Archive for the ‘book reviews/events’ Category

Rejoice, Spring is Here, Finally

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

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Lovely spring bouquet created from flowers picked by Anne from around the garden on Thursday.

Good grief, the doldrums of winter seems to have finally abated, of course I speak of the endless winter, of which seemingly was going on and on. Huge globules of spring snow were falling on April 2, quite beautiful, but out of place. Yes I know this can be considered de rigueur for the region, but it’s spring after all and the plants and flowers are now blooming. Alas I can shed some of my winter cycling kit, so looking forward to going riding without all of those wintry layers. Used to be rather fond of winter’s slumber, the notion that the earth could have a break of sorts, to rest, to sleep and then to awake in spring with renewed bounty, kind of a celebration of life, if you will.

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This last week or so, I have been working on creating promotional graphics for the new Pairings Club. During one of our meetings, Anne mentioned the use of fancy script in promotional materials, those two words unleashed thoughts of a French bistro menu, beckoning a conceptional idea for the Pairings club. We have all seen those sorts of menus, often cramped with words making it difficult to read, but then you have the use of different fonts, which makes deciphering the menu a little easier. In this club we will explore a multi-sensory experience, pairing Bare Naked Wools yarn with a hand dyed yarn, seasonal recipes and beverages, now the concept of a menu should resonate. Anne will team up with Chef Katharine Wainwright to present four courses of fantastic knitting projects, recipes and wine pairings. No doubt it will be a decidedly different kind of knitting club. Initial signups will be open to current Immersion club members on April 17 and to the general public on May 1.

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Compost pile

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Compost to serve as mulch for garden beds around house, note Chinese fringe tree is slowly dying.

I was able to begin to sorting out the compost pile, working in freezing temperatures no less a few weeks ago. Moving some the compost to various beds around the house, Bil helped out, fortunately it had warmed a bit by then. It’s amazing how another set of hands can increase productivity. Now onwards to the most awesome task of combining the remaining compost with the existing garden mounds created to simulate a rise garden bed, will undo all these mounds. Now that everything has been combined, I have begun expansion of the vegetable garden. This includes removing weeds, leveling, making a walking pathway.  Have placed a layer of cardboard, atop this a very thin layer of soil to assure that cardboard remains in place. Will also add a layer of landscape fabric to further inhibit weed growth, you can see that I rather dislike weeding. Next I can finally begin the forming of the new mounds, tomatoes will be planted here.

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New vegetable garden bed location filled with weeds

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Weeds removed, ground leveled.

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Cardboard layer.

ottawa

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

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many thanks to the ottawa knitting guild for hosting me this past weekend; what a treat to visit the capitol of canada.

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our weekend was jam-packed with classes on everything from yarn to technique to sweater fitness—a really well-rounded program.

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everyone worked very hard (i am constantly awestruck with the diligence of knitters who take three full days of classes), but i think we all came away with lots to work on and think about.

i meant to take lots more photos during classes, but i also like to talk a lot, haha, so i did not pick up my phone camera often enough to accomplish that.

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i didn’t have a lot of free time to get scout out a variety of neighborhoods to show you on this trip, but on sunday i took a long walk after class, beginning with the museum of nature which was right outside my hotel. the old building looks like a castle but has a few modern additions, like this glass case attached to the side which houses a giant jellyfish!

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currently they are working on an exploration garden out front to which i did not have access, but around back i met a dinosaur in the small park.

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it was such a gorgeous, mild afternoon that lots of people were out as i followed the road down to the canal and across into old ottawa east.

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the streets near the university just on the other side looked very charming but they are doing so much road work along that way that i soon decided to head back toward the canal for my walk.

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with evening approaching, there were just a few stragglers out running, walking, and biking; i know i should have taken the time to change into running gear and join them, but after standing on my feet all day, i thought a walk would suit me better.

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the sunset was warm, highlighting the wooded paths alongside the water, where i could enjoy some of the old houses and buildings across the street from a hidden angle.

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i didn’t really know where i was going, haha, and because i didn’t recognize the correct bridge, i of course overshot the point where i had planned to turn.

no matter; what’s a couple of extra miles on such a pretty byway?

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at least i managed to get back to a neighborhood on my planned route before it got dark. i was really happy to finally pop out into the glebe, where many possibilities for supper presented themselves.

i had hoped to do a little more sightseeing this morning, but when i saw the tsunami of email i’d been ignoring, i thought better of it and spent today getting on top of that.

