summit redux—a story in yarn

Posted on 35 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, yarn and dyeing

sock summit was such an incredible event and an amazing experience—i was honored to be asked to teach at the convention and had looked forward to it for over a year. i don’t think i can ever find the words to thank tina and stephanie and all the ST-2s

for including me in the group of instructors invited to teach alongside lifelong heroes such as barbara walker, anna zilboorg, priscilla gibson-roberts, meg swansen, judith mackenzie mccuin, and so many professional peers who i have come to know and love through the fine art of knitting.

by the time august 5, 2009 arrived, i was giddy with anticipation. i’m still pinching myself that i was actually mingling with all of these great knitters at the teacher’s dinner that evening.

after we ate and had a few little speeches, introductions, and some pictures, we each received a surprise commemorative tote bag containing goodies from the event sponsors. the bag was big—generous with pockets and roomy inside. little did i know that by the time the summit was over, it would be filled to overflowing with yarn, fiber, and sundries. so much so that i would have to send it home by post—no way could i carry it all with my luggage.

yesterday, it arrived safely on my doorstep and now i can share the treasure trove inside with you.

probably my favorite thing inside the bag at this point was a skein of STR mediumweight in the ST-2 colorway

isn’t it gorgeous?? i’m so happy i got one! i promised rachel h. that i would design a sock with it (and you know, i don’t have a sock on the needles right now . . .). i even thought of the perfect thing; i just have to play around a bit with some stitches to make it happen.

digging around in the bag some more, i found a bundle of yarn from webs

two skeins of valley yarns huntington and one skein of franklin hand-dyed (i am lovin’ this colorway—i think it’s mountsprin).

there were non-yarn goodies as well, including luna bars, pretty knitter’s soap, and, best of all—gift certificates from the loopy ewe and abundant yarn and dyeworks (must not forget to use these!)

the knitmore girls tape measure was actually not in the bag; i received that the next morning when i did a little interview for their podcast. i’m not sure when it will air, but i’ll let you know as soon as i know.

oh, but it doesn’t end there—more yarn to go (and we are still at the teacher’s dinner—the market hasn’t even opened yet).

zauberball sock in rich, deep plums and brick reds; a soft, fuzzy singles from schoppel wolle. i’m not sure i’d knit socks from it, but then again, maybe . . . it’s got nylon, so it might wear better than some other singles. or it might make a beautiful scarf.

a bundle of louet riverstone, enough for maybe a vest or a boy sweater, was at the bottom of the bag, packaged up with some SOAK.

this was all totally unexpected—at least by me . . . i was thrilled and awed just to be in that room and then we all got present too?? wow.

the next few days were sort-of a blur; i had a lot of classes to teach and not much time to spend in the market. i’m afraid most of my time there was spent racing around, trying to see as many people as possible and failing, hehe. you know—the yarn fumes.

but now that i’m home and able to think a little more clearly, i’ll try to describe the market as best i can. first of all, it was very, very big. i’ve never been to stitches or to a convention for knitters, but i’m assuming this market was bigger than most. and really really special.

the reason i say that is that this market was almost entirely filled with hand dyers and handcrafters of specialty knitting tools and accessories. the sheer artistry was palpable at every turn. it was entirely clear that this market was handcrafted by someone (that is, someone whose initials are TINA) who cares a LOT about exposing us to the best that our community has to offer.

you might say, “well, of course!”
but even my very favorite shows include exhibitors that are merely so-so. not true at the summit—not by a long shot. if anything, the outstanding quality in each booth was almost crippling—how could one choose amongst them?

(then, as evidenced by my own carryout bag, there were those of us that simply didn’t, ahem—we just got one of everything, hehehe).

where should i begin?
i know—let’s look at the accident i had when josette put a spell on me what i scored at enchanted knoll farm. but first, i just want to say that truly, it isn’t fair what some dyers are up to these days—some of them are absolutely ruthless in their production of beautiful things.

i ask you—is it any wonder that i weakened?? just look at those colors—i’m already plotting how NOT to knit them for david. well, maybe one; but only for the anniversary socks. josette’s BFL sock is the softest i’ve ever felt and still, i can see it is a good strong yarn. i can’t wait to dig in. i bought that blood-red mix specifically to knit socks for david, but i’m wavering, selfishly, now (oh, c’mon; i know you do it, too). i think i could see my way clear to letting him have the brown ones, but the red . . . i could burn in hell for it, but i may end up saving that one for me.

