Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thumbs Up!

Whether I'll be sporting a thumb cozy, or whether my thumb will be camera ready by Monday, I'm off tomorrow for Tulsa and further points west!

Thanks so much to all of you for your commiseration AND good suggestions. After an evening of soaking in very hot epsom salt water (note the unique soaking mechanism I cobbled together - that way I can soak and not leak!) it does seem a bit better. I'll cross my fingers.

Knitty Gritty
I don't have cable, so I never know when a segment I've done is going to air on Knitty Gritty. It's just kismet that right now one of my episodes is being aired the week before I fly out for taping a new segment.

I can tell when one airs, though, because I start getting all kinds of emails from folks who've watched the show. I just got this really lovely email from a male knitter in Connecticut - it says what so many of the emails say:
Anyway, I quickly noticed my first week knitting that when I followed a lace pattern, a lot of my stitches were coming out twisted. At first, I couldn't figure out what i was doing wrong. Then, I began ignoring the diagrams and just began listening to the stitches and letting them tell me what to do (I know, that sounds a bit creepy). Then everything came out fine. Although people said my knitting was nice, they told me I was knitting "wrong".

FiNALLY, I saw you on "knitty gritty" and realized I must be a combination knitter. Thanks for validating my knitting style. If anyone comes up to me and says I knit "wrong", I can just say, "well, I knit like Annie Modesitt does." That should keep them quiet.


Well, I don't know if it will keep them quiet - it may make them yell louder - but it will give them something to chew on. So in case I haven't said it lately on the blog,

There Is No One Right Way To Knit!
There are many different right ways to knit!


Here's what I wrote back to my friend in CT:
You know the best thing - it [my attitude about knitting] insinuates itself into everything I do. I find myself more adventurous, working with more ingenuity and able to be more open to other folks and their different ways of knitting (and living, and raising kids, and EVERYTHING!) What a wonderful by-product of a knitting style!

It also makes me understand the power of legitimacy, and how much it means to have your own identity sanctioned - or at least accepted - by a portion of the population. As a white girl from Ohio who never thought twice when I grew up about how it might feel to not be part of the "mainstream", it's been a most eye and mind-opening experience.

So go watch someone knit today and see what you might learn!

Peering Between My Fingers
When you publish a book you can't wait for it to be on Amazon - then you read a few of the reviews and you have to grit your teeth and swallow your pride and use the comments as a jumping off point for improvement.

I've been getting so much really great email about Twist & Loop - nice comments from folks who never thought they'd want to knit with wire, let alone make something that they'd give as a gift! This is partly because there's been a great move toward hand crafted items and gifts in the past few years (which makes something beautifully made, but with the imperfections that come from our humanity, much easier to appreciate.)

If you've read Twist & Loop and have liked it - please take a moment to let the world know at Amazon. I know when I'm shopping, I use the reviews to help me make decisions. Folks who are considering buying a book on a subject that's as fearsome (and odd) as knitting with wire would probably appreciate a little feedback. Dangerous step, I know, asking for reviews...

I'm thinking of trying to put together a blog-tour for Men Who Knit - any ideas...?
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here We Go Again

Last night my thumb was feeling irritated - just a little sensitive around the base of the nail. Last night several times I woke up with a bit of pain when I'd knock it against the headboard. This morning it's just beginning to swell the tiniest bit. I will NOT have this happen again - I will NIP this in the bud this time!

Two years ago I got a manicure in California and it turned into a year-long thumb injury/infection. I'm not sure what happened this time - certainly not a manicure - but my thumb has come into contact with something that's making it beginning to swell, so I am going to get myself fixed RIGHT AWAY and not let it go. Right now it's soaking in hot water and hydrogen peroxide, and I'm already taking some antibiotics for the sore throat thing (saw the doctor yesterday... hey - maybe that's where the thumb met it's current foe?) and she prescribed some antibiotics to clear up my ear, nose and throat infection before I get on a plane this Friday.

Of course, the timing is exquisite. I'm leaving on Friday for Tulsa to teach at Loops (I heard today that all classes are filled, woohoo!) and then Monday I fly from Tulsa to LA for Knitty Gritty. If I can't get this under control, I'll be wearing a LOT of hand makeup. After that I'll be at The Knitters Studio and Unwind in the LA & Burbank, respectively, for some more classes and some booksignings (and a wire demo!)

Then I return home for a wire workshop at the Westchester Knitting Guild, and to resume Watch 2006 until December 15th, when we can go ahead with plans to fly to MN to look at the finalist homes. Exciting, but nerve-wracking, too!

Opus
I've started on what I think will be an amazing piece. I don't have a sketch, I'm just sort of feeling my way, but I have a very good feeling about it. I'm making what will be a felted mitered jacket (my hope is it will feel like a nice, warm boiled wool jacket) Unlike almost all of my designs, I'm actually making this one to fit ME - in a larger woman size - because I'm just being greedy. Since the felting will reduce the size of the garment by approx 20% (according to my swatch) this means knitting a VERY big garment. I'm prepared, when folks ask me in airports and at the kid's school, to tell them that it's a blanket. To say that it's a jacket for me would be just too embarrassing.

I'd post photos, but it looks like nothing now.

I'm also starting on a project for VK - a new knitted seat for a Shaker rocker that we picked up at an auction last year. It's a sweet little seat-less chair, so I'm knitting one up and creating an unusual project for VK at the same time!
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Monday, November 27, 2006

Healing Before Flight

I still have the stupid sore throat. Ick. And I can feel the soreness in my ears when I swallow, so I definitely have to get this all cleared up before I fly on Friday. Appt with Doctor tomorrow - yahoo!

I do have to say, though, that it's a minor miracle that I haven't been really sick yet so far this year. Usually by late Oct I have bronchitis - but this year just the usual I-have-two-kids-in-school sniffles (and this sore throat) The weather's been so warm here that trees and flowers are budding, but they'll get a rude awakening when the freeze comes. Perhaps this is NJ's way of trying to seduce us into staying?

I'm finishing up a shawl for IK Crochet - it's coming along so beautifully and I'm loving working with the LaLana Phat Silk Fine and the shiny glass beads! I swear, I'm such a magpie! The Princes of Ireland has been my audio book companion for this piece, it's a great listen while knitting!

