Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Personal Knitting

And who has time?

I'm finishing up a few items for yarn companies - late, or barely late - but enjoying the knitting immensely. Lorna's Laces has a new organic wool that I've been fiddling with, it knits up like a dream and is very forgiving, creates a nice fabric.

I'm working up two items in this yarn, one is a short, asymmetrical "O" cabled cardigan (in the coral shown at left.)

The other is a longer cardigan with a short bodice worked in a worsted weight yarn, the skirt and sleeve bottoms worked in the dk yarn, in a light mustard color.

I still (!) don't have the top for Tilli Tomas finished - MUST DO THAT THIS WEEK!

Odd how I can drag my feet when I get to the end of a project. Just one more sleeve - oh, and writing the pattern... (But it's pretty cut and dried, not a lot of shaping, so it should be relatively simple to write up.)

Aside from the work knitting, I also have some holiday / gift knitting to get done. Or, to be honest, just plain old family we-need-hats knitting. We need hats. I want to make a hat for Gerry, worked in a doubleknit, with Muench's Touch-me on the inside and Ksar, a nice camel/wool, on the outside. Soft, warm and comfortable for the head with not-much-hair.

Max needs a groovy hat, so I'll work him something out of Noro - I have an extra ball I've been playing with, and I think he'll love the colors.

Hannah's going to get the scarf that I started up in Banff, worked up in a lovely shade of blue by Sheep Shop (I was unfamiliar with this yarn before. I'd seen it, but not used it - and I really, really like it! It was excellent for classes - and makes a nice scarf!)

I'm using some Bonnie by Louet in a nice comparable colorway to make a hat, which I'll trim with the leftover Sheep Shop yarn. She HATES wearing hats, but she's got to get over that as the temperature drops lower and lower every day.

Cat Tricks
Shiloh has a new trick. He's a born hunter - he stalks our socks and sits at the window for hours watching the birds. Now he's found a small blue ball and carries it up the stairs, releases it so it bounces down the stairs and chases it all the way.

The little bell inside rings, he's as happy as can be, and he burns up a lot of energy. It makes me smile just hearing it. I can tell we'll have to put the ball away when it gets to be time for bed, though.

He and Gigi are becoming quite close, cleaning each other and enjoying each other's warmth. Gigi was sitting outside of Hannah's room this morning mewing for him (he sleeps with Hannah) so I think it's time to move his litter box downstairs with hers and then have them both start using the same box. They grow up so fast...

World Travelers & TCOB
Since we live so close to Canada, it seems a shame not to have passports. So this morning we went as a family to the Post Office to renew Gerry's passport, and to apply for passports for the kids. It's an expense, but a very good thing to have - and now we can leave the country if we need or want to.

We came home and I finally called the local Temple to make an appointment to talk to the director about joining and signing the kids up for Hebrew school. This is the kind of stuff that is hard to get done when I'm just home for a day or two at a time. I was gratified to hear that the director is an avid knitter (her words) so I can tell already that she's a very good person...
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Monday, November 26, 2007

We interrupt our previous Deep Thoughts...

For an incredibly cute photo op -
I've put my Flip Books on sale until Dec 31st. The response has been pretty amazing - I'm glad I'm home for a while!

Once again, I'll become best friends with my local PO workers - I guess I should give each of them a set, too!

If you order a set of all 4, you can save 25%, it's like getting one of the books for free. Every order has a flat shipping rate of $4.50, regardless of how many books you order.

So today is devoted to creating a bunch of flipknit sets and sending them out, and everyone's helping out, including Shiloh.

(I apologize for the blatent commercialization
- it was just getting a little too profound in here...)

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gratitude of Differences
More than one right way

I met Gerry during the period in my life when I wasn't doing much knitting. Okay, I wasn't doing ANY knitting.

As a matter of fact, for about 10 years I didn't knit. And, having put aside something I loved so much, I appreciated it in a much deeper way after my hiatus. The prodigal knitter.

I came crashing out of the gate with knitting - from the moment I picked up the needles I knew that - as much as anything could be - yarn and needles were going to be a huge part of my destiny. Even to write that sounds so insane, but knitters know what I mean.

Knitting became the main thing in my life - every waking moment was spent knitting, sketching or swatching. When I see new knitters and designers who are going through their 'obsession period' of knitting, I entirely understand. I'm still in it myself, in many ways, but I prefer to think of it as my passion rather than obsession.

But I knit weird. Back in 1983 a good friend, Ellyn, taught me how to make a knit stitch - and I moved to Texas the next day.
Ellyn (in one of the first sweaters I ever knit) & daughter Abby

I figured out the purl stitch on my own, but apparently I figured it out "wrong."

I was trying to imitate - in reverse - what was happening when I worked my knit stitch, and thus stumbled onto the Eastern Purl (aka "Lazy" Purl) and adopted it as my own.

