Posts Tagged ‘travel’

On the Road: A Verb for Keeping Warm

July 6, 2013

My apologies for my absence.  These days, Owl Manor owns me from sunrise past sunset.  Yes, I knit.  At times, rather frantically, trying to find my “center” again.  The needles are always beside me, and I often fall asleep with them in mid-stitch.

A recent trip to the Left Coast gave me the opportunity to visit multiple LYS in that part of the world.

First, a stop at the much-talked-about A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, Calif.

A Verb ... and a cafe

A Verb … and a cafe

I am fortunate to have a spouse who builds LYS visits into vacations.  He is a foodie ~ and since food is a requirement, we always “manage” to visit places he wants to go.  He makes mine a priority, too.  The presence of a terrific cafe on one side and a cupcake shop on the other on San Pablo Avenue didn’t hurt, either.

I should not have been surprised to find owner Kristine in the light-filled front window at the big work table.  Somehow, after reading so much about her, it seemed a little too-good-to-be-true.    But in a day and age where so much trash seems to get more than its requisite 15 minutes, this shop was exactly as advertised.

Pioneer from AVFKW

Pioneer from AVFKW

If you have wanted to test-knit Quince & Co. yarns, this is the place to find them.  So, too, for some Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarns (very hard to find in a brick and mortar shop) and Kristine’s own ever-changing lines.  This stop could have easily been a bank-breaker.  Only the limited quantities of yarn in each dyelot and the knowledge of limited suitcase space provoked restraint.  If you are looking for a West Coast version of Webs, that’s not what you find here:  This is a carefully curated shop catering to knitters who care about what they use ~ and where it came from.

The kit in its souvenir bag

The kit in its souvenir bag

Which brings me to Pioneer, Kristine’s foray into limited-batch organic merino raised in California and dyed naturally.  I relished the opportunity to pick my own colorway for the San Pablo Cowl Kit, which will be some good late night knitting chez Owl.  I don’t expect one of you to be the least bit surprised by my choices (in order): Grizzly Peak, Bonfire and Harvest.

The shop also left me

Hootiful fabric

Hootiful fabric

wishing I knew the first thing about sewing ~ or that I had made enough decisions about Owl Manor to know where in the world I could use bright, bold, graphic prints like this one from Cloud 9.  (Again, organic cotton.)  It was too pricey to pick up without knowing how much I would need or for what sort of project, but I have it bookmarked for when I have figured it out.

If I lived in the area, I would spend a great deal of time at this studio and shop.  As it was, I am glad it was on our itinerary, and I look forward to putting Pioneer and its siblings on the needles … eventually.

In the meantime, one more skein of Kristine’s dyeing has arrived at my house: a skein from The Great White Bale dyed with madder.  Find out more about our adventure here.



July 18, 2012

At last post, some of you wondered, “One short trip, why two projects?”

Because there’s nothing worse than Project Fail at 15,000 feet.

Go on, ask.

How do I know?

Loft in Barn Owl in lace section of Pei

It started out swimmingly.  I began knitting the pretty cowl Pei using BrooklynTweed LoftOh. What. Yummy. Wool!   It made my fingers sing!  Because that’s what Loft is ~ minimally processed, close-to-the-sheep wool in fingering weight.  It is also woolen-spun, so it does not have the tight twist and many plies found in most commercial fingering-weight yarns.

That fact brings with it a certain fragility that makes the appropriate choice of tools essential to knitting success.

And that is where Nutmeg Owl failed in the sky somewhere over Nebraska.

Regular readers know I like my needles slicker-than-snot.  As such, I will often eschew a sharper tip on an Addi Lace needle to avoid its silly, icky “drag finish” and go instead with a plain ol’ Addi Turbo (the difference is in the name ~ turbo!).  Had I packed this project around the time normal people go to bed, I might have paid attention to the fact that the lace chart has nupps.  (Pronounced like “stoops,” if you’re wondering.)  Nupps are the bane of many a knitter.  I’m not usually one of them.

