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Rose City Yarn Crawl 2020

8 Mar

Despite my self-imposed yarn moratorium, I happily spent a day out and about for the Rose City Yarn Crawl (RCYC). It’s a four day event to explore the local yarn shops in and around Portland, Oregon – but I was only devoting one day to it this year.

I knew from the start I wouldn’t get to all ten shops, but I had a plan in which I could visit six. I mapped out a route that included stops for groceries, dog food and library books and set off.

As always, the shops were full of beautiful yarn and projects.

I was (mostly) faithful to the yarn moratorium. I bought two complimentary skeins from a dyer I really like and one from the yarn shop closest to my house. It will be closing its brick and mortar store soon and becoming an exclusively online shop so I got their last RCYC colorway. Instead of yarn, I bought two knitting books, some candles, and a tote bag.

What struck me about this year was how much joy I got from talking with the people who created the items I bought. I had ordered something from the tote bag maker a few weeks ago. As I was telling her my story of the day I ordered – how I had the kids reading silently as my sister and I messaged each other waiting for the orders to open – she asked me, “Is your last name Gillespie?”. Small makers pay attention to their clients.

I had a great conversation with the dyer I love. She is a former English teacher and has yarns based on Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Clearly, we have similar tastes in literature.

I was exhausted by the time I got home, but I was also happy. The shops had been full of people – coronavirus wasn’t keeping the knitters away. And I was glad for those moments of connection. Knitting, like writing, can be a solitary pursuit, so it is joyous when we can connect with others.

 

 

 

 

Finish strong – Day 1 of the SOLSC

1 Mar

Today is the first day of the Two Writing Teachers’ March Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) and I am writing about endings.

At several of the conferences I had last week, I told families that we wanted their child to “finish strong”. And finishing strong was what I spent my weekend doing.

People think that once the knitting is done a project is complete, but there are several things that need to happen before a project is well and truly finished. I had finished the knitting of my most recent project last Sunday and proudly posted this picture.

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I received many lovely comments about the work, and about Lucy. No one commented on all the little loose ends hanging off the side. This weekend was all about tying those loose ends, literally and figuratively.  It took me most of Saturday morning to weave in all 96 loose ends neatly. And there was still work to do.

First, the wrap needed a bath, then rolled in towels to remove moisture.

 

Then, it had to be blocked.

The Knitter’s Dictionary  defines blocking as “a catch-all term for manipulating your finished knitting to smooth out the fabric, even out the stitches, tidy up the stitch patterns, and bring the fabric to the finished size”.  This can be done in a number of ways, but I decided this pattern needed to be pinned on blocking mats. The problem was, that I didn’t have a surface large enough, or the right number of mats, so I did some MacGyvering and came up with a solution that would keep it out of Lucy’s way.

In a day or two, it should be dry enough and for me to remove it without out fear of it losing any of the size it blocked to. Then, and only then, will it be truly finished.

Like flies to manure

7 Oct

As soon as the instructor started placing materials on the tables, I knew she wasn’t joking about it being a hands on workshop. The class was entitled “Breed Specific Knitting” and before lay yarn from ten different breeds of sheep. As she unpacked, the air filled with the smell of farm and lanolin. I was itching to reach out and touch. So were the other people in my class. We were drawn to the fleece like flies to manure – and there was manure.

It was my first day at Knit City, who’s motto is “A modern fibre event”. The event might be modern but this class was old school and wonderful.

We learned about the importance of the length of each fibre and how crimped it is. We stretched fibres, pulled them apart, and snapped them by our ears to hear ow easily they broke. We got dried manure on our hands.

“Don’t worry,” said our instructor, “I brought wipes!”

By the end of the workshop, the white tablecloths were speckled with dried manure, but we all knew a lot more about which fibres work best for which knitted items.

 

Revision

10 Sep

I bought some yarn this summer. Im, fact, I bought quite a bit of yarn. I went on vacation with four patterns in tow and a plan to get yarn for two of them. By the time I got home, I had yarn for three.

I started knitting one of the sweaters, a beautiful short-sleeved top that involves colorwork. I knit a swatch and worried a little that the contrast, which seemed evident in the skeins, seemed muddied in the knitting.

I started the sweater, hoping it would be better, but two rows into the colorwork, I knew it wasn’t going to get better. I set the project aside.

I had purchased the yarn at a store in Montréal. Of course, it was the house brand and only available there. I looked through the color options and placed an order.The yarn arrived yesterday.

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As tempted as I was to jump right back in a  few things had to happen first. I had to finish the sock I was knitting. I had to wind the skein into a cake. And, I still had to tear out the two rows of colorwork I had already completed. I finished the sock last night, so, when I get home from school today, I will wind and rip. With any luck, I will also begin knitting.

Back in style

27 Aug

Many people have back to school traditions. Some people take a yearly photo. Some people have breakfast traditions. For the last few years, I’ve knit socks.