Without realizing it I was a Combination Knitter* - which was a lot harder to be in the early 80's than it is today. I hear folks bemoan the state of the world - and it's not pretty - but we're at an astounding point in history where there is mobility between classes & cultures that we haven't witnessed before.

At no other time in history has it been possible for any woman, from any class, to wear any length skirt and still be accepted - even fashionable.

This is quite a victory, in my eyes, of individuality over a monolithic authority, and gives me hope for every aspect of society. Generally younger women and servants wore skirts that were shorter than higher class women favored, and at certain times there were strict societal and even legal restrictions on skirt lengths.

In the first half of the 20th century alone we've run the gamut from micro mini to floor length, but each in it's own sanctioned fashion parameters.

We live in a time when a mini skirt and a long skirt can walk down the street together and both be considered fashionable. If you're thankful for nothing else, be thankful for that!

In the same way, different methods of knitting are more generally accepted now than they were several years ago. I can't speak for 100 or 300 years ago, but from research I've done it seems that sometime in the 1920's there became a set "correct" way to knit, accepted in the Western world - and that way was what can be defined as "Western Knitting"

It's a short hop from a standard knitting method to calling every other method "wrong," and I - like many other closet Combination Knitters - was caught up in that sense of shame that my knitting didn't quite measure up. The fabric was lovely and even, I was a very fast knitter, but folks felt compelled to stop when I was knitting in public to tell me how wrong my knitting style was.

Whenever I'd knit out in the open, the exchange would go something like this:
- I just had to tell you I've never seen anyone knit so fast!
- Thank you.
- And your stitches are so even...
- Thank you
- ... but I couldn't help but notice that you're knitting wrong.
- [internally] SHUT UP!
And that began to weigh heavily on my soul. And sometimes I couldn't keep the anger internal. It was bad news for me, and for the poor person who was trying to correct me.

I was too stubborn to stop knitting in a way that felt comfortable, but I became too agitated to enjoy my knitting when folks told me it was wrong.

Things came to a head after a trip to Europe when a woman in Germany took my knitting out of my hands to show me the 'right way' to knit. Then - in direct response to that incident, I think - I found myself being rude to a woman who was doing nothing worse than staring at my knitting in an airport in Brussels.

This has to stop, I thought on the plane back to the states. It's just tearing me up. And it isn't doing much for those around me...

So I put my knitting aside and went to grad school to study theatrical design. With the exception of the odd theatrical knit piece, I didn't knit for quite a while - only picking up my needles recreationally when I became pregnant for my son 10 years later.

Although giving up knitting was hard, think how much more difficult it must be to consider giving up one's concept of the Eternal, sexual preference or cultural identity. Yet these are all things that societies have asked of folks, sometimes with very dire consequences for those who don't conform.

I don't mean to compare a voluntary, recreational activity like knitting to a more serious subject; but I believe we can use our passions [knitting] to bridge understanding to people and events that may not be within our own life experience. This is one way that imagination informs empathy.

We have certain taboos in society - it's good to see folks thinking these through instead of just accepting what has been handed down to them. This is how a society evolves. At one time, it was so odd to see a tall woman/short man couple that they really stood out.

It's still a hard visual for some folks to get past - my own mother was more troubled by my height difference with Gerry than she was with our religious differences - but there are a lot more 'Betty & Barney' couples out there. It's just one example, and a silly one, but sometimes there's wisdom in silliness [Barney Rubble goofy laugh.]

I was fortunate that my return to knitting coincided with the printing of an article by Priscilla Gibson Roberts in Interweave Knits magazine outlining the various methods of knitting.

And there was my knitting style - named and legitimate. Hallelujah.

It's hard to express the calmness and sense of direction that legitimacy imparts. Being a maverick can be exciting - but it's wearing. Knowing you have a connection with others who do something you love so dearly in the same way is an indescribable joy.

Along with designing and writing, I teach Combination Knitting now - not to convert anyone to my way of knitting, but rather to help my students understand the architecture and grammar of knitting.

Much in the way that by taking French classes I began to understand participles and tenses in English better (and never forgot any of my native language in the process), learning a new way to form a knit or purl stitch can help us understand how to better diagnose and improve our own knitted fabric.

I was so lucky to read that article, so fortunate to find my 'place' as a Combination Knitter. I've discovered hundreds of other Combination Knitters who have come out of the yarn 'closet', now bravely knitting in public and explaining with patience and passion how different types of knitting are just different ways of looking at loops.

But my French still leaves a lot to be desired. Sacre Bleu!

*Reference Books:
Priscilla Gibson Robert's Knitting In The Old Way
Anna Zilboorg's Knitting for Anarchists
Mary Walker Phillips Creative Kniting
my own Confessions of a Knitting Heretic.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Gratitude of Love
A Continuation

But first, a word about Edmonton...