My listening and computer enjoyment, though, was put on hold for a bit this weekend and major disaster was narrowly averted when I spilled some eggnog on my computer while writing an essay on interfaith celebrations for the holidays. Divine intervention? Or perhaps that was what kept my computer from being ruined...? At any rate, it was very ironic and - after drying out the computer overnight and finding that it's okay - amusing. Yeah, veryamusing. I love my mac.

I finished the not-quite-so-rough draft of the mitered bag pattern which I promised earlier. When the pattern is finished I'll offer it for sale, with all proceeds going to Heifer.org (an organization I love to support!)

I've got my 15 testers - thanks!I've worked through the pattern twice so far, but haven't had it tested by anyone. If you're inclined to want to give it a try, I'll send a copy to the first 15 folks who email me in exchange for any corrections they may find in the pattern. It's a fun little pattern - it's universal (meaning you can use any yarn and needles and adjust the size of the bag from tiny to very, very large quite easily...) When you send the corrections, though, be kind...
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Friday, November 24, 2006

Leftovers


Leftovers, originally uploaded by modeknit.

The day after, and the livin' is easy.

I woke up with a terrible sore throat - of course, it didn't stop me from socking away some more turkey, beans & sweet potatoes for lunch - but it's just a really ROTTON sore throat. Somehow, Gerry just doesn't seem too broken up about it...

I've been finishing up my step outs for the Knitty Gritty episode, and also working on my class materials for Tulsa. The end of this week will be my last big trip of the year - and the big Woohoo is that i get to meet DREW! FINALLY! He'll be out in LA for our KG shoot, and it will be so great to meet him in person!

The way they're shooting KG now is a little different. They're using tape, which is a very good move, so editing will be easier. It means, though, that I have to make up 4 or 5 of each item in various stages of completion so that I'll look as though I just sat down and whipped up the hat while Vicky and I were chit-chatting. Damn, I'm fast.

The house is in contract, but the buyers' attorney snuck in a contingency based on their house selling (they're in contract, their buyers are mortgage approved, but this is not what we wanted to hear the day before a 4-day weekend. Yikes.) But the choice is roll with this and sweat it out until 12/18 (when the contingency is off) or just walk away.

The house is still on the market - hallelujah - and my gut feeling is that this will end well. But who needs the angst?

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Squash Pie









I love pumpkin pie - I ADORE it!

I would eat it every day of the year if I could, and it takes great resistance to only stop by Starbucks on a weekly basis to get one of the pumpkin lattes.

The big, bright orange pumpkins we use for jack-o-lanterns aren't good for pies, though. I discovered this as a kid when I tried to boil one down to make pulp. It was strong tasting, not subtle, almost metallic.

The reason, I learned later in life when I worked for MS, was that I should have used a SUGAR PUMPKIN!

The next best thing -even better than a sugar pumpkin - is a butternut squash. I love me my squash.

Yesterday we made some pies - simplest thing in the world to make - and even though I'm good at making pie crusts I prefer to use the Pillsbury rolled type. They're so easy and taste so good. I hate to have the kitchen dirty in several different ways, THAT'S where my laziness resides, so I just use the pie crusts.

Click on the words Squash Pie above for a nice recipe - similar to my own - for a delicious squash pie!
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Monday, November 20, 2006

12,000 Runners Can't Be Wrong!


Yesterday I took the train down to Philly (a very pleasant ride) and then walked the mile from the station over to Loop. It went very smoothly, except for the fact that Loop was on one side of the Philadelphia Marathon route, and the train station was on the other.

I waited for about 20 minutes, but the crowd of runners didn't seem to be coming to an end. Finally there was a break in the action and I scooted across the street with my heavy suitcase on wheels - more winded by my sprint than most of the runners were after 26 miles. Sad.

Loop is just exceptional.

On Saturday I taught at Knit a Bit - another exceptional shop in Westfield, NJ - and Sue (one of the owners) and I were chatting about What Makes A Shop Good / Successful? Both of us agreed that it all comes down to the staff. Loop is an excellent example of this - although the shop is small by out-of-city standards, it's a very good size compared to what I'm used to! The selection is terrific and the staff is kind and supportive. Craig does a great job of making folks feet at home, but also keeping the atmosphere business like (in the kindest way.) I admire that.

My classes were filled with enthusiastic, daring and dilligent workers - the BEST kind of students - and that makes my job SO easy! I spent more time on my chair than I probably should have (my not-very-well-thought-out strategy of walking a mile on my newly turned ankle was a mistake...) but still got around to everyone, and was gratified to see how beautifully all were doing. I was so flattered that one of my past students from the Wire class I recently taught at Loop returned with her knitting husband (he is amazingly accomplished!) - the Combination Knitting Class was a birthday gift for him, and - as I said - I was truly flattered! Happy Birthday Stuart!!

The wire class was a BLAST! The chemistry between the class members was amazing - everyone was supporting each other, lots of praise and BEAUTIFUL bracelets being made, the positive vibes were strong enough to change the weather! It's unusual to teach the class when EVERYONE finds something beautiful in what they've done, and that is pure joy for a teacher! My only regret was that we didn't have more Twist & Loop books available (we sold out quickly!)

it became obvious to everyone in the class that knitting with wire isn't as scary or hard as it may look. If you exaggerate your motions - act as though you're teaching someone to knit - then you can give the wire the pretence of elasticity and make the whole adventure a bit easier.

Everyone also took to the mini-combo lesson that I gave (I like to introduce that in the wire class - I believe that Combination knitting makes working with wire a little easier) and that helped quite a bit.

Now I'm home for a bit - lots of packing to do, projects to finish and a whole bunch of cooking! Hannah heard a commentary on Morning Edition today about baking and love, and she desperately wants to have some quality mom / baking time this weekend. The kids have half days on Tues and Wed this week, so I think we can arrange that!

What is this goat?
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Contract / Knitter

CONTRACT
We're in contract - Woo Hoo! Today was the house inspection and although we haven't received the official report from the inspector, our real estate agent called with a short list of some stuff that they found, and none of it is major. Some of it is totally new to us - so we're grateful to find out about it - but all relatively small and easily fixed stuff. We have to wait for the official report (and what the buyers want us to do - fix it or knock a little off the price of the house...) to see what the next step is.