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while i haven’t had massive amounts of time to knit, i did make some decent progress on my second shawl sample in better breakfast fingering yarn—loving the waffle shade, which i’ve been dying to knit with.

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it’s as warm, squishy, and delicious as its name suggests!

well, there will be some extra knitting time today once i finish up this post—i have a bit of a wait in the lobby until it’s time to leave for the airport and then there will be knitting time on the plane. and with a good night’s sleep behind me, i won’t be tempted to doze off like i did on the trip up here, haha.

i had a lovely time here in ottawa; i highly recommend a stop if you are traveling this way; the architecture is gorgeous and the people are extremely friendly—plus, lots of wonderful knitters to meet.

looking forward to getting home and spending time with david. back to work tomorrow too so i’ll have more to tell you later this week.

classy and adventurous

Monday, March 14th, 2016

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not very long ago, i blogged about preparing for and traveling to denver to visit friends and film a new craftsy class. a small group of super people formed a team and worked for weeks beforehand to help make it happen.

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our darling friend cherie worked like a demon to knit most of the stepouts i needed for my class—more on that later, as i got several queries about what step outs actually are (silly me, i didn’t think when i used that word in passing).

evan, my producer and our scriptwriter kim, met with me weekly from the beginning of january to the middle of february to put together a class packed with wonderful, animated material.

they took scribblings like these and worked with the graphic designers to make them into animated illustrations to highlight the lessons. they also helped me distill a book’s worth of talking points into the most important and precise instructional text.

and you—because where would we be without you??—the questions and concerns you write and post about, the feedback that you give me, and the challenges you want to take on, are all resources for choosing material to include in my classes.

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and today this new class goes live! (click here for a specially-priced instructor offer). this class a compendium of some favorite knitting tips and techniques—those foundation principles and methods that i use over and over in my own work because they’ve proven to serve me so well—not that this is a definitive compendium of every technique; these are my favorite ways of doing things, the ones i reach for nearly every time. if you like the way my knitting looks, this class shows how i get those results.

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the craftsy platform provides a special learning environment, perfect for those who cannot access live classes easily, have trouble learning in a distracting environment, or whose work/home life throws up obstacles to traditional classes. the ability to use the platform on any device, to log in at any time, and to the use material over and over—even in slow motion!—is like having a walking, talking encyclopedia at our fingertips.

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just yesterday i was emailing with an artist who wrote me, wanting to know if she could learn to knit on her own—and of course i recommended the craftsy platform, even thought i haven’t yet taught a beginning knitting class for them (though i’d like to; i just love teaching beginners). i really believe they offer top-notch visual support for learning; i am always surprised and pleased at the precise filming when i see a new class.

(our accountant doug has been making noise about learning to knit recently and keep hoping he’ll try it; maybe if you all leave a comment to encourage him, he’ll see how much support he has!).

but i’ve digressed . . .

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this class moves through a series of technique-based lessons, beginning with better basics—understanding some fundamentals in a little more depth to build on with other skills. this section is great for newer knitters, covering topics such as universal techniques for better castons and bindoffs, reading your knitted fabric, using the pattern as a resource, and making yarn work for you.

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those famous step outs make their entrance right away to support each lesson—they are the knitted pieces i use to demonstrate techniques and concepts throughout the class. knitting step outs is a special talent and i can’t be grateful enough that our friend cherie has accepted the assignment of creating them for several of my craftsy classes now.

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many of them need to be knit several times (or seemingly a million times; i’m sure cherie doesn’t even want to hear the phrase “split leaf lace”) in order to show a series of steps; the pieces are then traded in and out of the on-camera frame to show progress. it takes an incredible amount of planning to think weeks ahead about every last demonstration piece we’ll need, not to mention the patience of job to knit them. plus the knitter has to think through the little things almost as much as i do—using the same color yarn holder or stitch marker for each identical piece, so that to the viewer, it appears to be the same one. a few weeks of work to be sure and not even a real FO to show for it (except for this class, haha).

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following right behind the basics are some techniques that build on that foundation—for those who avoid provisional castons, knit-on edgings, fixing mistakes on the needles, and the like—this is where you can boost your confidence and take the bull by the horns. with copious illustration and precise camera work, my techniques for performing these maneuvers are dissected and passed on to you in detail. the only danger here is that you’ll wear out a key or two replaying that video over and over—but no one will be there to tattle about it.