When I think about what kind of person I am - and we all do that - I feel that I'm someone folks don't considering dispassionately.

Maybe it's because I can be rather passionate in my own likes and dislikes (and try every day to tone that down so I'm not infringing on someone else's safe space to assess their own likes and dislikes), but I find it's true.

The more tired I am, the more exhausted or worn out, the less I'm able to control the sharper points of my being. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels better to have it under control.

I arrived in Edmonton after a wonderful but tiring weekend of teaching 45 women in Banff, and a long car & bus ride. After settling into my hotel and speaking with Barb, one of the owners of River City Yarns, I turned my mind to two more days of teaching.

With the exception of the changes I would have made in the double knitting class (see my post mortem post a few days ago) I feel the classes went pretty well. They were large - 25, 16, 19 & 26 folks in each respectively, and I worked my students pretty hard.

But keeping that amount of students functioning; tapping into their consciousnesses with my own tools of humor, knitting skill and a small amount of pushing, is exhausting and also VERY satisfying. I am very lucky.

Aside from Gerry's ongoing recovery and my amazing, helpful, cheerful, loving, complex children, I am more grateful for my students than for anything else I have in my life. I'm even more grateful for them than I am for knitting on some days (although the knitting and the students are all of the same piece.)

I received this very kind email from a student in one of my classes on Tuesday. I don't usually post these nice comments - and I get them quite often - but I read them over and over when I'm in a rough spot and they help me feel stronger.

I apologize for the self-aggrandizing - I need this today, though!
Hi Annie,

I just had to write and tell you how inspired I am after yesterdays class. I like the way you take command of the class room. So many times I have paid for a class and the women chit chat through the whole thing. This really disturbs me I am there to learn, not have a gossip party. I am so glad that you ask the class to listen and not chat. It sure makes it easier on you and much more enjoyable for those of us that want to learn.

This morning I picked up a Lace Pattern with NEW eyes and confidence when I read it. It all seems much easier to understand and when I look at the chart I actually know what the designer is illustrating. For sometime I have been wanting to knit a Lace Shawl from called the Sun Ray Shawl, it is written after Barbara Walker's Ivy Pattern.

So today I will start the shawl while this new info is still very fresh in my mind. Once again THANK YOU. You are a wonderful teacher.
This student will probably not know just how much her kindness meant to me today.

Another great kindness was the ride to the airport by Margaret, who has the distinction of having been married to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer - a Mountie - IN the Yukon. Be still my heart.

That is something that very few women can say - but I suspect many would like to...

Here is Margaret posing with her knitted Crusader doll. Don't ask. We almost got thrown out of the truck stop where we had breakfast.

Now I've SEEN Edmonton.

And now back to our regularly scheduled saga...

So I spent most of my life not dating very heavily - I'm an, well, unusual looking woman. Beautiful in many ways, but not in the more conventional ways. And - sadly - a lot of guys are shallow when assessing the assets of potential date material.

So I figured I was destined to be a Methodist Nun. I would call my mom, moaning that I wasn't married and seemed to have no prospects. Her astringent response?

"Honey, if being married were really important to you, you'd BE married."

Which was true. I've known lots of folks who have married because it was the thing to do, because they felt like they should be married, or because it was one of their life goals.

If the goal was simply to be married, my mom's comment implied, then I was strong and directed enough to do what needed to be done to GET married. But that wasn't the goal; and the goal I'd set for myself couldn't be rushed.

My goal wasn't to be married - it was to be in love, and to be loved; without turning myself inside out. Which is an easier goal to contemplate when you don't have folks busting down your door and asking for your hand. Or any other part.

So I lived my life as a single woman, moving around a bit but always thinking of myself as a New Yorker (I'd moved there when I was 20, in my last semester in college to work as an intern for Great Performances on PBS.)

NY is an exceptional place to be single - better than anyone else I've lived in that regard. There are families, yes, but many more transitional single and single-esque folks. It's easier to think of single-ness as a valid and long-term alternative to marriage, most of my NY friends didn't marry until their 30's (as opposed to my Ohio friends who married young.)

Maybe it's just that folks who tend to have marriage low on their goal list move to NY?

So I kicked around NY, working in corporate jobs (magazine production) and then knitting for a living (early 80's.) Then I went to grad school for set & costume design and returned to NY, living in Brooklyn, and worked as an assistant on Broadway and as a stylist for TV & photo shoots.

One of the plays I worked on was a stage production of the movie, "My Favorite Year" - it was such a lovely show, and I still feel sad that it didn't take off and move from Lincoln Center farther downtown to 'real' Broadway. But it was an enjoyable show to work on - a love story - and a heady experience as my theater gig out of grad school.

After opening night my services as a costume assistant and expert shoe-buyer were no longer required, so I found myself at home in my Brooklyn kitchen one Autumn Saturday morning.