Until knitting with a minimally processed fingering-weight wool on

Dull tips + nupps + Loft = disintegration

dull-tipped original Addis, and finding myself consistently unable to grab the 3rd of the 5 loops to close the nupp.  And you can see what happened as a result.  Poor little Loft pretty much disintegrated.

Total tool fail on my part ~ my preferred Signature stiletto-tipped circs in that size were all tied up on other WIPs (ahem!) back home.

Time to back away from the yarn and move to the other project.

Remnants of Spirit Trail Nona for Plain Jhaynes

One round-trip and seven hours of Downton Abbey later, and my lace remnant-busting Plain Jhaynes mitts are well on their way.  These won’t be plain, either.  Just you wait.

And that is why no sane knitter leaves on a trip without two projects.  Ever.


July 10, 2012

I know I’m not the only daft knitter who does this.

Can’t be.

Upcoming: 72 hours of travel through two time zones to attend a meeting in the desert, then turn around and fly back East.

What will I obsess over most before I leave?

What knitting to take, of course.

With my current project too close to completion, it’s a recurrence of startitis.

Key considerations:  A one-skein project that involves minimal tools, little swatching and nearly mindless instructions.  Because I have some sense, a pattern that I already own.  And a combo I can package easily this evening while packing the other stuff.  You know, clothes, makeup ~ things muggles consider necessities … before my wake-up in the owl-hours to catch my flight.

Sometimes I will spend days thinking this over.

I don’t have the luxury of time now.

But the answer is incredibly simple:  Knitspot’s Plain Jhaynes mitts with Spirit Trail Fiberworks Nona in Seaweed left over from my Phoenix Rising.  It’s a perfect use for laceweight remnants, and since the yarn just happens to be (ahem) in a basket on the coffee table, we can check that off.  Oh – and I have a skein of BrooklynTweed Loft and Pei within easy reach, too, so I can finally write some kind of a review.  Loft in the colorway Barn Owl, to boot. Or hoot.

Check and check.

Season 2 of Downton Abbey is loaded on the iPad.  A defensive measure for the one (long) flight where I appear to be stuck in a middle seat (gulp!).

Now to the rest of that packing list …


August 3, 2011

Heavens to Murgatroyd!  Nearly a month since my last post?  My knee-jerk response would be, “I’m not sure how that happened.”  But to bring you up-to-date, it sort of makes sense.  Since I last wrote here:

~ I have been head-hunted aggressively.  It has been most welcome, and deservedly time-consuming.  If the stars align properly the pay-off will be enormous.

Digression:  Since you are all aware that my skill with a needle and thread is inversely proportional to my skill with knitting needles and yarn, you can make your own mental picture of me, the night before a Big Interview, hemming my suit slacks by hand, having discovered at wise KnittingKittens’ urging, that even with heels, they were too d*** long.  At least it prevented me from obsessing too much about other things.  And if it didn’t go well, guess who was going to get a wake-up call and an Owl on her door-step?

~ I have been successful in the first step toward (depending on your POV) owning a white-elephant money pit we shall refer to as Owl’s Folly OR preserving an incredible piece of my city’s history.  This first approval has taken three months of meetings with contractors, bankers and other involved parties as well as waiting, and then waiting some more.  The process promises more waiting yet to come.  That’s okay, I have all the time in the world.  If it works out, NutmegOwl shall have her own Knitting Studio in her own owl box.  There, I said it.

~ The at-fault party finally paid for the last bill related to wrecking my car on December 1, 2010.

~ I completed not one, not two, but three shawls.  You’ve only seen a glimpse of one of them.  The blocking runway has been hopelessly jammed up.  (Which will never again happen if I am living in Owl’s Folly where there will be dedicated blocking space.)

~  Darling Bebe and I discovered that not only do Amtrak riders loathe sharing seats with other riders, but also conductors refuse to use their authority to make passengers move so that toddlers can safely sit in seats – much less sit with their mommies.  Nope.  Instead, the conductor in question told us to stand in the space between cars until the next stop – a half-hour away – until some people got off and try to locate seats then.  No matter that this was the expensive train, the Acela Express, and that we paid for two seats, as opposed to those fellow passengers who paid for one seat but were taking up two.  D’ya really think that was the safest place to tell a three-year-old to stand?  May a special place in heaven be reserved for the mommy who witnessed our predicament, moved her husband and herself to allow us to sit together.  And if you ever see a mother and child looking for seats on a train, do the right thing.