on friday, someone brought this lovely skein of anzula sock yarn to class as a gift from the dyer—so nice of her! i know a little boy who likes blue very much and who now loves handknit socks as well—this will be perfect, since i had nothing like it in my stash.

which brings me to another thought about sock summit—how very very nice everyone was to me throughout the weekend. i just love meeting people i’ve known through the blog and i have fun teaching classes, so i am always thrilled when students share that, too. and the vendors were amazing—we received such generous gifts of yarn and time all weekend long, as dyers invited us to browse their booths, explained their yarn lines in detail, and listened to our ideas. collaboration is so important in our field and i find the enthusiasm of other professionals an exciting and vital part of the design process. it was very good to touch base with lots of dyers and vendors in one weekend (though sadly, i did not get to talk to everyone i wanted to).

on saturday i finally hooked up with ronni, who flew in that morning for a quick two-day weekend at the summit. we had so much to catch up on; i was excited to see her again. she was helping out a friend by working in the tactile fiber arts booth (one of the dyers i never got to speak to, darn), and brought me a gift of some gorgeous fiber

this is a seriously soft and luxurious yak/merino blend in colorway sky (she knows me so well). i can’t wait to try it out.

actually, i picked up a few spinning goodies over the weekend—just a few—there were so many tempting things. at the miss babs booth, which i visited with cookie on sunday, we were absolutely blown away by the array of yarns and fibers (ooops, i think i turned cookie on to a whole yarniverse she hadn’t seen before)

babs herself was on hand to show us around and it was a real treat to finally meet and hug her in person. you might remember that she provided the gorgeous yummy sock yarn for the bricker socks i designed this past spring (a yarn i enjoyed knitting with immensely). and she has lots of other beautiful yarns in sooo many colorways. including that rusty-gold skein of yet merino/silk laceweight i picked up.
what i didn’t know is that she also dyes fiber—a smoky batch of BFL in the moat colorway caught my eye and she quickly pulled it down and pressed it into my hands (the vixen!). it’s a blend of dark and light BFL fiber that is overdyed in dark tones of charcoal, green, and black. we stayed for quite a while in that booth—babs is a charming and delightful person to talk to and so interested in working together; i feel really lucky to have met her and hope to spend time with her again soon.

while i didn’t get to see most people for more than a few minutes over the whole weekend, i did run into liz bernstein of mackintosh yarns several times, who always met me with a big wave and a warm smile—i just love that about her. liz sent me yarn last winter that i have my eye on but haven’t had a chance to use yet (though something is brewing there). she and her mom, cathy, offered a beautiful array of fibers and colors for knitting and spinning from their bright, tiny booth.

once again i was taken with the darker shades of sock and fingering yarn and walked away with two skeins. the top one is celtic sock yarn in colorway cauldron and the bottom one is skye sock yarn in colorway safari.

as we were walking through the market on sunday, a very nice rep from berocco (whose name i didn’t catch, but thank you!) ran up behind me and pushed two skeins of ultra alpaca light into my bag (this really did happen). i’m telling you—people are just too nice. these are lovely colors that will make wonderful socks for the guys—you can’t go wrong with a great green and a nice spicy rust. or a flashy metallic sock when a cute boy asks for it, hehe.

(i was really glad he picked that one, since they were so generous to me at the summit.)

i bought a copy of chrissy gardiner’s new sock book, toe-up!

she and her business partner, donna, have become friends to me over the last year or so; we meet at TNNA and i always enjoy spending time with them, though sadly we did not have a chance to have dinner as we’d hoped.
i can certainly use some expansion of my toe-up sock techniques, so i’m looking forward to reading it. chrissy has lots of cute and sophisticated socks included, along with some great step-by-step instructional passages.

another attraction of the book is that our good friend gail

photographed all the patterns and techniques contained inside—in her always-beautiful style. i’m so excited for her; she did a great job. yay, gail.