I'd been a fan of the national show, What Do You Know from Wisconsin Public Radio, enjoying it on West Virginia Public Radio and I had written to WNYC asking them to carry it. When they finally did, I felt it was a personal triumph, so I listened whenever I was free on Saturday morning.

On this particular morning I called in and - lo and behold - actually got through and was in the queue to answer the qualifying question; "What was the first presidential couple to share the presidential bedroom?"

I was in the happy position of being able to hear three or four folks ahead of me guess wrong and leave quietly. When my turn came I decided honesty was the best policy;

- I don't know the answer, but I really, really want to be on the show...
- You could say, "The Fords."
- "The Fords?"
- You're RIGHT!

And thus it came to pass that I became a contestant - woo hoo!

The rules of this game are similar to You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx's TV show from the 1950's: A contestant is paired with someone from the studio audience, and together they're asked 3 questions. If they get these three questions right, they can choose to answer two more for a grand prize (the Big Kielbasa) and risk losing it all if they answer incorrectly.

I was paired with a nice man in the Madision, Wisconsin studio, Tom, and together we set out to win it all.

It may be hard to believe, but I pretty much talked non stop for 45 minutes. Or at least it felt like that. I remember trying to be considerate, and let Tom talk, but I was far too nervous and excited. One of the questions was about what color was Kilroy's hair, and my guess of Red (Kilroy sounds Irish, n'est ce pas?) was correct. Yay. Lucky me to have WWII era parents.

Another question was about a woman's purse, and I don't really remember the others. Each time, though, Tom and I took full advantage of the host's schtick of giving the correct answer when asked in the right way. Before long, we'd reached the pinnacle of the 5 questions, and we were Big Kielbasa winners. The end.

Or so I thought.

Two weeks after the show I received a letter with a Madison, WI postmark but a Queens, NY return address. I realized this was odd, even years before the Uni-bomber made folks queasy about mis-matched return addresses & postmarks.

So I opened the letter and it was very sweet, very charming and funny. It was a letter from a guy who'd heard me on the radio - and though I, too, sounded sweet, funny and charming. He wrote that he was living in Queens, and that he had NO idea where I lived or what my last name was because he'd called the producer of the radio show and she agreed that if he sent a letter to her, she'd mail it on to me.

The letter was charming - but what was I supposed to do with it? I asked my married friends, and they all said, "Stay away from this person!" My single friends told me that if I didn't call him, they would.

At the time I was costuming a production of the Yiddish classic, The Dybbuk, at a girl's Yeshiva and asked the all-female cast what they thought. "Call him, call him!" they all said. One asked, "Is he Jewish?"

I didn't call him, I sent a Christmas Card. So he called me. And we agreed to meet a few days before Christmas for coffee.

- "How will I know you?"
- "I'm 5'8" and I have a beard..."
- "Oh. I'm 5'11" and I have red hair..."

We agreed to meet at the famous-and-now-gone Peacock Cafe on Greenwich Ave (where they switched the coffee for Folder's Crystals in that TV ad from the 1970's.) I arrived early so I could settle in and have a bowl of soup and calm myself, settling in near the back of the restaurant to keep an eye on the front door.

I swear that every man in NY who was 5'8" with a beard came to the Peacock Cafe that night. Old ones, young ones, handsome, surly, pompous, gregarious - they were all there.

I was nervous and anxious. NONE of these guys looked very friendly. Then I saw that sitting near the front of the restaurant was a guy in an ill-fitting sport coat who looked as nervous as I felt. So I walked over to his table;

- Are you Gerry?
- Yes.
- I'm Annie. I have a table near the back, it's nicer, do you want to join me?

So we met. Both of us stretched the truth. I was more like 6', he was more along the lines of 5'7" We had coffee, then went for a long walk and ended by having a beer at the Prince Street Bar. That was date #1. By March he'd moved in, and by mother's day we were engaged - married in August.

As we were preparing to walk down the aisle, hand in hand, at the Old Music Building at Rutgers where we were married, Gerry told me that August 21st 1993 was exactly 9 months since he'd heard me on the radio, November 21, 1992.

This past August was our 14th anniversary.


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gratutide of Home -
An Explanation in Several Parts


I love home so much.

When I was twelve years old my dad lost his business - he'd started a company to create the first single place hovercraft in the US, and had signed a personal note which - when called in - pretty much wiped us out. My dad was a genius, but not terribly savvy. And sometimes kind of a jerk.

Our parents didn't share all of this financial difficulty with my brother and me, they just sucked it up (and fought a lot.

We had a very, very tense household.

The financial tension was manifest in so many ways; frustration, alcohol abuse and - worst of all - violence. Everything came to a head when I was in the 7th grade.

One day not long after Thanksgiving I walked home from school and found a notice on our door that our house would be sold in a sheriff's auction in 30 days. What a thing for a twelve year old to see. I guess my parents were in denial, or thought they would be the first to get the news. I'm certain they didn't envision me finding out this way.

