke in there, too.

I have completed an unexpected after-hours project for a client ~ one I neither wanted nor needed tonight ~ because it was the right thing to do.

I have fired off the last eight memos to take care of items dangling in my absence. This will allow me to ignore the dreaded BlackBerry for four whole days at the Knitter’s Review Retreat.

I will try to post from there.

A new location this year, a much longer drive, and some dear friends who won’t be there this time leave me feeling a little jumbled. Or maybe it’s sheer exhaustion.

One thing stands between me and sleep: packing Darling Bebe’s lunch.

In a mere few hours:  Road trip with KnittingKittens.


November 11, 2010

Somehow, it is all done.  Or as much as could be done by one Owl.  There are, in fact, limits to what one can accomplish in the owl hours.

  • The boxes bags mound of yarn now boxed to share with other knitters and charity groups.
  • The oh-so-organized ziplock packages of caked yarn and patterns for supposedly mindless knitting, because it is, after all, a knitting retreat.
  • The labeled projects made from the Knitter’s Book of Wool for others to fondle and dare I say, sniff.
  • The “favorite yarn” for our epic introduction/show-and-tell session.
  • The objects I knitted this year that I want to wear show off.
  • The materials for my day-long class that will result in much-needed sleeping socks for Darling Bebe.
  • The pictures of DB, without which, I will be sent packing by her adoring aunties.
  • The actual clothing and (alleged) necessities for four days away because “going commado” is not an option.
  • The secret stash of bottles of Diet Coke, because life is too short to go without or to drink flat soda.
  • The camera for all those moments I will later wish I had captured.

This is, after all, my equivalent of Christmas Eve, complete with a metaphoric and literal trip “over the river and through the woods” to Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Over the next four days and three nights I will:

  • Be hugged by friends with whom I “talk” every day on an otherwise sterile plane.
  • Admire the beautiful handmade items that exemplify so much assembled talent in a group of 100 knitters.
  • Fill my already-bursting head with more projects and ideas than I can ever execute.
  • Help others work through tricky bits in their projects and knitting.
  • Spend time with one of my favorite people on the earth, Clara Parkes, who has wickedly dry humor that makes me laugh until I cry, as well as vision I can only wish I possessed.
  • Share quarters with my BFF, who is the best. roommate. evah. ~ and not because she gets up early and delivers coffee bedside.  It certainly qualifies as a bonus, though.
  • Learn new techniques from Wise Ones of our craft.
  • Somehow refill the boxes I brought and emptied with new lovable yarn to keep my needles full.  As if there was danger of them ever being empty.
  • Recharge utterly empty life batteries with no responsibilities other than sleeping, eating and enjoying.
  • Actually perform less knitting than any other weekend of the year.

It is the Knitter’s Review Retreat.  And I’m on my way.


September 1, 2010

A decade.

Ten years.

Just ten years.

Ten years ago.

Once upon a time, all those years ago, give or take a day, NutmegOwl walked into a LYS for the first time.  You see, at the place I worked, a co-worker had invited a group of people to learn to knit on their lunch hours.  She didn’t invite me.  But I would stop by their lessons and watch what they did.  “I can do that,” I thought.  As the summer weeks passed, it was clear I would not be invited.  So I asked where they had purchased their supplies, and on Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, marched in the door and made my declaration.

“I’m going to knit a sweater.”

I left armed with a Susan Bates instructional paperback, a set of US 11 straight plastic needles, a bagful of Paton’s Decor yarn, and a copy of Family Circle Easy Knitting.  Holding a forest green solid and an autumnal variegated together, within two weeks, I had finished the V-neck with the mock cable up the front.

By Christmas, I had completed that sweater for my sister (which I have never seen again), the fluted rib wrap for mom mom and a sport-weight ribbed V-neck vest for my dad.  I remember how surprised they were on Christmas morning when I told them that I had made the gifts myself.

I look back on the months that followed and marvel at my fearless ignorance.  There wasn’t much that I wasn’t willing to throw myself into.  Fine gauge?  Cider House Rules vest from Interweave Knits in Jamieson’s shetland.  Intarsia?  Goddaughter’s layette, think lots of Debbie Bliss and MinnowKnits.  Stripes?  Goddaughter’s layette.  Texture?  You name it.  Except, at the time, for lace, which was something only those on Mount Olympus made from cobwebs.  Little did I know what I was missing!

The knitting world was so different then.  I’ve just been reminded that Knitter’s Review went up right about the same time.  (Check out the new design to commence its 11th year!)  A community of knitters online.  Who’d have thought?  I had no idea some of my deepest friendships would be cultivated that way.

Back then, patterns were only available through books, magazines and pamphlets in LYS.  Interweave Knits, Vogue Knitting and Family Circle were the only quarterly games in town.  Online yarn sales?  They followed soon after, opening up a world of yarns that might not be carried locally.

Pack up your bags and go spend a weekend with strangers in another state at a knitting retreat?  Sure!  How did I choose to introduce myself to a roomful of strangers?  By publicly frogging a nearly-finished complicated cabled Manos pullover that wasn’t meant to be.  (Today, that retreat is my personal Christmas.  Plenty to say about that here.)