and last but not least—one booth i kept going back to drool over was a verb for keeping warm. kristine had a great spot right near the front of the market and i couldn’t help but pause every time i passed by—it was that good. first of all, kristine herself is just lovely—perpetually calm and collected, she has a thoughtful sensibility toward her work and her fibers. her intense interest in natural dyes and a passion for collecting dye methods is fascinating to listen to. i could have taken home half the booth—she gave me free rein in that regard, bless her—but i restrained myself to just a couple of things; we will have plenty of time to work together, heh, no need to be piggy about it, now.

i selected a skein of wishing wool/silk laceweight for a specific project in a colorway she created new for sock summit—filigree. this antique gold-and-rust colorway will look really pretty, i think, in a lace pattern i swatched back when i was beginning thee nightingale stole—i’ve kept it in mind for a heavier lace yarn that had a little more depth and i think now i’ve found it (hattie, are you psyched??).
i also took the opportunity to try a bit of kristine’s gorgeous spinning fiber—two very special ounces of her baby camel/silk blend in colorway taboo. taboo indeed—if i’d had this one on sunday, it would have been my top-choice, hands down, as a spinning treat. now i’ll have to wait, but maybe it will be nice to take along to rhinebeck in october . . .

so yes, i came home with quite the little haul. i’m not ashamed though—so much of it will be used right away in projects that i have lined up. you might not see it again for a bit, but when you do, you’ll be amazed at the array of lovelies it will become.

haha, i’ve been having a funny exchange with my older brother all summer about sock summit—i think it was just really really hard for him to get his head around the whole idea of thousands of knitters flocking to oregon to . . . knit socks. and to maybe take a class from me (i am, after all, forever his annoying little sister).

oh, i made comparisons with rock concerts, where legions of fans flock to a stadium to have just one group blast their eardrums out for a few hours. i talked about economic impact, the growth of small business, passion, scholarship—all manner of directions that might drive the point home.

when i started sending photos of the luminaries sitting across from me at the opening ceremonies and the rush of attendees into the market, he began to form a better picture.

but the thing that REALLY drove home the magnitude of the event??

lanyards with “sock summit 2009” printed on them.

no joke—all of a sudden it was not a knitting bee any more. go figure.
suddenly he was bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have one from the inaugural sock summit event (he lives in korea and sadly, that’s just a little too far for a weekend trip, heh), and boy that would be a real conversation starter at work, where he needs to display a badge at all times (HINT). that’s my ultra-cool big brother for ya.

fortunately, i have two, since i was both a vendor and a teacher, so i’m sending one to him. i’ll keep the vendor card, but he can have the neckstrap. heck, i’ll even send him a button.

light at the end of the tunnel

Posted on 31 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, projects

celebrating the growing chasm in the center of my lace yarn cake—just look at that . . i might be almost done soon (amazing how much faster a project goes when i actually knit on it). meanwhile the stole itself looks pretty much the same, so i won’t bore you with another photo of that, heh.

by yesterday afternoon, i had also caught up with the tomatoes; everything that was ripe enough had either been cooked or dried. this pan of multi-colored cherry tomatoes was just about to go into the oven when i snapped the picture—the first sun we’d had in days was lighting up each color with such juicy passion, mmm.

i’m a sucker for trying all different varieties of vegetables—this year i think i planted 12 or 14 different kinds of tomatoes, just one or two plants each. i like to compare them with each other for flavor and in the big ones, there are major differences sometimes. the funny thing is that of the small ones, i already know from experience that the red ones are the sweetest, but i insist on growing all the colors just for variety (even in the case of ones i don’t care for all that much).

i have these really ugly big tomatoes that i’ve been avoiding all summer—they are grayish greenish pink (i swear) and lumpy and really, really unattractive—they never look appetizingly ripe. but i found one split open the other day, so in order not to waste it (i have a thing about not wasting food), i sliced it up for a sandwich.
oh. my. gravy. it was spectacular.
and the plant it came off of is full of them (i think everyone else has been avoiding them too, hehehe).

i’m not really sure what the heck that box contains, but whatever it is, it’s NOT my yarn from sock summit. the cool thing is that my big box of sock summit yarn arrived with it (far right) and it looks positively miniscule next to whatever that is.
not that david cares, but it makes me feel a little better.