So we started moving from rented house to rented house. Then, after my father died, from apartment to apartment.

During high school I used to drive my blue/green/aqua AMC Rambler through an area of Toledo called Ottawa Hills and dream about having a real HOME someday.

I've heard that Virgos can be very home-centered, and that's certainly the case for me.

When I went off to college my mother and brother moved into a two bedroom apartment - why spend all that money for an extra bedroom that will only be used a few weeks a year? - and I realized that any home I'd have from then on would have to be of my making.

So I made lots of homes.

Wherever I lived, I'd strive to make it a 'nice' space - as well thought out and as well furnished as I could afford. This may have been part of why I became interested in set design. I like creating good floor plans with nice flow, plans that give everyone their own space and create comforting, restful areas to relax.

I love home.

I discovered knitting when I was 25.

And, more than religion, art, music, nature - more than anything that had so far defined me as a person - knitting felt like home to me.

I could find the same comfort - I could ease myself into the same frame of mind - as I'd find in my home on a cozy winter night. All this simply by pulling out some yarn and needles and knitting deep into my soul.

When I began knitting and designing for a living back in the early 80's, I think I became enmeshed in what I can only describe as the Queen Midas Syndrome.

For better or for worse, I turned what I loved best into gold. Unfortunately, I lacked the maturity to make this devil's bargin very well, and I found I was destroying what brought me the most joy.

For this, and for a few other reasons, I put away knitting for many years. During that time I began to more clearly define myself - my hopes, dreams, goals - and I found my heart, my Gerry.

Gerry and I wandered into each others lives in an unusual way, almost pre-destined, and I can't help but feel that both of our maternal grandmothers (who oddly resemble each other in family photographs, go figure...) somehow got together and gave us a little shove in each other's direction. A shidduch

Tomorrow: How Gerry and I Met (you're going to LOVE this...)


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Monday, November 19, 2007

My Own Medicine

I realized this evening that I need to take my own medicine.

I tell my students over and over, "You have a brilliance within yourself, a genius, and it's up to you to NOT be so hard on yourself that you scare it away..."

I wanted folks to leave my double knitting class feeling on top of the technique; competent, powerful, two sided. But I feel that some students were more confused than I'd hoped. It's true that after some time to let their minds calm down a bit, empty out, some of the more intuitive stuff becomes clearer. But it takes time - class is limited to 3 hours.

I think I was spoiled up in Banff. I was able to teach folks one day, then see the information really sinking in the next day. A luxury!

One thing I realized was that I started right by having them do double knitting with two colors (easy to see!) But instead of having them bind off the swatch, I should have just continued on in the same swatch to double knitting with one color (then move on to St. st double knitting with one color)

It would have made everything so much easier, I'm sorry I didn't work it that way.

I change my classes to match the personalities I see in the group. Sometimes I move away from my established syllabus if I feel it's warranted. This was a case when I definitely should have stuck with the program. It was SUCH a hard working group - so dillgent and SUCH good knitters. But I just couldn't get myself to be as clear as I wanted.

I do think that folks acquired some very good skills, but I have the nagging feeling I could have done more.

Dealing with the self nagging - THAT will be a goal for the new year!

Human-ness can be rough when your self-expectations are too high.

So live and learn. I'll try to be honest about it with myself, not overstate the negatives and allow myself to fall into a pool of pity - easy to do! And not be perfectionist about my abilities.

Morning class - wire knitting - was really wonderful. Everyone walked out with a terrific bracelet and skills to make many more. That was gratifying. Yay.

Tomorrow is lace in the morning - always a fun class - and then Combination in the afternoon. I'm really looking forward to that, it's my favorite class to teach, and I feel that so many folks will really benefit from the techniques they'll learn in the class.

And, as always, it's a joy to be able to show a whole new group how to cable without a cable needle. That's like dinner and a show - a fun time for me, definitely!

I miss Gerry and the kids SO terribly right now - must be the holiday season coming on! I cannot wait to see them. And, added bonus, one of my students volunteered to take me to the airport on Wednesday, so life will be extraordinarily wonderful on that great major travel day! I'm a very lucky teacher - and just about the luckiest person I know!


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Sunday, November 18, 2007

On to Edmonton!

It was very hard to say goodbye to Emerald Lake - and the amazing breakfast this morning didn't help matters.

I slept SO well last night - while many of the retreat participants had a pajama party, I went to my room, lit a fire and read myself to sleep - wonderful!

I woke up feeling just slightly guilty for feeling being so happily tucked into bed - but not guilty enough to get out of bed until 9:00 am!

This morning one of my students from yesterday showed me her swatch and explained that she was not terribly excited about learning cabling without a cable needle.

But, she said, she ended up really enjoying the CWACK technique I taught (AND she was able to 'memorize' her lace so she could work pretty much chart free on the start of her Wavy Lace & Cable scarf!)