Our real estate agent, though, did say that the inspector told the buyers, "This is a very sound house, it has a few minor things, but overall it's been very well cared for..." That's so nice to hear!

So it seems that we're looking at a move in early February (we do have the best timing, n'est ce pas?) and we're trying to swing another trip to MN - just me and Gerry - to look at our finalists in the parade of houses and make a decision. An option that we'd rather not have to go with would be to rent a house for a bit until we find something that's right for us - but it IS an option.

I found out that one of my teaching engagements in late Jan has fallen through, but it's probably a blessing because I'll just be SO darned busy then getting packed and organized. We're thinking of going with the Pods system for most of the stuff in the house, and then for clothing and things I'll need to keep available (yarn), we'll use a very small U-haul trailer for our official move to MN. Who knows, it may just be that our move corresponds with my trip to Chicago, so we might be stopping over there for a bit on our drive to Minnesota! It feels odd to have it all so up in the air, but we have contingency plans so we're not exactly jumping off a cliff.

KNITTER
Mountains of Malabrigo arrived from Yarnzilla (my crack - er - malabrigo connection) Linda is acting as a conduit for my sample yarns for the mitered jacket I'm designing and the projects for the Knitty Gritty episode. I picked out 5 colorways of the yarn for myself and the 4 knitsters - I hope they love working with this as much as I do!

Instead of waiting for bulkies in each colorway to be dyed I'm just having the knitsters double the yarn for the hat (bulky yarn) and then use the yarn single for the matching doggie sweater (worsted). The yarn has very little twist, so it blends together with itself quite nicely, and the kettle dyed variations move beautifully within each color when the strands are doubled. I am in love.

You know, a relationship with a yarn shop is so much like a friendship. It has very little to do with how GOOD the person is, but rather how well you suit each other. I know folks who are paragons of virtue, really GOOD people, but I have a hard time finding a common ground for a great friendship. I know other folks who skirt goodness - and sometimes they seem to suit me better (I probably shouldn't admit that...) Not that my friends are serving hard time or stealing hubcaps, but the chemistry between folks is a complex thing.

It's the same with a yarn shop. I've visited shops that are textbook perfect - absolutely wonderful - and I'd buy something from them every day of the week if I lived nearby. Then there are shops where sometimes it's a little messy, or things might be mis-shelved every now and then, and I barely notice the small annoyances because I feel so AT HOME there. Or maybe I'm just perverse.

For every person who tells me something unsavory about a shop, I'll have 5 others tell me something nice - and it's all a moot point because what really matters is how the shop seems to ME as a CUSTOMER when I visit it. I think it's rare to have a shop that appeals to everyone - especially in a uniform way - and I think that's a beautiful thing! We become very passionate about our shops, about our knitting groups and our communities. It's nice to feel that there's a shop to visit when I'm in a blue mood, another to visit when I'm feeling peppy, or another when I want something painfully elegant.

I'll be more than happy to post any good comments about yarn shops, but I hesitate to post the negative ones (especially anonymous ones) because this is folk's bread and butter. It takes so much money to invest into a yarn shop, the work is non-stop and the return isn't great. It can be a very joyful life, full of fun and yarn, but it can also be very trying and exhausting. If I have a bad experience at a shop I try to assume the best (the owner's usually great, but on this day there was bad news AND she's getting the flu!) Heaven knows I would hate to be judged by anyone on my bad days.

Today I visited one of my favorite yarn shops in my area - Knit a Bit in Westfield, NJ. Harriet and Sue have an amazingly well stocked shop with a load of really wonderful yarns, lots of happy customers and a welcoming atmosphere. For the past few weeks Sue's been running the ship single-handed and it's a ton of work. I'm not sure that I could do it, myself - and I have so much respect for folks who DO run a yarn shop on their own!

If you're in Central NJ, Knit a Bit is a great place to visit! They're upstairs (real estate is very dear, here!) but it's worth the climb! Obviously my ankle is feeling much better, thank you!

Loop!
Tomorrow I visit dear LOOP again in Philly! I wanted Gerry to bring the kids down for some sight-seeing, but they have Hebrew school in the morning and we'd rather they not miss it. So I'll be driving down EARLY tomorrow morning, teaching all day and then driving home in the evening. I hate the drive back - it's always SO busy on the NJ Turnpike on a Sunday evening. My hope is that it will be less so on this, the start of a 3-day work week, but I'm not counting on it! I wonder if I could possibly take the trian down...?
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crash Again

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
We've been offered a bid, we countered, they accepted, we are calling the attorney. We may be moved by Feb.and now back to our previously scheduled blog

Yesterday I fell down the stairs. Not far, just a step or two, but enough to twist my ankle and hurt my - pride. My pride especially hurts when I sit down. At least, though, some lovely silk blend yarn arrived from La Lana Wools for a project I'm doing for Interweave, and that makes the sitting easier to bear...

It was one of those moments so painful that you want to cry and laugh and are nauseus all at the same time - ick. The worst part was that someone was on their way over to see the house, so I had to go lie down in my room for a few minutes, stuff a sock in my mouth and flee so that the house would be empty of crying women as the prospectives walked through. Two more couples looked at the house today, so cross your fingers!

One day later, still a little swollen, pride is still a little sore, but I'm obviously on the mend and getting better every hour.

LOOP
This weekend I'll be limping down to Philadelphia to teach at Loop - one of the nicest shops around - and it's always a great day when I get to spend time with Craig and his terrific staff. Then I have a nice, long break over the holiday when I get my samples ready for Knitty Gritty and the sample bag set up for the classes I'm teaching in Tulsa. The shop I'll be at in Tulsa is Loops, so on my calendar I have Loop - Loops and you can imagine how I keep getting them confused!

KNITTY GRITTY
The project I'm doing on Knitty Gritty is the Rasta Hat & Rasta Doggie Sweater from Men Who Knit. Yes, the one that's on the cover - PULL THE HAT DOWN! - it's a different version of the one that's in Confessions, but it's such a cute pattern - and such a fun technique - that I wanted to include it in Men Who Knit.

