Archive for July, 2011

release me

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

well, here we are in portland, OR; it’s 4 am and sock summit begins today. instead of staying up til my usual time as i should have, i succumbed to jet lag after the teacher dinner last night and now i’ve been wide awake since 3:00 am. with about six hours to go before classes begin, i figured it might be a good time to blog, heh.

as it happens, several publications have been released recently that include work by your truly, so this would be a great time to talk about them. all those secret projects i worked on earlier this year are finally out of the bag—just in time to celebrate at sock summit.

top o’ the blog really has to be sock knitting master class by your friend and mine—ann budd.

ann asked me to contribute to this book when we first met at sock summit two years ago and we have since become very friendly colleagues (in fact, she’s my roommate here—shhh, she’s still sleeping . . .)

published by interweave press, this book is a treasure trove of sock knitting variety, with a plenitude of design viewpoints, sock styles, fabric textures, and range of stitch patterns. if you’re a technique junkie, this is your book.

but enough about all that, let’s talk about my sock, almondine, which is represented in the lace category.

this design was originally conceived as a not-too-fancy unisex lace sock with a vintage feel—the type of sock either david or i would be very comfortable wearing any day of the week.

i chose a new-to-me yarn—cascade heritage sock—that i had just used to knit a pair of boy socks for my nephew amad. i really enjoyed knitting with this yarn; it has a sturdy, good feeling and the colors are lovely. plus, it’s very reasonably priced and has a nice measure of nylon for good wear—a great choice for guy socks.

the pattern is a scaled-down version of the butternut scarf motif; a little more petite and delicate for the sock. and i have my sights set on using it again for an accessory set—i loved the way it looks pulled over my arm as a pair of mitts. i’ll probably work on those in the next couple of months.

this book is a wonderful resource—even ann budd has set out to knit all the socks in it as a personal project (you can knit along or follow her progress on her blog). in fact, around the knitting table last night, she was working on my almondine, the third sock in the book. YAY.

next up, kollage yarns has produced an exclusive release for sock summit—coffee break knits, an assortment of on-the-go accessory and gift projects. can you guess which one is mine?

when my friend erica asked me to participate, she needed to know right away what i wanted to design for it and without hesitation, i blurted out “how about a doll shawl”.

she said. “uh . . . oh-kay . . . that’s a thought”.
i convinced her it was a fanTAStic idea and she went with it (i’m so lucky that people trust me!). and so i bring you little iris

isn’t she sweet??
now, you can only get this booklet in the kollage booth at sock summit, where all of the participating designers will be signing copies during the lunch hour on saturday.

however, those who cannot be on site can participate in the ravelry virtual sock summit and book giveaway in the kollage ravelry group.

now, if that’s not enough and you’re feeling left out, here’s an upcoming opportunity that’s sure to please you . . . we also did the shawl in an adult size, yay.

soon to be available from kollage through patternfish and part of their feed your creativity program for the upcoming year, the little iris pattern will include both shawl sizes. my good friend barb, who test knit the doll size, will guarantee that it’s a fun and really fast project, much appreciated by granddaughters of a certain age.

you can knit two doll shawls from one skein of creamy and one adult shawl from two skeins of the same yarn.

as with the leafprints shawlette, we will not be selling this pattern in our own shop, so look for it from kollage in just a little while.

another new release that includes one of my pieces is the wool people book from brooklyn tweed, edited and photographed by jared flood.

i am so thrilled to be included in this project—it’s a real honor to be asked to contribute by a fellow designer whose work i admire so much. right now you can download a PDF lookbook to browse for yourself.

my design is the hourglass throw, which can be knit in three sizes from baby to sofa throw to bed coverlet in jared’s delicious shelter worsted weight yarn.

i chose a lace and cable motif that i’ve always loved, but which is difficult to design a garment with (though i’m working on it, sometimes). i added ribbed hems and cabled selvedges to up the coziness factor and make it sturdily appealing for every family member. i picked the hayloft colorway, a wonderfully rich, mustardy gold for my yarn color because i formed an instant bond with it; it just screams cozy fall woolens to me.

i had to design this one in a real hurry while i was on a long teaching trip in april, so our amazing and trusty friend karolyn did the honors of actually knitting the sample up—the very first time i have not knit one of my pieces. haha, in fact, i have yet to see the final product—karolyn shipped it straight to BT from her home.

you can purchase the book or any of the fifteen patterns in it through the BT ravelry store.

now the great thing is that we will be able to sell this pattern in our own shop; i just need to get home to photograph the blanket, which should be there by the time i get back in august.