What a lovely thing to hear - I was so grateful to her for taking the time to tell me that. So I made her take my picture [above]

Sander took me back to Calgary a little early, so I was able to just make the 4:00 pm bus and get into Edmonton 2 hours earlier than I might have. I am SO grateful to her for getting me there on time - what a difference it makes to check into a hotel at 8:00 pm vs. 11:00 pm!!

The bus was lovely - comfortable and smooth, with a movie (Shrek III) and free snacks. And no one took away my concealer. AND I finished Max's socks and was able to start on some for Hannah (I added new toes to Max's sock to make them a little longer...)

Tomorrow I teach at River City Yarns - Wire Knitting in the morning, and Double Knitting in the afternoon. Both are really fun classes, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much trouble I can get everyone into...

Then on Tuesday is a lace class (more wavy scarves!) and I end with Combination Knitting.

I fly home on Wednesday - home! And, of course, it only dawned on me that it's the busiest travel season of the year. Lucky me. On Friday the holiday season officially begins when I have the traditional black Friday mammogram.

I'm putting thinking about T-Day on hold for a few days - too much to carry around in my mind... It's enough for me that just about every day this year has been some kind of a thanksgiving.
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Calgary to Banff, A Photo Essay

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guilt Edged

So here I am in Beautiful Alberta (flatter than I'd thought - but so was Denver - I keep expecting that high altitude will be being IN the mountains!)

Tonight I have a class at Make One, then tomorrow we leave for Banff for the weekend of knitting and teaching and communing with the scenery. I'm so excited - and so wishing that there were some way I could have brought Gerry. Maybe later - maybe I'll come again with him...

I left this morning - but later than I would have liked - after walking Max to the bus stop and getting a few packages ready to go. But there are things at home I wish I could have accomplished before I left. Things like:
    • Make hair appt for Hannah
      She's decided she'd like her hair short for fencing
    • Get shelves put up in downstairs bathroom
      Old china hutch needs notches cut out of it,
      then it needs to be mounted on wall
    • Put hinges on door of vanity, add shelf
      Just fiddly work, needs to be done...
    • Get old dryer up on Craig's list for sale
    • Put away outdoor furniture
      Hang from the ceiling in the garage.
    • Carry boxes of books from garage down to basement storage
      Thus freeing up more space in garage -
      I may hire a high school or college kid to help with all this carrying...
    • Reconfigure basement storage
      Now that laundry is on ground floor,
      we can use that room for book storage - yay!
    • Put away summer clothes, get out winter clothes
Those are the non-teaching / non-designing things that are on my mind. There are more, but that's what seems to be hovering around my head.

So here I am, 1,000 miles away and in another high altitude city, and I find myself fretting about things that I can't do anything about right now. Altitude and fretting. Fretting is pretty useless, but writing all this stuff down does make it seem surmountable.

Knitting A Bit More
I've been getting some nice knitting done - I have a cardigan I'm working on using Tilli Tomas silk Plie, and I'm really excited about the shaping. It also has a cool double knit edging up the front and along the neckline that will be fun to do (but hard to explain - why do I do this to myself...)

It's a simple knit - the shaping is created by a box pleat that sits under the armhole on each side. I had a student in Virginia try it on, and I'm very happy with the fit - quite flattering. I have to finish the sleeves, though, and then get the pattern written up.

I'm going slower these days than I used to - I know I sound a little idiotic, but it really is true that having so much to do makes less time for designing. In my worst moments I wonder if I'll ever be back to a place where I have a certain amount of 'waste time' - just to doodle around. On the plane today I doodled with some very pretty yarn, fiddling around with a hat pattern I've had in my head. I miss that. I did, though, have time to get the heel onto one of Max's socks. Yay!

Yarn will be arriving any day for a few pieces I'm doing for Lorna's Laces. I love that yarn so much - I think LL & Artyarns still rank as my all time favorite yarns.

I wish I could be at TNNA this January to see the pieces in action at the LL booth! I don't think I'll be going, though, as it's just not prudent for my budget if I'm not teaching out there. It will be good, though, to have more time at home.

When I get home next week I'll have a nice chunk of time to try to bring a few projects to a manageable state.

Spring Plans?
I'm thinking of putting together an East Coast trip, centered around the NY/NJ/CT area in the early Spring. Anyone interested?

I'm also closing in on finishing the tank top I've been working on since it was HOT. It's going to be a plus size - the sample will be - so for a nice change of pace I'll see if I can get a zaftig model to show off the pattern. I think I may just set that aside until Spring, at any rate.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007


It's amazing how much I rely on my computer - and it's not a bad thing.

I miss not being able to interact with my online friends, contact vendors and customers, or just check in with Gerry.

I've spent the past day catching up on a lot of email (I apologize if you haven't received a reply if you've emailed me recently!) I'm just about there, but I wanted to catch up on my blog, too!