KNIT A BIT
Before going to Philly, though, I'll be close to home in Westfield, NJ to sign books at Knit A Bit on Saturday! I don't do a lot of NJ engagements - perhaps when we move I'll be more exoticly Midwestern and highly in demand - so if you're around please come by and say, "HI!"
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Crash - Day 2

I usually have a day of crashing after a teaching trip. This trip was rougher than usual - not so much for the teaching, but there was a lot of mental and emotional energy expended (idiocy at the Sheraton in a small way, house hunting with my real estate guy in a larger and very good way) so that by the time I got to the airport I was in one of my practically paralyzed states.

I get so tired that moving is hard - I just need to sit and not think for a bit. Although I was just sitting in the airport, I could never really relax because every so often an announcement would be made to the effect that the flight was further delayed, but that could change at any time so don't go anywhere. I won't - thanks!

By the time I got home I was more exhausted - both mentally and physically - than I've been in a long, long time.

I spent most of yesterday organizing stuff, answering emails, and knitting some samples for Knitty Gritty. Apparently I may have to change the yarn I'll be using for the project because we just can't seem to get good 'camera colors' from the manufacturer. It's one of those perfect storms of all of the colors that would photograph well on video being discontinued (I had already switched to a different yarn from the same manufacturer because the colors I used in the book in the first yarn were just TOO bright for TV)

So I think I'll be going with a totally different yarn company, but I have to work out the kinks and get all of the yarn I've received back to the original yarn company (I hope they don't mind that it's been rolled into balls ... yikes!) and make sure that everyone understands it's simply a matter of the right colors being available so that, when we do the closeups and demonstrations on TV, the viewer is actually able to SEE the stitches!

Today we're having yet another Broker open house. Seeing the lovely homes in MN made me antsier about moving out there than I'd been in a bit (once I'm back in my own home I get a little complacent...) and if we need to do some oiling of the gears here to get the house sold, it will still be better for us in the long run. I didn't see nearly as many homes as I wanted when I was out there - there are 2 that I'd still like to see before a final decision is made - but I felt so good that I did see 3 homes which, if we ended up in any of them, would be a nice outcome. I am leaning heavily toward the St. Paul house, though...

I should have yarn arriving for 3 projects in the next few days - first on my list is to complete the Knitty Gritty step-outs (which may need to be redone if we're going with new yarn...), then to complete a project for IK Crochet (a shawl - something I don't do very often!) and finally a project that's not due until next June, but one that will be very exciting!

Juggling the needs of the projects, the various yarns, trying to get the right yarn with the right assignment - that's really the hard part. Well, that and the pattern writing... Right now there's a palpable sense in the industry that the strong upswing isn't going to continue indefinitely, and those who had believed that there would be a continuous huge increase in customer base may not be structured to weather a bit of a decline. But like every market, knitting is cyclical - and I have a sneaking suspicion that for the die-hard knitter a little less spotlight attention on knitting as the new trend may be welcomed.

It's hard to knit in front of hot lights.
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Haim

I got home after 2:00 last night. Our flight was delayed due to rain and high winds in the NYC area, so it meant - ultimately - more knitting time for me! Not a bad thing.

The flight itself was not bad at all - I sat next to a nice, quiet guy, it was a packed flight but we had an empty seat in our row so we were able to spread out a bit. There was a movie (a first for me on a trip from MN), The Devil Wears Prada and I enjoyed it thoroughly (I didn't see it in the theaters, but I wanted to!)

In the cool light of day (or rather, in the dim gaslight of 2:00 am) as the cab was driving me through my neighborhood, I realized how much living near other folks means to me. Still love the Red Wing house, but I think I'm able to look at it a little less passionately. The house is a fling. The house is also the most beautiful house (for me) that I've ever seen.

The Best Damned Kids In The World...
...were sleeping together in Hannah's bed when I got home. Gerry had just got up, he was getting ready to take a shower, and I stayed up for a bit winding down so that I'd be able to sleep. I read my email, took my drugs (I'd run out before I left, they arrived in the mail), looked at the snail mail that arrived as I was gone (first and foremost among them was my bound copy of Men Who Knit and the Dogs who love them) How exciting! Drew had emailed me that he got his copy, but like my drugs, it had arrived the day I left. Just as well - I had my mockup with me, and I would have been far too engaged in MWK instead of proof reading Romantic Hand Knits.

And now I'm home. The kids are off to school, the animals have been fed and are sleeping on this overcast Monday, and I'm ready to settle in and get some stuff done. It is SO good to be home.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Three Houses, Still Waiting...

More about the houses in a bit, first about my classes!

Sheraton - Seeth-ing is Believing!

I will never stay at another Sheraton if I can help it in my whole life. I am officially on record, you can hold me to it.

Upon my arrival in Minneapolis I rented my car (a white PT Cruiser this time...), and drove to the Sheraton to check in. I noticed Vivian Hoxbro waiting by the desk. We chatted, and apparently they didn't have a room for her (!) yet. When I checked in my room was ready, so when I asked about Vivian's Room apparently there was no problem. Odd. After I checked in I didn't go to my room but drove down to Northfield, Red Wing and Cannon Falls so I could see each property in as much light as possible. When I returned to the Sheraton to move into my room at 7:00 I was stunned to find that instead of a room I had a full-out sauna (well, this IS Minnesota...)

The room was HOT! The Twin Cities had been experiencing a heat wave, but even when I turned the thermostat DOWN and opened the window the full 6" it would go, the room still steamed. I called down to the desk and they were very little help (they said they'd like to help me, but there was nothing they could do...) They also informed me that internet for the room would be $10 per day and that it wasn't wireless. I was steaming, and not just from the room, so I decided I'd do better to go to a Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn - basically any nice mid-range hotel where internet access is generally FREE!

(Why is it that there is usually a charge for internet at the 'better' hotels, but at the mid-priced and downright CHEAP hotels quite often it's free? Why, could it be that the "better" hotels deal with the corporate traveler on an expense account...?)

I called the Original Sewing & Quilt folks to let them know that I'd be moving to a hotel with a cooler room, and after meeting with them in the lobby - and with a man from the Sheraton - I was moved into another section of the hotel that actually HAD air conditioning. The internet was still $10 per day. The room was much cooler, and I was seething slightly less. Other teachers, though, had very hot rooms.