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the final lessons focus on shaping your project into a real, live FO—something to wear and show off with pride. after all, isn’t that what a lot of us worry about, that all of our hours of enjoyment will fall a little in our eyes when the final project hits the light of day? we want the world to see what WE envision as we knit through the hours, right? believe me, you can make it happen.

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and i’ll be there to hold your hand.

because that’s the other cool thing about these classes—not only is the instruction clear, precise, and well documented, but the ability to interact and ask questions of the instructor is invaluable. i check my instructor dashboard every morning (or nearly, if i’m traveling) to answer questions posted during the class. your questions are my breakfast, haha; and you know that’s the most important meal of the day . . .

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i hope you’ll take this opportunity to use this special instructor pricing link to purchase my new class (a bargain at half off). because frankly, your support of my classes through craftsy is one of the ways we keep the blog, our ravelry groups, and other educational projects going; we really appreciate your support to keep that work going!

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by the way, if you’ve been wondering where the heck i’ve been lately, i pack dup a bunch of stuff and holed up in NYC for a bit write a group of patterns for our spring ensemble collection. i have been keeping my nose to the grindstone but i’m nearly done—i return home on wednesday and will tell you ALL about it.

and finally, a special note to my friend sam—happy pi day sam!

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park here

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

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what a difference a week makes! i’ve been away in colorado to film a new craftsy class, which will launch in the middle of march (more on that in a day or two). anyway, when i left, the view out our window was something like this

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every branch surrounding the house was laced with snow and the kids were home from school.

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well enough that the wind was howling and the weather was kind of nasty—i needed to buckle down and get my bags packed

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a big box of stepouts knit by dear cherie arrived just in time; i loved unpacking this treasure box from her hands to mine. i’d been working for weeks on the script with a supervisor and the producer, which resulted in a long list of things to bring—enough to fill a second large suitcase.

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it takes several days to gather and organize all the demonstration supplies, swatches, yarns and samples that i need for the shoot and if i forget anything in the way of knitting, i’m out of luck, since there is no time to make more once i get there.

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all the while i was eyeing the sample skein of our new better breakfast worsted that erica put in my hands the week before last and now lay quietly waiting for me to pay attention to it. man, do i want a hat out of this or what?? it’s SOOooo cozy! i had to be content with giving it a squeeze and hug every now and then—too much else to attend to.

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because of course there was my own knitting to organize and pack, as well as my clothes (which admittedly are usually the lowest priority, haha).

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and don’t even ask what my desk looks like these days—oops, i guess you don’t have to  . . .

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we had photos shorts scheduled for several outfits before i left and there was knitting to finish up too—the first installment of our IMMERSION club went out just days before i traveled and i wanted to get these mitts in erica’s hands as well, in case she would see the recipient and could pass them on. they are just the simplest type, but in our breakfast blend DK, perfect for their purpose.

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she and i got together to make a set of mitts, cowl, and ear warmer for our darling UPS guy brice, after he inquired about buying some mitts from us. apparently, he thinks they are the BOMB. well, we couldn’t pass up that opportunity could we? we will update you with modeling shots as soon as we can catch him (he’s quick when he’s working). just wait til you see how cute he is (is there really any other kind of UPS guy??)

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thankfully, everything got done in the nick of time and off i went. i worked on two projects during my flights—sleeves for a new top design that i’ll show you in a few days and made a little headway on my physalis shawl in stone soup fingering yarn.

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when i first cast this project on i was between things and needed a quick knit—i totally thought i’d have it done in a few days as i had the other two that i knit. but no. on the other hand, it’s become a bit of a comfort knit to pick up when i want something cozy in my hands that i know by heart (it looks complicated, but it’s not all that, really).

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and i love it in this heavier yarn—it’s so dramatic. even though it will be much more stunning once it’s blocked, it still draws lots of attention from onlookers who are dying to get a closer peek as i work on it. these leaves are going to be over the top bold when it’s done. i used size 9 (5.5 mm) needles for the hem and size 8 (5.0 mm) for the body; i’m knitting the medium size and it’s looking like i’ll use somewhere around one and a half skeins. it will probably block out to the same size as a large.

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while the ultimate purpose of my trip was to film a class, i managed to build in a few days beforehand to visit our great friends luci and scott, who live in ft collins (they recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary and renewed their vows in vegas as one part of the celebration). i find this photo of them so amusing and cute, posing with the elvis that attended the ceremony. luci is a filmmaker who produces the brilliant moving postcard series of weekly one-minute films (i love her work!).