As I recovered my bearing on my computer, I had another chance to come home and see my family doing well in my absence. It's hard for all of them when I'm gone - hard for me, too.

But it's lovely to see them functioning so well. They're getting to know the Twin Cities better than I will - visiting museums and historic sites when I'm away - and I'm jealous of that. At least I got to take them to Punch Pizza - after London took me!

Being away from Gerry for a few days at a time allows me to see changes in him that might not be as apparent to the kids. We don't really have any other 'regular visitors' in our lives - a few friends who come by every two weeks or so, but nothing like when we lived in NJ and had the same folks dropping by every few days.

So I'm it as far as another adult seeing Gerry's recovery. And I can tell that it's wearing on Gerry - he's lonely for some companionship besides me, the kids and the pets.

Both of us are concerned that this back isn't better. He has a great deal of pain (putting up the storm windows this weekend instead of calling someone on Craig's list, like I suggested, didn't help, did it Mr. Landy..?)

We feel that we're in a waiting game, waiting to see what the Mayo clinic says on his day 100 visit, waiting for a call back from his oncologist so he can get a referral for a back specialist or physical therapy, waiting for him to get better.

He is better - we think.

Physically he's not as well as he was just before the transplant, which is a disappointment to both of us. But the transplant and chemo were really rough, and it's hard to recover from them.

Hannah calls him, "Little Dad" - lovingly - and he accepts it - also with love. I'm ashamed of how much his reduced height seems to matter to me, in the scheme of life it's so unimportant. I need to keep remembering that. It could be ugly and hard to take without the love.

Fly Girl
The travel is rough. I have always hated flying, for me it's just tolerable at best. I'm larger than the average woman, and worse - I have long, long legs that bang up against the seat in front of me. The ten minute manicure in the Cinci airport made it nicer, but still - air travel is a bore.

When I'm squished into my seat, I find myself dreaming of my comfortable easy chair back home, where I'd be surrounded by my yarn & drawing stuff.

I hate being on someone else's schedule, hate being told to put all liquids in a baggie (because the terrorists hate our flawless complextions)

And I hate walking for what feels like miles to go from gate to gate. Over carpet. Dragging luggage.

This week my trip to Virginia entailed a total of 4 flights on small commuter airlines, the kind with jets that can't pull up to a gate, so travelers are forced to walk outside on the tarmac and up the stairs onto the plane. The pig was very enjoyable, though.

Each time I got to the top of the stairs I'd hesitate, turn, and thrust both arms up into the air, waving the peace sign with both hands.

No one thought it was funny (except me and one woman who laughed in Cinncinati.)

Each time I deplaned I waved like one of the Beatles. Once again, not funny. Eh.

All those steps, all that cramming my legs into small spaces, led to a visit to the doc today because my knee went 'out' during the night while I was asleep. Rest, she says, is the thing.

One of the lovely things about flying, though, are the views. I'm child enough to want a window seat - and I get some nice shots of clouds and wings and landscapes and sunsets. And planes.

Travel, itself, I enjoy. I love being in new places; seeing new trees and rocks and people and food.

I love feeling how different folks and landscapes just - are - around the country. I'd love to travel the world!

How great that The Amazing Race is on again - love that show - but I'll miss it this Sunday as I'll be on a bus from Banff to Edmonton while it's on. Ironic, huh?

I love knitting while I travel - Max's Sox have been a lot of fun, knitting them and picturing his face when I show him my progress.

He loves them - loves the color, the yarn, the fact they're for HIM! They fit - but just - so I am going to take off the toes and knit them out longer. In green.

One of my dreams is to take Gerry and the kids to Scotland at some point in the next few years - hopefully as part of a teaching engagement - but it feels to me that it would be an important thing to do. I am so looking forward to the trees, rocks, lakes and views of Banff this weekend. A woman at Max's school's Silent Auction told me she would see me there. Odd - small world!

I believe there is still some space in some of the classes in Edmonton, too - check it out, if you're inclined!

Old Dominion
Virginia was, as always, quite lovely. The drive between Staunton & Charlottesville was very beautiful, and my view of the small, charming town of Staunton was so interesting - changing between day and night. Fascinating!

Joe was great - proud and nervous about his anniversary - and supported by such a great staff, friends and customers.

Joe gave me some Hollyhock seeds in a baggie that looked suspiciously like some remnant of my distant past. And I was quite happy it wasn't in the car when I had my aforementioned chat with the local constabulary.

Angel made a sensational carrot cake (I brought it home to Gerry and he finished it - he alone!) and some wonderful cookies.

We're being fully supported with home-baked goods - thank you, again, Amy! Please hide them from me!

The Blog That Refreshes
It's hard to express how much this blog has meant to me in terms of keeping my priorities straight. Knowing I'll be writing about certain situations, about my feelings and interactions, makes it easier to get through some of the harder parts in life.