The organization for this show wasn't as seamless as the Chicago show, but as that experience with the OSQE folks was so good, I'm willing to chalk it up problems OSQE may have had dealing with the Sheraton. (I noticed several instances where folks approached someone at the front desk with a problem, only to be told, "I would liketo help you, but...)

My Combo Class was HUGE - 34 people (I thought it was limited to 24.) I don't mind the extra folks, it was a good class and just took a bit of jumping around to keep everyone's attention (I'm good at jumping...) But it was frustrating because I didn't have enough hand outs.

I had brought 28 sheets, but I had a feeling I'd need more, so I went to the Sheraton Business Center (only open until 5:00...) to see about copies. I was told by the staff person that copies were $.25 each, and because mine were two sided it would be $.50 per copy. Yes, he said, he knew that Kinkos only charged $.10 per copy, but the gas it would take for me to get to Kinkos would be more than $.15 per copy...

So not only do they charge two and a half times the local rate for a copy, they rub it in to their 'captive audience'.

At the front desk the fellow on duty said he'd really like to help me, but I interrupted him and said, "Great! I'd like 5 copies of this - thanks so much!" Stunned, he made the copies.

When class started and it became clear that we were still a couple of copies short, I announced to the class that if they shared the handout I'd email a pdf file of the sheet to anyone who didn't get on. Just then a worker from the Expo came in and I thought, "How great - someone will make 5 more copies for me!" But instead I was told that I-should-have-known-that-I'd-have-34-students... When I explained that the limit for the class was set at 24, I was corrected - "No, it's 36!" I realized it was useless to discuss it - I was just happy to get some additional copies of my handout.

The next morning I went to Kinkos and made 40 copies of my Cabling handout - I was well stocked - and visited Yarnzilla (an absolutely TREMENDOUS yarn shop!) to pick up some Malabrigo for the aforementioned mitered jacket. Then back to the Sheraton where I had about 20 minutes to scarf down my lunch and check my email. I had been told there was wireless in the lobby when I purchased my $10 per day access account, so I was confused when I couldn't check my email as I had lunch.

The man at the desk said that he'd like to help me, but there was an additional $10 fee to connect to the internet from the downstairs lobby area. He was a trainee, and apologized that he wasn't more experienced. I told him that even if he'd been working there for 5 years I think he'd probably have the same thing to say,

"I'd like to help you, but..."

Three Houses
It's down to - at this point - three houses. One in St. Paul, one in Red Wing, and one in Cannon Falls. The houses in Northfield were both too "cute" and too expensive (and a trifle too old - we really would like to find a house built between 1910 and 1930 if possible...)

There are more houses that I wasn't able to see this week, but I feel very good that three of the houses I didsee would do very nicely for us. The St. Paul house is the easiest choice - it's well located, nice yard, move-in condition and has beautiful space. It's on the high end of our price scale, but the location is very nice.

The Red Wing house is magnificent. If I could run away with a house, I'm afraid Gerry'd be having soup for one... (sorry, Gerry)

Seriously, this is most like my dream that I've seen. The details, the space, the flow of the rooms and even the colors of the walls are exactly as I'd like them to be. On the down side, it's in - Red Wing.

Nothing wrong with that - it seems like a cute town - but cute can make me itchy. Also, when we stopped for lunch I was accosted by the MOST determined Mormon missionary I've met (and I've met some determined ones) He followed us across the street, even when I asked him to leave us alone. Finally I told him I reviled him (1st Peter, 4:14) and he went away happy...

While we were there some local kids were sledding down what would be (?) our front yard, so we chatted with them. They were really great kids, friendly and fun, and close to Max's age, too...

But the house is removed from the kind of living that we're used to. Specifically, it would be a long, long drive to Hebrew school for the kids, and Gerry thinks we'd be the only Jewish family in Goodhue county. I don't think either of us realized how much of a sticking point that would be, but we have to think hard on that and find out what our spiritual options are. (We could always ask my LDS friend ..)

The house also seems a bit isolated, but that's part of its charm. There are 3.5 acres that go with the house, but much of that is vertical (hill behind the house) and oddly shaped. We're waiting to get a plan of exactly WHERE the land that goes with the house is, that will help us make our minds up.

The Canon Falls house would be an easy call - it's big, has a great layout and all of the rooms that we require. But there are some serious questions about the condition of parts of the house. It's the cheapest, but I'm thinking after we did the work that may need to be done on the house, it would probably run roughly what the Red Wing house costs. Both, however, are much cheaper than the St. Paul house. Location, location, location...

So now I go home, we wait to see if our lovely little house will sell, and if it does we'll be back to look at the homes again and [hopefully] make an offer which will be accepted. What a lot of juggling and dancing this is - I'm very tired!

My flight was supposed to leave at 6:45, but it's been delayed 2 hours so I'll be getting home around 1:00 am. Oy. Since when did Sheraton begin managing Continental Airlines?
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posted by Annie at 12 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas

Today I do something new! As tech-savvy as I like to think I am, I'm basically an out-of-the-loop gal. Blog Tours are something that I had missed (and something I probably should do for one of my new books...) but they're a wonderful way to share an interview or information about a book or technique with a whole new blog reading audience. Here is my interview with Donna Druchunas about her new, wonderful book, Arctic Lace

AM: Donna, I know that Quivit is the luxury yarn of choice of many knitters. I've never knit with it myself, but I've felt it and have seen lovely scarves knit from it. When did you first begin knitting with Quivit?

DD: I ordered some qiviut in 2004, before I made my first trip to Alaska. I had purchased a small sample skein before that, to see what the fiber is like, but I never knitted anything with it. When I was getting ready to design the projects for Arctic Lace, I ordered as much yarn as I could afford from a company in Canada that gave me a discount for yarn on cones. While I was in Alaska, I found that I could not resist buying more qiviut at full retail price. Everywhere I went, it seemed like qiviut was just sitting there with my name on it. I found more colors, yarn weights, and textures than I'd been able to find on the internet, simply because I was able to see and touch each skein. The yarn on cones hardly conveys the softness and luxury that qiviut is famous for. Because the skeins have been scoured, or washed, they exhibit some of the bloom that becomes more pronounced with each washing. The coned yarn was dead in comparison. It was not as much fun to knit with as the soft, cuddly, skeined yarn, but the finished items were fine after washing and blocking.