~ I started completing my commissions for Rhinebeck for Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  Yes – in July for October.  I’m ahead in one tiny part of my world.  Stay tuned for pictures and deets.

~ I received a big national industry award for my work.  Someone thinks I’m good at what I do, if not the person who employs me to do it and routinely castigates me for neither doing enough, nor executing it well enough.

~ Most importantly, during the most historic sweltering days New England can remember, I was able to see not one, but two of my favorite women in the world.The aforementioned award meant a trip to Boston to receive it.  Which meant some free time, too.  And a truly wonderful meal at Sel de la Terre with Hipparchia.   Hipparchia is wise and funny and the most fearless

A s'more is a s'more

knitter I’ve ever known.  Somehow she manages to churn out lovely projects while lecturing all over the world, teaching, writing and raising amazing young people.  I should be so lucky when I grow up.  And I only have so many friends who appreciate fresh duck liver mousse and take me places where I can get it.  Which is not to say that being a foodie means taking ourselves too seriously.  I mean, “warm molten chocolate fondant, toasted house made marshmallow; graham cracker ice cream” is really s’mores deconstructed, right?  Bring on the campfire!

Gather Here

A mere day later, with my business completed and the car-mometer well into the hundreds, it was time to meet cyber-sis Luann on her turf at Gather Here in Cambridge.  It was easy to see the appeal of — sewing — (There!  I said it!) surrounded by bolt after bolt of fresh bright prints.  Then again, with the AC not functioning well, it had to be in the upper ’90s indoors, so the thought of knitting or spinning was a little, umm, unappealing to say the least.

Luann's prezzie for Owl

No matter, for as you all know, when we are together, knitting is the least of it.  Of course, she had to blow me away with her new seamstress skills.  To wit, my new knitting bag – which she somehow knew I needed.  The fabric from her stash from her days in Hawaii (I only hope the writing doesn’t say, This idiot

Look! It's nutmeg!

paid too much!), and look at the lining – NUTMEG! – and with a perfectly centered pocket and magnetic closure, no less.  If she is not careful, Luann and KnittingKittens are going to be sewing an awful lot of drapes for Owl’s Folly.

Shall we call ourselves caught up, then?


June 7, 2011

Having lived a rather nomadic existence for my first three decades, there is one place that will always be home: Chicago.  With family roots there and important years of my personal history, it has a special place in my heart.

Even dirty windows can't mar the beauty

Just passing by landmarks of my life on the el makes me weep for no reason other than that they are dear to me.  Fortunately, none of my fellow strap-hangers notices or if they do, they give no sign.  After all, it is mass transit in a major city and you see just about everything.

When I do visit, there are certain “musts,” which are all people I need to see.  On this trip, however, I built in just enough time (work crisis notwithstanding) for some yarn-crawling around town.

Windy Knitty - get the word play?

My first stop was the newest entrant to the Chicago yarn scene.  Windy Knitty occupies an incredibly sunny storefront in the Andersonville section of the North Side.  It was a pleasant eight-block walk from the el through a shady neighborhood to get to Clark Street.  There, I found owner Mandy poring over color cards for more stock to add to her already bursting cubbies.  Windy Knitty has yarn to satisfy different price points and tastes.  In particular, there is significant stock of various madelinetosh, Malabrigo and Three Irish Girls yarns, as well as some local dyers like Fleur de Fiber, who has her studio within walking distance.  The space is clean and uncluttered and the yarn is well-organized.  Mandy gave me a friendly greeting and we chatted a bit before she helped me

madelinetosh Pashmina - Burnished

dig through her madelinetosh Pashmina to try to match two skeins in the colorway Burnished.  What grabbed me was the hint of color that looks exactly like the patina on aged copper and bronze.  It doesn’t photograph well here, but it’s pretty amazing IRL.