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soon after i dropped my bags in their guest room we were out the door to explore.

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the weather was much finer in colorado than in canton, and whiskey had been waiting all day to get out there and run. so we walked and let her go nuts for a  while as the sun began to set.

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i love this photo of the two trees leaning together and holding hands; it reminds me of david and me.

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back ant the house while we went over our options for dinner, scott showed me part of his collection of cozies (he rotates the ones from the counter rack periodically with an even bigger collection from a drawer). seriously, i had no idea.

one thing i did notice—the collection is seriously lacking in hand knit cozies; must rectify that posthaste (isn’t it great when you come up with a brilliant gift idea for that special couple?).

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scott took friday off so we could go someplace a little further afield and have an all-day outing. we talked through our options over a big breakfast and by early afternoon, were heading onto a lory state park trail under a gloriously warm sun and blue, blue sky.

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it was windy tho, so we kept our jackets on as we set out over the hills.

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mad textures were everywhere—i have a separate post brewing about that for later in the week.

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spring was beginning to show its face in colorado alright—in addition to feeling my allergies rearing, there were visual hints everywhere.

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soon we could see the horsetooth reservoir ahead; we wanted to get to the beach to see the water and explore the shoreline.

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at the crest, we had a wide angle view from above and began our descent toward one of its many land spits. the state park side is often quieter than the horsetooth open area side and on this friday, the grounds were nearly deserted.

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fires a few years ago claimed some trees, though much of the trail we were on was still intact. the blackened areas had weathered some as well, so the charred woods stood among new growth of grasses.

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clearly the ground here is full of clay, haha—everything was pinky red where it was exposed. the wide beach is filled will all manner of interesting debris. the wind carves every surface and tree into a curving element, which often catch me by surprise when i review photos—i don’t necessarily see it at the time, but that wind is some artist.

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lots of great big rocks create contrast to the smaller bits and pieces.

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they tumble down from the cliffs in huge slides like this one; standing at the bottom we could see exactly how this mass fell away and cascaded down, probably during an ice melt that loosed the cracked sedimentary layers.

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whiskey, of course was just beside herself with the fun, although none of us could quite summon up her eagerness to paddle around in the icy water.

while heading back to the car we realized we had time to check out another spot, so we decided to head back to ft collins via the poudre canyon highway and visit the gateway natural area on the way home. i was so agog watching the cliffs go by that i totally forgot take pictures along the road (sorry!).

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we hit the gateway natural area about an hour before sunset when the light was turning everything golden while we followed the creek trail into the woods.

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for some reason i was taken with this spot, where the water was like glass on one side of the shoal but running briskly on the other. there’s nothing like the sound of rushing water. we saw plenty of people who took advantage of the fine weather and running water to do some fly fishing.

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the trail divides around this magnificent thrust of rock at the center.

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whiskey could not believe her great good luck in having a whole day outside with everyone present—the best day ever.

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and another reservoir?? stop it. a little windy yes, but totally worth the climb to see it.

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now the sun was well and truly setting on our day; i got this wonderful shot of the light streaming through the grasses.

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and unbeknownst to me, luci took this beautiful photo of me walking ahead on the road and texted it over to me as we left the park; i love it.

back to the house for friday movie night; they were trying to see all of the oscar nominated films before the weekend. so we ordered some thai food and settled in to watch room, which we all really liked. i knitted away on my sleeves too; the perfect end to a wonderful day.

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more to come later this week—i didn’t even begin to show you all the photos i took last week. i’m headed for NYC on tuesday, but i’ve lined up several posts so you can enjoy them while i settle in and come up with some more stuff to show you.

i still have to start packing for this next trip as well . . . i have lots of yarn to wind and take along (i’m kind of hoping to finish up that one top before i go just so i can leave the yarn home, haha). i would feel slightly ashamed to frag along a second suitcase just for yarn, but i might have to (there are some books as well, sigh)

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i’ll be knitting a LOT and working on patterns for our spring ensemble, so there will be plenty of eye candy to drool over, as well as ideas for our photo shoots. erica will also be in and out this week with some posts about books—i have a stack of them that i’ve gotten behind on writing about, many with giveaway copies available so don’t miss those.

it won’t be ALL work—i’m looking forward to meeting up with our friends cathy and agnes while i’m in new york to play a bit—see you in the big city . . .