and very close to my heart, we are finally announcing the release of a very special book by larissa brown called my grandmother’s knitting.

due out september 1st from STC craft, it is available now for preorder. filled with beautiful stories from designers about the family members who taught them to knit, this book includes patterns and lovely photos as well.

my story is about my grandma, who taught me to knit and who knit herself right up until the day she died. her favorite thing to knit was afghans; at one time, almost every member of her quite extended family received a beautiful example of her knitting for weddings, anniversaries, new arrivals, or just for love. i own several incredible works by her myself, including this sampler afghan, knit in the 1950s for my mom, which is featured in the book.

in that spirit, i designed a baby blanket similar to many of the ones she knit, with sturdy garter borders and an openwork motif as the main pattern.

look for this book soon; it’s a real treasure, something you can curl up and read while taking a break from your actual knitting.

and i see now that it’s after 6 and the sun is out (sorta), so i better haul my fanny out of bed if i want to squeeze in a walk before class. more later—hopefully with photos from the summit, yes?

chocolandia

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

ok, i’ve held out long enough—even i can’t stand it any more.
and since i’ll be jet lagged all day, i just gotta do the chocolate post.

difficult as it is to recount such pain and trauma, i think it’s important for me to spill the beans on what we’ve been through the last few days.

it was tough but we survived and i think maybe we’re stronger for it.

actually, the day started out innocently enough—we left the hotel at a nice early hour and decided to stroll through the grounds of the botanical garden, which was right next door (hence the name hotel bloom, i’m guessing?).

what we thought was a smallish configuration of formal gardens, greenhouses, and sculpture, turned out to be a completely lovely and eclectic collection of gardens arranged in a much larger property than is at first apparent.

this pretty shepherdess gazes out over the maze of hedges toward the far corner, where a couple of portals in the shrubbery lead to an allay along a gravel path

lined first with japanese lantern trees and lavender, then with more exotic plantings

until finally we found ourselves wandering among lush fuscia plants loaded with flowers, fig trees, banana trees, and plants with these gorgeous flowers

which we couldn’t identify—they are really big.

this garden segued into a much more shady section that was focused on large specimen trees interspersed with cool grassy stretches and sculpture niches.

which in turn opened up into a sunny, more casual area where wild flowers and water

made a nice background for some inner city wildlife—all around the large pond and stream were herons, turtles, ducks, and well, rats, too.

but we try not to judge . . .

this last area led us back to the street, where we headed for a square in the city center known to house the very best chocolate shops—top of our agenda that day was exploring as many of those as possible.

now this was thursday, which as it happens, was a national holiday. the whole city was celebrating a day off to enjoy fun foods and free time and as luck would have it, the weather was spectacular.

and i promised you chocolate and chocolate you shall have at last.
we needed a shot of coffee before starting though and once fortified, we were ready to get to work—little did we know just how big a day of tasting, eating, and imbibing we had ahead of us.

alice made a beeline for pierre marcolini, pretty much poo-pooing everything else in her path as “chocolate we could find in any high-end shopping district”.

haha, like the one around the corner from me in canton, ohio, right?

all joking aside, the shop was absolutely stunning inside. we were asked to stop taking photos once we got into its depths

but trust me, it was lovely—all black with vintage style glass cases and everything packaged in beautiful boxes with ribbons. sigh.

the tasting went very well, ahem, and each of us left with a black shopping bag.

as if that wasn’t enough, very close by they also have a little take-away cafe serving ice cream, cookies, and cakes, where the displays are equally fabulous.

next we stopped in to explore delacre, where impossibly pretty cookies were displayed in cases, jars, tins, and packages. needless to say, we fell there, too.

by this time we were feeling a bit peckish, so we stopped off at the wittamer cafe before heading to their chocolate shop.

we rested and ate at small but savory lunch in their charming upstairs tearoom during a brief spit of rain (the only shower of the day). once we were refreshed, we walked in the direction of the chocolate shop, where adorable window displays of chocolate hats sucked us in

and an extremely friendly staff showed us around the cases, kindly translating the ingredients into english.

by this time it was pretty late in the afternoon; alice and carol decided to head back to the hotel for a rest while cookie and i continued to walk and take photos, hoping to work off a little of that chocolate we’d scarfed down tasted.

here’s a bit of what we wished we’d consumed, haha. but we couldn’t take it back by that time . . .

on the other hand, you gotta love a city that considers escargot to be fair food. and when in rome . . .

actually, i have a few street shots from earlier in the day that i love. as we entered pierre marcolini, i noticed that a marching band was assembling in the cafe across the street

happily sipping espressos and chatting while they waited for their call to the parade. i had a bird’s eye view from the second floor of the chocolate shop

and once they were called to assemble, they flew into positions and began their march. it was excellent.