Alas, the aforementioned work crisis 500 miles away ate into my time significantly (requiring me to go to a public library computer lab to build a web page on the fly …), and with one more LYS and happy-hour appointment, I had to leave before I wanted to.  If I were living on the North Side, Windy Knitty would be a LYS where I would be happy to teach.

Loopy Yarns

The last time I visited Loopy Yarns, they had not moved into their home in historic Dearborn Station.  My previous visit had left me a little lukewarm.  No so this time. I received a warm welcome and much-needed directions to the rest room so that I could enjoy my time there.  The space suits the shop’s needs nicely, with actual classrooms on the lower level. I did go with a specific desire: to add the new size 3 and 4 Signature circular needles to my toolkit.  Alas, the shop had yet to receive them.  Rats.

Alisha Goes Around Richness (of Martens) Fingering

However, I was delighted to lose myself in the “lace room.”  Although the yarns ranged from cobweb to fingering, the sock-weight fibers were not the kind to put on your feet.  While some of the yarns were familiar, others were not.  Loopy Yarns carries a variety of bases from Alisha Goes Around, which I had never seen in person before ~ one of the hazards of living sans LYS.  I brought home a skein of Richness (of Martens) Fingering in Nile as a souvenir.  It seems similar to Spirit Trail Fiberworks Sunna, one of my favorite yarns of all time.

Swans Island Organic Merino - Fingering

In addition, Loopy carries Swans Island organic merino, a yarn I have only seen online.  This fingering-weight is incredibly soft, with nice yardage and natural colors.  (The colorway is labeled “Brown” but the tag says “Russet” – more descriptive, by far.)  Although there are myriad skeins of similar colors in my stash, this one spoke to me in a way the others did not, so it was promptly wrapped in tissue to leave with me, too.

Locals swear by Loopy as the mothership of all that is good about Local Yarn Shops.  I was happy to find interested and interesting people there.  In a retail setting where personality sells more yarn than any display, Loopy clearly is selling plenty of yarn.

I had an impending date with a Churchill martini, and scooted on my way, glad to have done just a little yarn crawling in my home sweet home city.


Thankful Thursday – Retreat edition

November 19, 2009

Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving for my one mommy’s-weekend-off that is sacrosanct*:  the Knitter’s Review Retreat.  So Thankful Thursday is as good a time as any to tell you why I babble write about it so much.

Preamble: Once upon a time, after several years of reading Knitter’s Review, Owl saw that the arrangements for KRR had changed: instead of being held in Virginia, it was moving to New England – just an easy drive away.  Everything I read about the event suggested it was something special, but previously inaccessible.  So intrepid Karen agreed to go with me to spend 3 days with a group of strangers with whom we shared one thing in common.  That “thing” gave me a really special bond with those I met.

I am thankful for …

… Clara Parkes. If you have never met Clara, you have missed the opportunity to meet a wickedly clever, intrinsically kind person who is a treasure trove of knowledge wrapped up with an unerring sense of “what’s coming next” tied with a delicious ribbon of humor.  She may be Knitting Royalty, but she’s also someone you just want to be around.  And she’s been able to bring together a hundred knitters in person who have otherwise only labored in far-flung places, and turn them into a community.  No, I do not have a crush on her.  I’m proud – and grateful – to call her my friend, though.

… my KRR peeps. Without the Retreat, I would never have been able to have friendships with the people who try to keep me sane.  Nanci, SandyT, Luann, RosiR, Marfa and more – you know who you are.  Without their friendship, the past difficult year would have been much harder.  They buoy me when I need it, check in when I’m too quiet, and share so much wisdom and humor about life beyond the needles.

… fabulous classes. When I was a new knitter, I took a variety of classes.  Not so much, now that I am the one doing the teaching.  But KRR brings the best teachers in the business – the people who have helped me get to the next level, like Melissa Morgan-Oakes.  This year, I’ll be taking a sweater design class with Anne Hanson of Knitspot, and hopefully interacting with Melanie Falick and Ann Budd(At this rate, my knitting-book collection will contain nothing but signed editions.) These are people who don’t talk, they teach.  And I am the better knitter for it.