i meant to open and photograph that yarn box for this post, but then the day passed and it was getting dark before i knew it—tomorrow we’ll do a yarn parade, ok? a little post-summit replay, if you will (i did come away with some beautiful yarn . . .)

i’m compiling a bunch of stuff to send ot my SIL, nan, to fuel her budding knitting habit. i have loads of sock leftovers that she can use for baby and boy-sized socks and little hats as well. i need to write a simple set of hat instructions for her—i told her a hat would be a nice diversion if she tired of socks and that baby hats are a snap to kit (and micah will need some). now i have to distill the pattern to a few simple steps and knit a sample that she can follow (she’s really good at seeing what she needs to do from a knitted piece).

ok, now that i’m several paragraphs into this post, i’ll be right up front about it: i don’t have much sharable knitting today. i did start a couple for new projects, but two of them are gifts and one has to be a secret for a little while longer (not too long).

i started sewing the sleeves into my gray maze sweater during my monday afternoon class

everything is fitting together just fine—all i need now is to sit and work on it during daylight hours one day this week so i can get it finished. it’s a little difficult for me to see at night, unfortunately (and i’m committed to finishing nightingale at night).

just before i left for sock summit in the beginning of the month, we found a great deal on a new town bike for me. i’m still using my beloved old bianchi, but the gear shifting on it has been shaky since last year. we looked into upgrading/fixing it, but then david found this new bike with the gear system we wanted for 55% off—about what the parts alone would cost

i was unsure about the fit, but after taking back to the shop today for a little comparison with another bike, i think it’s going to work well. tomorrow i can take it for its first really hard ride.

BTW, there are great deals everywhere on bikes right now; if you’ve been thinking about switching to alternative transportation and/or looking for a great exercise option, this is your chance.
biking is a wonderful way to get around town and to stay in good shape. i live in a city that is not at all bike-friendly, but riding is still my preferred method of getting from here to there. of course i don’t usually ride my bike on the same routes i would drive, but it’s not hard to plan alternative routes that are safe and enjoyable—bikes can often take shortcuts that cars cannot. biking also save tons of time because you are combining commuting with exercise.

i was very impressed while visiting portland that so many people ride bikes everywhere. i really wish my city was more like that . . .

ok, well, i think i said something about needing to knit—since i’m caught up on almost everything else, now is the time i guess.

a touch of fall in the air

Posted on 29 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects, spinning and fiber

even before i left town, there was a whiff of fall in the air now and then at night; not just the scent of an overly-cool summer, but the true aroma of leaves melding with ground, woodsmoke, and a sharp edge to the breeze here and there. this thelma sanders winter squash is looking almost ready to pick. though the stem hasn’t dried yet, i may have to cut it down to prevent it from hurting itself as it hangs there, heh. this might make a yummy soup with the leeks and celeriac i have growing, which should be ready soon to dig up and use.
the large acorn squash i’d left it in the garden to harden was gone when i got back, so hopefully it was done and tasted good . . .

i heard it was warm and humid while i was away, but since i’ve been home, the weather makes me think of nothing but the arrival of fall—under an overcast, grayish sky, the garden is fading at the top level, while moulding in its bottom layers. it’s chilly in that way that promises to get chillier (if you know what i mean) and the days are very noticeably shorter now.

and this morning, a sure sign that autumn is almost here

toad lilies blooming—the last of our summer flowers. not as plentiful this year; like all the lilies in the back bed, they are making a sparse showing, though they have spread over time and in other years have been quite plentiful. i’m not sure if they’ve been choked out by other things or if we need to amend the soil back there or if it’s just an off year for them. must investigate.

before i get started with what’s going on around here, i want to announce what’s going on at the woolen rabbit store store

kim has posted a pre-orders page for the honey baby blanket kit she is offering in four dreamy colorways. kits include a pattern for the blanket and enough of her essence superwash merino fingering yarn to complete the project.
pre-ordered kits will be shipped as soon as the pattern editing is complete; sometime within the next week or so. the pattern will also be available as a standalone item in the knitspot pattern shop.

as you know, sunday is the day that my spinning class convenes and we had a happy, noisy reunion this morning after a two-week break (way too long!).