this pretty doll shop sits below the main salon of the designer, where people-sized clothing is sold—the dolls are created and dressed in small version of outfits from the collection and make an effective display in their own right.

first we headed up the hill away from the center, walking partway toward the hotel with alice and carol.

we threaded our way further down the hill, heading away from the center along a street lined with furniture shops, salvage depots, draperies, etc, which fed into a part of the city that was a bit more edgy looking.

brussels has some really great grafitti and wall murals, which became one of the subjects we focused our cameras on

tin tin, the famous belgian comic book hero, is one subject that is repeated a few times in murals we spied during our walk.

brussels is very old of course, and because of that, it has some interesting contrasts in its architecture—here and there, where a gap existed or an old building fell down, newer ones replace them, providing a lively mix of styles

another subject we became enamored with is this church, which we ended up circling and viewing from nearly every angle

we love the dramatic shapes that comprise its steeple.

(i love this one—it’s hard to tell, but just as i snapped the photo that bike which rounded the corner and flew past turned out to be a tandem, ridden by a young couple; it was lovely).

when we got to the bottom of the hill and passed under the train tracks, we discovered a funky artist-run coop on the other side, nestled into what appeared to be a small middle eastern quarter.

as we made our way back up, we saw the church from a new angle.

now it was time to head for our evening activity, which was beer tasting. (yes i know; i think our poor stomachs have been paying for this decadent day ever since, haha, though the disturbance does seem to be abating a little now that we are back in london).

thanks to our friendly salesperson at the lush soap shop, we had a tip on a great taproom that was a bit off the beaten track.

and boy was she ever spot ON—we loved this place. with what seems like at least several hundred beers available, there is certainly something for everyone. shown here is the menu of beer on tap, but there is an extensive list of bottled beer that truly boggles the mind.

if you plan to be in brussels and you like beer, this one is a must.

and so ended our day of delicious overload. are we sorry? not a bit. would we do it again? probably—i mean, what part would you/could you leave out??

ok, now here’s the money shot—my grand total take for the day. now keep in mind that most of these items are gifts that i’m taking home and try to look at it as you would your haul from any respectable yarn experience . . .

next stop—antwerp

Monday, July 25th, 2011

after spending most of thursday eating and drinking (more on that tomorrow), we all got up early on friday and packed ourselves off to the train station, bound for antwerp, home of fashion’s avant garde and the modeMuseum, where the unravel knitwear exhibition lured us.

an old and beautiful city in the region of flanders, antwerp has one of the largest seaports in europe and so has an important role in the evolution and history of european commerce.

we found our way easily enough to the tram which headed toward the museum, where our friend dominique was waiting to go through the exhibit with us.

and it was spectacular—very much worth the trip, if you are going to be nearby.

my camera battery ran out of juice just as we headed inside, so i had to rely on my phone camera for photos, but you can still see that the exhibits include some pretty amazing examples of knitted garments from the dawn of the machine knitting age and onward.

at the very start were some quirky fashion/art pieces to introduce the show

which was divided into ten sections, the first of which focused on the introduction of machine knitting and what that meant to the role of knitted fabric in fashion and in daily life.

this section was filled with superbly preserved examples of knitted hose from the 20th century, moving forward.

it was a sock knitter’s paradise, believe me.

from there the show moved on to knitted underwear, swimwear, and then ready to wear

some of which was incredibly appealing to me right on the spot, especially the sporting outfits of the 20s and 30s.

of course, knitwear really hit its stride after WWII, when the use of synthetic fibers blended with wool and cotton produced knits with better memory. the exhibit reflects this change with a sharply increased number and variety of samples.

which in turn rang in the era of clothing as sculpture or art. the pieces shown throughout the exhibits were loaned by the original artists and designers, and were in incredibly beautiful condition.

this luscious ensemble by yohji yakamoto is one of my very favorites.

we enjoyed the whole thing from start to finish and wished there was more. i know i’ll be processing my experience for some time . . .

after the museum, dominique led us toward the riverfront to a beautiful restaurant, where we settled in for lunch with a glass of the local brew.

the hand is the symbol of the city and you can read more about why in this entry on wikipedia.

after lunch we shopped the streets leading to and from the museum, which are lined with designer showrooms and stores. everything is on sale during july, so we tried hard to take advantage of that, but sadly, we were not successful (though we really made an effort).