Being considered skilled and articulate enough to actually teach other people?  For money?  That one kind of stopped me in my tracks.  Momentarily.  And I found my second knitting love ~ unlocking the mysteries of this craft to bring other knitters on the journey with me.

To paraphrase the YarnHarlot: I am simply never not knitting ~ at least in my head.  A rare day passes that does not involve even two rows of something.

Life has changed greatly in the interim, but knitting has been the constant.

I went trolling about this morning, looking for the appropriate “anniversary” that goes with 10:  Tin, aluminum.

My first thought:  Uhhhhhhhh.  Not too festive.

Then the lightbulb:  aluminum.  The original Inox circulars that first populated my needle collection.  They’ve mostly been replaced by Addi Turbo and Addi Lace today, but I still reach for them from time to time, like old slippers, and run the black cords under hot water to unkink them.

I do still have those original straight plastic needles, too.  It’s been a long and lovely journey.  And if I wanted to, I could pick up those same needles and make something lovely.

Ten years.  That’s a shiny knit-a-versary.

Rites of friendship

December 29, 2009

(After a holiday hiatus … the first of likely several posts)

Sometimes in life we are fortunate to meet people with whom we have enough in common – and enough not in common – to become like salt and pepper shakers.  On the table together, they complement each other.  Although my other friends are scattered to the four winds and connected to me by wires, there is one who lives but blocks away and is the one who makes every day better for knowing her:  KnittingKittens.

We had been acquaintances in town for some years, but we were brought together by our mutual need to use knitting needles to prevent homicide at too-long board meetings of a local organization.  (In fact once, KnittingKittens finished her project during one of those meetings, and knowing that mayhem might ensue, she ripped it out and started over, just to keep those hands busy.)

KnittingKittens has an incredibly full life.  She seeks out interesting things and does them, even if it’s by herself in a group of strangers.  She thinks nothing of jaunting off to Europe with a group of strangers, or of entertaining 30 relatives at one time in her apartment.  She makes time to always have perfectly painted nails.  (Sigh.) Like me, she is a grammar geek: we can both diagram sentences and spot dangling prepositions from 500 yards.  She appreciates an ellipsis used and punctuated correctly.  KnittingKittens loves it when I use New York Times words, and long before I knew her, she started a log book of words to look up and use.

As my friend, KnittingKittens lifts me up, calls me “Cookie,” reminds me to put on lipstick, and provides wake-up calls from Owl’s mommy-induced comas.  And she brings coffee to our room to wake me up at the Knitter’s Review Retreat.  What more could one ask of a real friend?

Like so many close friendships, ours is marked by little rituals, one of which occurred while I was on blog-hiatus:

Twice a year, the Polish nursing home holds a pierogie sale.  That’s right, pierogies.  I am under express orders to not bother coming home for Christmas without them for our Christmas Eve dinner.  Seeing that these are the lightest handmade pierogies on the planet, a few hundred other people think it’s a good idea show up for the 8 a.m. sale, which is usually sold out well before 10.  However, that’s positively eons after KnittingKittens and I meet up in the pre-dawn darkness and sit in her toasty-warm car, drinking coffee, exchanging gifts, seeing the sun rise and having one last visit before I venture out-of-state for the holidays.  (Last year, we did this in a foot of newly fallen snow, arriving before the plow guys.  We also do this sans gifts when the hand-sculpted butter lambs are available for Easter, but that’s a post for another day.)

All of this is the long way of bringing us around to one of mercifully few holiday knitted gifts:  KnittingKittens’ Hedgerow Mitts.

KnittingKittens' Hedgerow Mitts

She loves mitts.  I enjoyed making these for myself, but knew it would be unlikely that KnittingKittens would make up a pair on US2 needles.  So I found the shade of Koigu I wanted (to match her Sally Melville Shape-It Scarf) at a yarn shop 20 miles away, and cast on in August.  I also used them as an in-progress model for the “2-at-a-time” class I taught at the LYS in the fall.  Since these were to be a surprise, I could not knit them in front of KnittingKittens, which meant that prime knitting moments were not available.  No matter, the knitting all got done when it had to be done.  And they fit her, and she likes them.  Note: you can tell by the unpolished nails in the photo that these are not KnittingKittens’ hands.

Project details:  Hedgerow Mitts by Amy Ripton, based on Hedgerow Socks by Jane Cochran.

Thumb detail

Yarn:  Koigu KPPM.  For some reason, one skein of this was wonky – it was decidedly thinner than the other. I will also say that unlike my previous Koigu experiences, this was not too pleasant to work with.  I’m tempted to destash all my Koigu.  Stay tuned, Koigu lovers.

Pattern mods:  None – because KnittingKittens has larger hands, I did do the hand increases, and I used the sewn bind-off to provide extra elasticity at the tops of the mitts.

Not to be outdone, her incredibly thoughtful gift to me was  Charted Knitting Designs, the third Barbara Walker treasury, which I’m sure I will use many times in the years ahead.

And no, do not ask where that pierogie sale happens.  I won’t let the secret out.  😉

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