… guilt-free destashing. The Stash Lounge is somewhat legendary, and for good reason.  You may find cashmere lace or machine-washable baby yarn.  You bring whatever is weighing you down – an old UFO, yarn that was a product of your one-time taste, yarn you know you’ll just never knit.  And you give it away.  Bring something, take something if you want, and acquire some freedom from stuff.

… show and tell. On Friday night, all 100 of us will introduce ourselves with a project that says something about us.  I can’t begin to relate the inspiration that wells up.  Every piece has a story, from Nanci’s now-felted throw to a knitted wedding dress to a pair of socks.  Thinking about it is what led me to knit Elm Row using gorgeous Sundara Silk Lace, knowing Anne would be there to see it.  I needed to prove to myself what I am still capable of.   (Pix and story of now-FO coming after I get home.)

… two nights of unbroken sleep. The guard will be down, and Owl will not have one ear open listening for Darling Bebe’s cries.  Owl will sleep as late as she wants (i.e., past 7 perhaps) with KnittingKittens as the human alarm clock.

… KnittingKittens. While on the subject, the best roomie ev-ah.  What better than someone who doesn’t hear snoring, gets up before you and thus, finishes with ablutions before you even wake up, brings coffee to the room for you – and is your best pal?

More next week.  In the meantime, you know where to find me!

* As of this writing, NutmegOwl is baring the talons.  Work has scheduled Sunday meetings – first for 6 pm, moved to 4 pm, now 3 pm.  My weekend is being encroached upon – and I can’t do a d*** thing about it.  Sigh.  At least I have a job, right?  But still …

Ten on Tuesday

May 19, 2009

Okay, I’ll bite:  Ten on Tuesday.

Ten favorite cities.  You’ll get a sense of the theme here:

1.  Chicago – Home.  And the best place to stage a weekend getaway for yourself to a thoroughly livable place with a lot to see, minus the cattitude of the East Coast.  On the LYS front, I received the warmest welcome EVER in a shop when visiting Knitwerks.

2.  New Orleans – Walk around New Orleans and you have this sense that at the edges of your vision, you can actually see things moldering into decay.  NOLA has an edginess I love, fabulous music in places like the onetime brothel called The Funky Butt (closed since Katrina), and the best food in the world.  The original barbecued shrimp (which have nothing to do with BBQ sauce) and time warp at Pascale’s Manale, oysters at Acme Oyster, and all the grits and biscuits you can handle at Mother’s — plus Audubon Park to walk it all off.

3.  Asheville, NC – The part of NC where the most talented artisans live.  Fabulous food and a downtown that has been preserved and turned into an eclectic, thriving community.  Nice weather, plus the annual Southeastern Annual Fiber Fair.

4.  Wakefield, RI – Main Street lives on, complete with an LYS and the best. ice cream. ever. at Brickley’s.  We spend many summer weekends here, walking around or in the adjacent village of Peace Dale, home of Sweet Cakes bakery, the Jonnycake Center (thrift shop) and Children’s Cottage (consignment shop).

5.  Louisville – Louisville is the Gateway to the South – a highly cultured place mixing Southern charm with Midwest warmth.  Visit Churchill Downs sometime other than Derby weekend.

6.  Northampton, Mass. – The scene of the best date I ever had with DH.  You can walk around all day and be endlessly amused and well-fed — and that’s without even stopping in at Webs.

7.  Quimper, Bretagne, France – Quimper (cam-PAIR) combines the ancient and the nouveau, and for those who prefer the road less traveled, represents real France in the ways that visiting Paris does not.  It reminds me of Maine in many ways, down to the twang in the local accent and the reliance on fishing as a way of life.

8.  Burlington, Vt. – Close enough for a weekend drive, Burlington has a little of everything and it only gets better year after year.  A Single Pebble is a singular experience.  And a visit to the impossibly tiny Green Mountain Spinnery store is right on the way.

9.  Maine – Anywhere in Maine works for me. I particularly love the rocky shore, the warm tidal pools and frigid Atlantic, and lobster rolls everywhere.  People here are just different.  And that’s a good thing.

10.  Austin, Texas – Texas is large enough to have room for one funky city.  Thank heavens I used to visit it often.

Hmmm. Where to next?

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