This year, I had my 2019 back to school socks ready for the first day of inservice week.

These are knit in a colorway called Patience. It seemed appropriate.

My 2018 socks were knit in No. 2 Pencil.

The 2017 school year started shortly after the eclipse. Naturally, this colorway was called Total Eclipse of the Sun.

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In 2016, I used this yarn, Fall for Barrie, for another project, but had enough left over for a pair of shortie socks.

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Hand knit socks aren’t cheap, but it makes me happy knowing my feet are sheathed in something made by my own hands.

 

Baa Baa Black Sheep

9 Jul

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It’s called the Black Sheep gathering, but it welcomes sheep, goats, and other wool bearing beasties of all colors.

Although I’ve lived in Oregon for almost 23 years, I’d never heard of this wool festival, that celebrated it’s 45th anniversary on the weekend, before this year.

I started my visit in the barn, walking around the pens and getting to know the different breeds represented that day. When I left the barns, the scent of sheep barn clung to me, even though there was nothing on the soles of my shoes. I went into the marketplace, the scent still present like an ovine perfume, but no one seemed to notice. Perhaps they wore it too.

I had the chance to talk to a dyer I like and to get to know a few others I’d never heard of before. None of them mentioned my sweet aroma. Fortunately, the scent of raw wool permeated the air in the hall.

A trip to the restroom offered up one more beastly delight:

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Furiously knitting

29 Mar

“Do you ever take commissions?” my librarian friend asked.

I cringed inwardly. It can be an awkward question to answer and I gave my standard reply,”Yes, but I have rules.”

Her raised eyebrows were a sort of encouragement to go on, so I explained, “I won’t accept payment and you have to live with my timeline. I could finish it in a week, a year or never. I love to knit but don’t like pressure to perform. I want to knit a project because I love it. What did you have in mind?”

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My friend had been on last year’s Printz committee. What she wanted was a pussy hat with the word “Fury” on it, in celebration of Damsel by Elana K. Arnold.

“Let me think and look around,” I said.

I found a free pattern  –  Hamilton Pussyhat by  on Ravelry. – that captured the beauty of the cover.Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 3.39.27 PM

During the Rose City Yarn Crawl, I made it my mission to find some yarn that would capture the colors of the book and work with the pattern. I did.

 

I took the peace of Spring Break to adapt the pattern, replacing “Rise Up” with “Fury” and began knitting. I learned to knit a Latvian braid and, slowly, but surely, the hat took shape.

It is now finished and blocking. I’ll give it to my friend when I see her at our next book club meeting in two weeks, unless I see her at the library first. I hope it is a good fit.

 

 

The opposite of toe jam

19 Mar

On Saturday, I posted about ripping out my knitting. I likened it to revising writing.

Last night I sat down to finish the second sock. I thought I knew where I’d left off and how much longer I had to knit before getting to the toe. You think I’d have learned, but I didn’t measure. When I got close to where I thought I should make the transition, I finally decided to measure.

The sock was too long.

Sometimes, writers do the same thing. We write too much. We need to revise by removing the excess. My students certainly do it. I have told students that they really have two stories and they should focus on one or the other. Sometimes they see it; sometimes they don’t. It can be hard. It all feels important to them though.

The excess in the foot of my sock did not feel important to me. Once more I ripped out and restarted. I am much happier with the finished product.

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Test prep

18 Mar

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am test knitting a sweater for a designer. Here is a collection of words and images – a sort of visual prose poem – that tells the story of what I need to do before I can actually begin knitting the test knit.

It starts with the pattern

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Next comes the yarn

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Which has to be wound,

 

And weighed

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Then swatched and gauge measured

Before the test knit can begin.

 

A different kind of winner

13 Mar

At the end of the day yesterday, I tried not to get my hopes up as I looked at my phone.

All day long I had tried to NOT think about the fact that the Rose City Yarn Crawl prizes would be announced at some time today.  I tried NOT to check my personal email. ( I might have peeked once or twice) but, locked in my cupboard, my phone was off limits until the end of the day.

After the kids left I undid the lock. A couple of years ago I broke the lock on the door, so now, I secure it with a fancy combination of an old choke collar and my locker padlock from high school. I got it in 1978 and I still know the combo. That’s an accomplishment of sorts, I thought as I slid the chain from the handles. It always makes such a nice satisfactory sound.  I bet most people don’t have the padlock, let alone remember the combo.

I pulled the phone from my bag. No messages announcing I was a winner. And none came as I drove home or after I walked through the front door. I tried not to feel disappointed. I fed Lucy and myself. I checked my email and before too long, I was fine.

I have the yarn I bought on the yarn crawl ( plus a whole lot more in my stash).

I have a super cute basset hound.

I have my high school padlock and still remember the combination – and that is a whole different kind of winning.

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Randy Ribay

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