(gratuitous touristy shot)

we consoled ourselves with waffle desserts, guided by dominique, who explained the difference between brussels waffles (her favorite, but not as easy to find) and liege waffles. as it happens, there is a good brussels waffle shop right next to the yarn store in antwerp, so we were able to investigate firsthand. yep, they were delicious alright, though we did not get to taste the alternative . . .

a little more looking around and then we aimed ourselves back toward the train station. we said goodbye to dominique there, but then decided to stay on for a bit to explore the market in the square across the street.

and who doesn’t love friday market, after all??
we were completely sucked in and managed to taste a whole bunch of cheeses in a very short time.

we made a few purchases to eat on the train back to london the next day and indulged in some people watching as well.

a look at the other booths didn’t entice us into buying anything much, but provided some great visual interest to keep in mind.

everything from soaps to dried fruits to household gadgets can be found at a market like this; it’s a lot of fun and a great way to sample some very local foods.

soon we were on our way back to brussels and our evening meal reservation at les dames tartine.

it was a lovely meal indeed; the food was delicately flavored and well presented, though we may have ordered more than we really should have (sigh, story of our lives).

a wonderful end to our brussels excursion, certainly.

and now suddenly, it is the last night of my whole trip too—the weather was perfection today, so after dropping cookie at the airport, i headed out for a very long walk along the thames path, first one one side of the river, then on the other.

this morning (if all goes well; i can’t seem to check in online, ack) i’m flying out and spending nearly all day getting to portland, oregon for sock summit. i’ll have a couple of days to myself in a hotel beforehand to (hopefully) catch up on work and rest before starting all over again.

if you’ll be there, please stop and say hi; i’m looking forward to meeting you.

feeling bloomy

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

oh boy, did we ever have a great time exploring brussels. and we packed in a lotta walking, eating, and looking in three days, let me tell you—enough for several posts worth of flavors, flora, and photos (i had over 700 pictures when i finally looked, yikes).

we got there wednesday at noon, so we had nearly a full day left to get out, but first, we took a little time to settle into our adorable hotel, which had spacious, light-filled rooms with great sightlines over the city—that’s the view from our window.

the little pissing boy is the symbol of brussels and can be seen in a variety of forms throughout the city center—we saw this one on our way to lunch, but the “authentic” mannekin pis is on another street which we visited the next day.

first things first—we needed to get some lunch. we settled on a pretty touristy place, known for its mussels; a little predictable, but okay. and the frites weren’t bad at all . . .

after lunch we strolled toward the center square a little aimlessly, willing to explore whatever curiosities we encountered.

we weren’t really looking to do any intensive investigating yet, but if something interesting came our way, we’d go with it.

and of course it did. the center square was full of lively activity, including preparations for the national holiday, which was on thursday.

the area is mostly filled with tourists and travelers, but some residents and city workers were passing through as well.

the buildings around the square are wonderful; many of the old guild houses line the surrounding streets, with the largest ones right in the square.

with generous windows and ornamentation indicating the type of guild that was once housed in each, these buildings have been well maintained and retain much of their original beauty.

along with all the other tourists, we took a bunch of pictures here; we couldn’t stop ourselves.

a bright flower market at the center of the square stopped me in my tracks—i’ve been missing my garden and this was a good chance for me to soak in some cheerful color.

and some green as well, yay.

the day was really nice, with cool, soft air and mostly sunny (though we did see a few showers throughout the afternoon). as we would find out later, days like this are rare.

eventually, we found our way to the local tourism center, where we secured directions to several of the museums we were hoping to visit and got ideas for other places to explore.

and so we found our way to the museum of cocoa and chocolate, which was . . . interesting, haha.

tiny, with some wonderful treasures—such as these antique and vintage chocolate molds

and a wealth of historical and practical information about the chocolate trade

it also houses some strangely out-of-place and not terribly PC exhibits. and some that are just strange

like these chocolate dresses that were actually shown on the runway.

all in all, not exactly a scholars paradise, but worth a look if you are in the area. at the end you can attend a demonstration of chocolate making and candy molding on the first floor.

and taste a sampling of delicious belgian chocolates.
we followed up with a stop for coffee and then wandered the side streets some more.

just before heading to the brewers museum, we happened upon our first serious chocolate shop. we didn’t buy a lot, since we knew we had a whole day of chocolate browsing ahead of use, but we did sample a little and cookie found salted caramels that became her standard.

next we went to the brewers museum, which was a bit of a disappointment—nothing more than an indie film about various belgian beers and a sample of the local brew—both were pretty run of the mill.

but there was plenty more to explore the next day and i’ll show you all that tomorrow; it’s 4am and i really must get to sleep now, so i can be up in time to have breakfast with cookie before her flight.
see you next time!