anne marie brought a skein of her finished coopworth yarn for our inspection and a couple of books with sweaters marked as possible project to knit with it.

she ended up with about 1800 yards of this squishy worsted weight yarn, so she’s considering a cabled cardigan, slight oversized. one possibility is from the old knitting from the british isles book; she’s had that one earmarked for years (i confess i have those tags in a lot of my old books too). the other is from a fine fleece by lisa lloyd.
we’ll keep you updated on her final pick (watch, she’ll probably have it all knit up by next week).

linda also brought finished yarn along to show us—two skeins of fingering weight 2-ply spun from briar rose BFL in a taupe/grey-plum/charcoal colorway that i’ve been drooling over all summer. she got about 550 or 600 yards here to play with—just in time for mitt-knitting season (speaking of which, mitt-knitting fever is starting to invade my system; must get organized . . .).

i was ready to start a new project, but hadn’t given it any forethought, so i was frantically digging through the fiber stash when anne marie arrived this morning, hahaha. i promptly dragged her upstairs to help me pick something from the stacked boxes in my workroom, which being stacked and largely unavailable visually, hold many forgotten secrets.

sure enough, we found a treasure that was perfect

a two-ounce packet of chasing rainbows dyeworks super-delish, 50/50 tussah/cashmere in evergreen—a mix of deep teals, browns, and gray-greens

an extraordinary treat i purchased from carolina homespun at rhinebeck a few years ago and was “saving for something special”. well, what’s more special that being reunited with my spinning pals on an early-fall sunday morning??

just what i needed wanted.
i loosed the top just slightly before spinning and got started—i haven’t spun anything with silk in a very long while so i was looking forward to this

and i wasn’t at all disappointed—in fact, it’s even better than i dreamed it would be. i’m spinning as fine a 2-ply as i can because i’d like to knit a butternut scarf for myself. the original butternut made its way back to abby, who spun the yarn for it, and i miss having a sample for myself (but this yarn could become something completely different by the time i get finished with it).

i was in heaven most of the two hours as we spun and talked about everything that’s happened to us over the last three weeks (it seemed soo long a time!).

before i left, you might remember that i started sampling some finn fiber that anne marie and i purchased the the wooster show in may. and i fully intended to get into a big spinning project with that upon my return . . .

but i need to do some more sampling before i go forward. the 3-ply yarn i ended up with after my first attempt is soft and fluffy, but also an awful lot more fuzzy than i really want for a sweater—and not in a good way. finn is short and fine; there’s too much fiber sticking out of the yarn here, IMHO. i’d like something smoother, both for better stitch definition and less tendency to pill. i’ll keep working on the samples in-between spinning my cashmere/silk, with the hope that i’ll arrive at one i like in order to commence with that project.

over the last few days, my knitting time has been seriously impeded due to catching up on paperwork i could not do while on the road. yesterday by 8 pm i had all the bookkeeping squared away, bills paid, and ads made for the upcoming month (BIG chunk of work, there . . .). i even read and attended to all 768 emails that landed in inbox between leaving las vegas and now.

i still managed some late-night knitting and have added four more repeats to the nightingale stole, though no new projects have made their way onto the needles (and i actually have one or two all set to go, arggh—but i’m being responsible, heh).

my yarn cake is noticeably caving which makes me veddy, veddy happy—it means that no matter how slow it feels like i’m knitting, i am getting closer to finishing and blocking.

today, i think i’ll use my afternoon to cook a big skillet of curry (i can’t seem to get enough fresh veggies into my system, no matter what i do; just sayin’), then get one of those new projects on the needles (if for no other reason than to have something new to show you this week!). later tonight, i’ll work a little more on the nightingale while we watch TV (even there we are furiously playing catch-up).

and with that, i think i will retire to my quiet house to do just that.

home plate

Posted on 34 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

well, here we are, back in ohio.
i forgot all about the new steps until beckie pulled up in front of them last night (thank you again beckie for picking us up from the airport!), but ooohh, what a great sight to come home to.

i ran up and down a couple of times after admiring them from the sidewalk, then marveled at the evenness of the landing and the nice pattern they used in laying the concrete. so much better than what was here before . . .