AM:Was that the impetus for your interest in traditional Alaskan knitting? Do you have any family ties or personal relationships with folks from Alaska, or was this your first experience with the region?

DD: I had never been to Alaska before. My brother-in-law had been stationed in Anchorage when he was in the Air Force in the 1990s. My husband and I had wanted to visit several times but never managed to get our act together (or maybe we were broke, I don't remember). So when I started working on Arctic Lace, I decided I would have to visit Alaska or I would not be able to understand or explain what it is like there. I am not the type of writer who can do all of my research at the library or on the internet. I need to go to a place to be able to absorb the feeling of what it is like. I am always amazed by writers who can convey the spirit of a place without visiting. So I knew I would have to go to the Oomingmak shop in Anchorage, to the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, and to at least one Eskimo village. I would have liked to have visited more villages and to see musk oxen in the wild, but I ran out of money.

While I was in Alaska, someone suggested that I read Ada Blackjack, the story of an Eskimo woman who accompanied a team of explorers to a remote arctic island. After a long and tragic journey, Ada was the only survivor of the team. She had not known how to hunt or live off the land before her trip, but she taught herself in order to survive after her last companion was incapacitated with scurvy. The author of this book never visited the arctic before the book was published, and I found the book to be amazing in its accuracy and in the authors ability to envision and portray the arctic environment simply by doing armchair research.

AM: Was it a difficult decision to travel to Alaska to investigate this fiber and the traditional knitting styles of the Eskimo people?

DD: Not at all. The only hard part was coming up with enough money to do so. I chose to publish Arctic Lace with a very small publisher, because I knew they would allow me to create a book that was true to my own vision. The downside of this decision was that I did not receive a large advance, so I had to come up with the money to go to Alaska on my own. My trip costs were doubled, as well, because my husband came with me to take photos. He shot of the photos from my trip and the pictures of the knitting projects. When we went to Alaska we brought a 1 megapixel digital camera and a film camera to take the black and white shots for the book. The higher end digital cameras were still too expensive for us at that time. In the end, we might have saved money by paying the high price for the digital camera, because we spent so much money on getting film developed!

I must admit that I was nervous about visiting Unalakleet. There are very few white people there and although I'm a minority in America being both half-Jewish and an atheist, my minority status is not immediately apparent because I am white. Unalakleet is also a small town with just 600 people, most of whom are Yup'ik or Inupiat, and I knew that I would stand out as an Outsider wherever I went. The people were very welcoming and friendly, however, and I did not feel out of place at all after I arrived.

AM: I love the mythic folk stories in your book about the birth of the native peoples of Alaska, were there any tales that you just didn't have room to include so you could provide so many patterns?

DD: I tried to focus the stories on the parts of the Yup'ik and Inupiat culture that I wanted to describe to readers. There are so many wonderful stories -- both traditional and contemporary -- that there is no way they can be contained in one book. For those who would like to read more stories, I recommend the book Authentic Alaska: Voices of Its Native Writers edited by Susan B Andrews for contemporary writings and Inua: Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimo by William W. Fitzhugh and Susan A. Kaplan for stories and information about traditional culture. Many more resources are listed in the bibliography of Arctic Lace.

AM: I was fascinated by the geometric patterns in the lace motifs in your book - they're much more linear than lace from other cultures that I've seen. Do you think this is a direct reflection of the Native motifs found in other Alaskan crafts, or is this due in large part to the lace teaching method used by Dorothy Reade, Helen Howard and Lillian Schell?

DD: I think the geometric forms of the lace are directly influenced by the traditional Yup'ik and Inupiat styles of art. Ann Schell and Helen Howard did use Dorothy Reade's techniques to design lace and to teach the Oomingmak knitters. However, when I look at Dorothy Reade's other designs, I see that most of them are more curving, organic shapes. She does have a few diamond designs in her collection, but other than that the only geometric designs are lace cat patterns that were adapted from a Peruvian weaving.

Most of my designs are also inspired by Yup'ik and Inupiat artifacts. I was able to visit the archives at the Museum of the North in Fairbanks, and take photos of many different pieces including ivory carvings, skin sewings, and grass baskets. I am still working on new designs based on the photos of items that didn't make it into the book. I'm teaching workshops on designing your own lace patterns using Dorothy Reade's techniques, and it is amazing to see the many different types of patterns and designs that the students come up with, depending on the sources of their inspiration. The most sinuous designs often seem to come from nature, while more geometric designs often come from different types of woven items.

AM: In your travels to Alaska with your husband, were there any great travel stories, things that you experienced on your trip, that are entirely non-knitting related that didn't make it into the book?

DD: Not really. Everything we did was knitting related! The poor guy didn't even have a chance to go fishing or anything. We did discover some things that did not make it into the book, however.

Near the end of our trip, for example, we took a side track to visit Charilyn Cardwell's studio Woofer Wearables. Charilyn knits custom garments from dog hair. You can save the fur when you brush your dog, and send it to her. She will handspin it and knit it into a beautiful garment, accessory, or home decor item for you. Charilyn was also working on another fascinating project when we visited her. The Alaska Zoo gives her the down that their two Bactrian Camels shed every spring. She cleans it, spins it, and knits up beautiful purses and other items that the zoo sells in their gift shop.

Also, when we stopped for gas between Anchorage and Fairbanks, I found a handknit headband made from a blend of Husky fur and wool from the Subarctic Spinners Cooperative, An Alaskan Cabin Industry (PO Box 194, Cantwell, Alaska 99729).

AM:I'm in the process of revamping some of my lace teaching materials and - with your permission - I'd love to include the stitch motif from swatch #3 (with full source credit to your book, of course), if it would be alright with you.

DD: You may certainly use the motif from Arctic Lace in your teaching. Please list the information about my book on your handout so those who are interested can find out more! If you use it to teach lace knitted in the Combination style, I'd love to see your handout. In a class I taught last week, there was one combination knitter. I showed her how she could knit the lace decreases using the Combination method, and I also showed her how to do what I call "dippy" purl (because you have to dip your index finger behind the needle to wrap the yarn). She was going to try both methods during the week and will let me know which she prefers for lace knitting. I know you use Combination knitting for all of your own knitting. I use that technique for most of my knitting, and I especially love it for cable knitting, but I prefer to use the "dippy" purl for lace.