ok, so maybe i was a little punch-drunk after being in a plane all day, hehe.
it feels like months since i’ve been here . . . not in a bad way, but still, it was sooo-o-o-o good to sleep in my own bed last night.

this morning came all too soon and when i opened my eyes, i knew the moment of truth had come—time to go out and face the mess of an untended garden. since it was too early for my repaired computer to arrive, i didn’t have any good excuses to avoid getting to work.

not that it was ignored by any means—beckie, anne c., and a few others were extremely generous in coming over to pick stuff while we were away and beckie even cooked up some big batches of tomatoes from what she picked (bless her). but anyone who has a vegetable patch knows that all sorts of pesty infestations and overgrowth can run rampant if a gardener turns her back for even a little while.

hahaha, i laughed out loud at the neat pile of 2-foot-long squash in the corner (foot added for scale) and then got to work adding a few more that were still attached to the vines.

other than a few sick tomato plants (normal for this time of year in our humid environment, i think), everything looked healthy and was loaded with produce.

david cooked and froze twelve quarts of tomatoes before he left home—way to go david—and beckie cooked up about twelve more that she refuses to keep and insists she doesn’t have room for.
i discovered that david also spread a big batch of tomatoes to ripen on the porch table, which were more than ready now.

these i washed up to cook this afternoon; maybe it’s time to think about making paste since we have so many quarts of puree already.

now the porch table was free to spread out today’s pickings—it’s all about the rotation system this time of year.
meanwhile, we have an abundance of cherry tomatoes too

while i have the oven on to make paste, i’ll dry these as well (click here to see how it’s done). the dried tomatoes are much more compact to store and add an amazingly flavorful punch to stews, sauces, curries, and chili.

and while i’m doing that, i may as well roast up all that eggplant to freeze for winter, too
(my goodness—who’da thunk all that would come out of just six plants?). if i wait, the pile will just get bigger.

i have to admit, it’s a little overwhelming, heh. just writing about it makes me feel exhausted. maybe a nap first, eh?

and for sure, i won’t do anything with the greens til tomorrow or the next day.

i just can’t face the idea of them right now (and they’ll be fine . . .)

anyway, let’s talk about knitting—that’s really what we’re here for.
by the time we left vegas, believe it or not, i didn’t have much left in the way of projects to knit on the plane.

while i was oregon, i knit two mates for the nate socks i knit in july. then i knit three pair of boy socks in las vegas. and i started another sock that i’m keeping under wraps, at least for now (plus, i have to figure out the next part, so that project is stalled).

between the two places, i also finished both sleeves for my gray maze sweater.

they just need to be sewn in and the garment washed to block it. i’ll finally have the new charcoal gray sweater i started—what—three or four years ago?? the cool thing is, it’s still exactly what i want for the in-between seasons. light fabric, neutral color; it will go with lots of things.

i have a little blue lace cardigan in the same yarn, that i wore a lot at sock summit, so i know it’s a good weight for chilly days that aren’t truly cold.

by our last day, what i had left in my unfinished knitting queue was a brand-new project that i didn’t start yet (before i left home, i so thought i’d have the time and inclination to start something new, HAHAHA!) and the nightingale stole.

the choice then, was clear—i was not going to start a brand-new project while traveling. period. (ok, maybe if it was a sock—but it’s not).

with a total of about nine hours of sitting time ahead, i took out my trusty nightingale stole and got to work. it’s truly an easy pattern for me at this point, though i still need to have the chart handy for the edging, since i work on it only in fits and starts.

anyway, i think i added about another foot to the length yesterday and feeling very sure i was getting close to being finished. so this morning while i was taking pictures, i measured it.

sob.

not even close.
dang. it just doesn’t grow, you know?
i am alternately afraid of two things: A) i will dutifully knit to the estimated length and it will double in size when i block it, thus making it far too long or B) i will work until i’m just a hair shy of slitting my throat, and stop, no matter how short it is of the estimated knitting length. i’ll be completely fine with that until i’m definitely NOT ok with it and wonder what’s wrong with me that i could not have stuck with the silly thing just a little longer so as to have a piece i love.

maybe i should take care of this mail.
and processing all those tomatoes is starting to look really good to me, too . . .

after a nap.