I also learned the Norwegian purl from Beth Brown-Reinsel. It is a very unusual and fun technique that produces stitches that sit on the needle in the more conventional fashion. I made a whole ribbed hat right after I learned that purl so I would not forget how to do it, but I have not use the Norwegian purl for any projects since then. Still, I love learning different techniques and different ways of knitting so I have more choices.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another In The Series of Combo Videos

... with running commentary by - guess who? I'm still just playing around with these to figure out how best to present them

A little explaination on the video: This is exactly how I knit - I didn't change things for photography. I don't wrap the yarn around my fingers for tension, cat-cradle like, because I find that just doesn't work for me.

I encourage folks to try this, but I also firmly believe that you should hold the yarn whichever way feels best for you because your hands have their own intelligence!

The way I set my tension is that after I insert the needle into the next stitch, as I grasp the yarn to form the stitch I give the slightest tug and that sets the tension on the previous stitch. This works for me - but I do understand that this may not work for everyone! If you want to try knitting with wire, though, this is a very good method to use so you keep the wire as un-kinked as possible.


I'm in Minneapolis, I drove to Red Wing, Cannon Falls & Northfield today to take a peek at houses (only got to go into one of them) I've heard from a few of you that Red Wing and Northfield are more charming - ? - than Cannon Falls. Maybe it was that I drove through right in a beautiful sunset, but Cannon Falls seemed really nice to me.

What am I missing? If you don't want to post a comment about them, just email me - I'm very happy to hear comments about either of these three towns - or any others you think I should know about. I'm keeping an open mind on EVERY front (and later this week I'll drive out to Stillwater!)

Tomorrow I'll post some more lovely images from the airplane and the car. A nice, but tiring, day. I'm reknitting the Man's Rasta Hat from Men Who Knit for the Knitty Gritty appearance. Have I mentioned how excited I am to be MEETING Drew - finally - in person!

This means that I really have to knit the hat 5 or 6 times, each time stopping at a different point so we can do the step outs and give the impression that I'm completing the project on set. And repeat that with the doggie sweater. UH HUH!
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posted by Annie at 13 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I felt like making a mitered bag...

Felted Mitered Bag
The pun is too easy.

UPDATE: I will definitely offer this pattern, probably free or very cheap (with proceeds going to a charity - maybe Heiffer.org?) after I get it together for the Tulsa class. I'll base the jacket pattern on the same motif as the bag.

Here's the bag that I worked up in Malabrigo, felted and blocked and happy to be colorful!

It was a blast - I really liked using the brighter colors (yellow, light blue ) to mark the border between squares. I feel like this was a warm up for a cool felted jacket. For a few years now I keep starting and stopping a mitered jacket. I get partway done, working up the pattern as I go, and then I lose interest. But it's something I really want to do.

Speaking of modular knitting, also teaching at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Minneapolis this weekend will be Vivian Hoxbro. I'm hoping that I'll have a chance to chat with her - I admire her work SO much, it's so amazing and beautiful! I feel like I'm in VERY good company, honored to be teaching at the same venue as VH!

I like to wear sweaters, especially in the winter, but a mitered jacket is something that I'd WEAR every day (except in the summer.) Perhaps I'll expand the colorways I used in this bag into a felted jacket...?

Love Is Blue
Suffice to say that I feel very happy. Now we many actually get a little bit of oversight on a government gone mad. I can hear the sound of the paper shredders from here.

I donated a little almost every day to a different candidate in a small race - mostly to the Fightin' Dems (candidates who are Iraqi vets and are running for seats around the country) I can almost feel my faith in the system spreading throughout my veins. Does that make me a blue blood?

Which reminds me of a joke:
- What did the Queen and Picasso have in common?
- They both had blue periods.

Okay, a terrible joke - but when I was in college it was the funniest thing I'd heard. Obviously I didn't get out much.

So tomorrow I leave for Minnesota, after checking into my hotel I'll drive down to Red Wing and then over to Northfield for a little tour (we've seen houses in both towns online that appeal to us.) Minnesota - the state so cold it's blue. Except the weather's been rather nice this week, from what I can see, temps from the upper 60's down to the mid 40's through the week. Sweater weather. Good thing I'm taking a blue one!

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posted by Annie at 18 Comments Links to this post

Stitchers of the Caribbean


Beauteous Jen & Fearless Annie, originally uploaded by modeknit.

Argh! Ahoy, ye scurvy crocheters an' knitters, we be boardin' the Yarn Princess* in Ft. Lauderdale (whether they be ready for us or not) on the 9th of April, 2007 and returning when the wind blows us back to civilization**

Bring yer sticks & hooks (of the crochet kind, ye scurvy joker!) and join the Beauteous Jennifer (Crochet Wench) Hanson of Stitch Diva Studios and Fearless Annie (Knit Wench) Modesitt fer hours of classes, parlay and - above all - stitchin' Yarrr!

Ye'll be clickin' on the link here to download the pdf file containing all of the trips details. We'll even be allowin' scurvy non-yarn land lubbers on our voyage (they won't be needin' to be payin' the extra d'bloons fer the class fee, but we may just make a stitcher out of them yet!)

Argh, spaces are rare and open to the right folks - may it be you? Here lies the priceless registration form, in pdf format, fer ye to be downloading...



*The Yarrrn Princes is really the Sun Princess
** We return on April 19.
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posted by Annie at 2 Comments Links to this post

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Obviously Not My Week

It amazes me that folks expect perfection from other people. And if you happen to end up in the public eye in any way, they expect fries along with the perfection.

I thought I'd take a few days off from the blogging - mental health days (thanks for the nice comments, by the way) I had been thinking that this evening after the kids and the husband were fast asleep I'd blog a bit about the stuff I'm finishing up now, and some knitting borders onto fabric techniques that I taught this weekend, and a mitered bag pattern I'm trying to perfect for a class in Tulsa in December (here's a section of it - I'm felting it in the washer right now)

But then I received an email from a person who'd purchased the 2006 Crochet Pattern a Day Calendar, telling me that the fact that one of the patterns which was listed on a certain date was actually missing from the calendar (I was mystified by this mistake, too, when I got the calendar last year - apparently the project was removed to make room for the cover project, and the index wasn't changed...) The emailer said that this one missing pattern made them consider not buying the 2007 calendar.

I probably should have just ignored the email, but I wrote back that my suggestion would be - quite simply - that the emailer not purchase the 2007 calendar. It was frank, but I didn't think it was rude.

The response came within minutes:

You are incredibly rude. Maybe your success has gone to your head. I will definitely not buy the calendar nor anything else you write. I will tell the company that prints the calendar why I am not buying it. I will also boycott any magazines that carry your designs and tell them why I am doing so. I frequent 3 yarn shops and will share your e-mail with them and my many friends who knit and crochet as well. Thank-you-you just saved me a bunch of money!


Wow. Two vitriolic emails in a week. It kind of takes my breath away that folks have such high expectations of me - of anyone - that not only would I be able to edit a perfect, mistake-free group of 200 projects, but that on top of it I should fill some definition of graciousness that I may not be able to live up to every minute of the day.

I try to be gracious - I strive for that - but it escapes me sometimes. I'm realistic to know that I'm not going to succeed in every situation. In this case I feel that someone was having a very bad day, I said the wrong thing, and I ended up on the receiving end of some heavy frustration. And a boycott.

I know I'll get a lot of emails and some comments saying I'm silly for writing about this - perhaps worse - but every now and then crap reaches critical mass and I have to vent. On days like this my blog is like the Con-Ed chimneys you see in New York, releasing steam and keeping the manholes in place.

I think the hardest part of my work isn't dealing with editors or coming up with designs or even checking math in patterns. The hardest part is that I don't have co-workers to turn around to and say, "Can you believe this?!" Perhaps what I'm hearing is the sound of skin growing thicker?

Thank you for allowing me to vent on my blog - sometimes it just feels good to have a brief reality check.

I do get a LOT of lovely emails, email from folks asking for assistance with something, or thanking me for helping them with something else. Just nice emails - and they mean so much to me. I have a file I keep them in (right next to my "annoying email" file.)

But jeeze - this is the first time (I'm aware of) that I'll be boycotted. I guess I should feel a little excited. Does anyone else feel like there's some kind of mass hysteria that's working through the world?

I wonder if one of the yarn shops she frequents has requested and downloaded the Ruffled Roses Scarf

Oh, me, me, me. Sorry about the self pity-party.

Westward Ho
I'm leaving for Minneapolis on Wed to teach over the weekend, I'm really looking forward to it as I'll be looking at some homes, too. We got a bid on our house, but it was low (Gerry didn't even want to counter, but I insisted - you can't find a buyer if you won't deal a bit!) I honestly don't know how serious the buyers are, I think they might be happier with a different house. I keep telling Gerry that if the house sells that's good, if it doesn't it's not bad because we love where we live so much. We have good reasons for feeling that a change would be a benefit, and just as many compelling reasons why staying here would enrich our lives. The main sticking point - sadly - is that our taxes are just so high that we may not be able to continue on like this for much longer in this town that we love so much.

So I'll be looking at houses, but probably not doing any bidding...

WARNING: QUASI POLITICAL CONTENT
It's pretty obvious to me that the tax breaks for the richest folks have meant a rise in taxes for the middle class folks (especially property tax.) Why no one is bringing this up during this election season is beyond me. I mean, the states are mandated to implement "No Child Left Behind," but it's an unfunded federal mandate, so the states have to come up with the money themselves. In the case of our schools here, it's meant cutting back on things like counselors and foreign language from the elementary schools, spending a lot of time teaching to the test. We're certain that our taxes will NOT be going down at any time. Add to that the $25,000 burden that this war places on each American family as of today, and we're going to be paying for quite a while.

Gee, lovely, fun and upbeat post, huh? Sorry guys. I really did have a nice, funny post all set to go.

Christmas Plans
My sister in law and nephew are coming up to NJ for Christmas! We're SO excited to see them and spend the holidays together (not least of which because we get to show off our house when it looks the best!) We'll have the whole, small family (minus cousin Jan - damn! Although there's a chance she mau be able to make it) here for the holidays. A small family makes it easier for all of us to fit into one house...

The kids were so excited that when I told them, Hannah had a hard time sleeping that night. She adores her cousin, Alex.
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posted by Annie at 58 Comments Links to this post

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No One's Happy

I just got an email that stunned me, so I wanted to clear something up on my blog, in the open, because I know how easy it is to take a comment and run with it. A few days ago in my blog I made what I thought was an innocent comment,

"The first class was colorwork, everyone did the amazing plaid (I remember the class having a hard time with this when I taught at Lambikins Hideaway, and I suspect that it was my teaching that was the main difference...)"

Now, if anyone was following my blog last year when I taught at Lambikin' Hideaway, you will see that I absolutely adored that shop. A D O R E D it. I loved the owner, the students, I loved the classes and the shop and the wonderful woman who kindly put me up at her home for an extended period of time. I loved the yarn that they sell so well that I used it in for a skirt in my upcoming book, Romantic Knits.

It is a most amazing shop, you should visit it, drive out of your way to go there and buy a lot of stuff. Spend time with the regulars, read a magazine and enjoy their fine, fine silk.

What I meant by the comment was NOT that the group at LK was in any way slow, or couldn't grasp a concept. What I meant was that the class at Stitches N Scones got it SO fast, so immediately, that it blew me away.

The closest comparison to this class was at Lambikins Hideaway, where it was a tougher class (and I'm entirely certain that it was my teaching which was the difference)

My post was intended to convey that I didn't think that I did as well at LK in the colorwork class as I did this past weekend teaching the same class!

I realize I shouldn't have used the name of the first shop, I usually don't do that, and I chalk it up to a combination of blogging on the road (minor exhaustion) and - ironically - feeling so positive about Lambikins Hideaway that it just didn't occur to me that the comment would come out as a negative toward anyone but myself.

I didn't mean to cast aspersions on anyone's skill, or any shop's clientele. But since I did use the name of the shop, I felt it was incumbent on me to mention it in a posive light in this post. You can't cry over spilt milk, you need to wipe it up.

I did not intend for my earlier comment to be disrespectful in any way to Christine or her wonderful shop.

Geeze, I feel like John Kerry. I think I'm going to go on blogging hiatus for a bit.
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Combo Knit Video

It's very short

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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho



Chullo-licious


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