Of course I don't write about EVERYTHING in my life - that would be impossible and imprudent. But I write about things that I want to share, and that covers quite a bit of my designing and teaching life - and a little of my personal life, too.

And it's fun. If life isn't about having fun and finding joy in unexpected places - like a porch in Staunton - then what's the point?

Reading about other folks' adventures, writing about my own, it's a connection that I enjoy making - especially in the fiber community.

Most especially, the warm embrace that I've felt - that my whole family has felt - has been a great comfort in this past year. There are days that are very hard - times when I'm away from home, away from Gerry and the kids, and I find my mind wandering to the scary place where I ask, "Is this what it will be like when ...?"

I don't go there often, and seldom on purpose.

But I'm human, and I can't help but ponder the future. It's useless, but there it is. I can't help but tie myself up in a ribbon of "What If's" - as silly as that is. Silly, but human.

We all think those things, I have the perspective of understanding that I [we] may be closer to the not-to-be-considered future than I once thought I was. We were.

But this type of pondering doesn't take center stage very often. It's more like the pattern on the wallpaper or the weave of a carpet. It's there, and I can get lost in the design if I let myself. Or I can allow it to augment our lives, bring a different understanding to every day events and make everything that we do that much sweeter.

I do have my breakdown moments. Usually not in front of anyone - except, perhaps, a class of 20 people in Austin, TX...

But for the most part I'm happier keeping the sorrow to myself, secure in the knowledge that if I need support in those times, I'll find it in my friends (many of whom I've met and know through my blog.)

So my inability to post for the past few days - oh, I suppose I could have, but I preferred not to until I caught up with my other work - forced me to think hard about what the blog has meant to me, especially in this year.

I've done this blog for over 5 years - since 2002 - and my blog has been one of the most rewarding relationships in my adult life.


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Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Love VA

... and NOT because I'm not in prison.

I love it because I love it. Period.

Perhaps it's a cultural memory (my "people" have lived here since the early 18th C - here and what eventually became West Virginia), perhaps it's the lovely colors, but most especially it's the warm, warm welcome from Needle Lady in Charlottesville (hi, Izzy!) and On The Lamb in Staunton! And, yes, I can't stop thinking of Steven Colbert's "Monkey On The Lam" segment everytime I say the name...

Joe is a doll, Angel is an angel, and the classes are full of interesting and engaged ladies! Last night in Charlottesville I had SUCH a good time - I felt so loved (and I was feeling a little fragile) so I'm grateful for the mental hug you all gave me!

I'm not on my computer - I'm on the Business Center computer here at the ol' Stonewall Jackson, so my time is limited. But I wanted to give a shoutout to say that I'm NOT in the pokey, I'm LOVING Virginia (as I always do!) and I've seldom been treated more lovingly by students or shop owners. Thank you so much for the exceptional kindness.

Someone needs to teach the guy at the garage in Staunton to knit, though. Joe?

Right now I'm off to bed with an extreme headache. It's a migrane type thing, I'm certain it's been brought on by a combination of eating a sausage biscuit from this morning (didn't have time to eat it before class) and some severe overhead lighting at a book signing this evening (overhead lights give me headaches - how odd, huh?)

Oh - btw - my computer is a Powerbook G4. I don't know the volts / amps required by my power supply. At this rate I'll just wait until I get home and buy a new one at the Apple store. Hannah will be thrilled to have another reason to go to the MOA!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Apple Computer Shoutout

So I checked into my hotel - very short delay - then parked my car in the garage (the city employee was really rude when I asked him if there was a specific place that, as a hotel guest, I was supposed to park. He yelled at me, and when I asked his name he called the police on me and wrote down my license plate. Welcome to Virginia.)

According to the cop (yes, the COP - has word spread about me from Wisconsin?) who came by to have a word with me, he's a little deaf and can get 'cranky' Great.
Bad Knitters, Bad Knitters, What'ca gonna do?
What'cha gonna do when they come for YOU?
Then when I got up to my room my power supply "popped!" when I plugged it into the wall. I feel like I'm in a foreign country.

So, does anyone who's coming to any of my classes this weekend have a power supply I could borrow - even just for an hour - and charge my computer?

I'm running on 1% power now. You may not hear from me for a while.

Check the jail.


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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If You've Had Dinner Tonight

You're doing better than some in our country are.

My good friend, Jennie (Jennie The Potter) is working on Powderhorn Empty Bowls, a fundraiser to help stock a donation food pantry and fund a hot meals program for kids in the Powderhorn area of Minneapolis.

If you're in the area please do stop by and pick up a beautiful, hand-thrown bowl and get some delicious home made soup. You determine the donation - and you get to take the bowl home! How can you lose?

If you're not in the area but would like to make a donation or learn more about the fundraiser, please click here.

High Time

Gerry's response when I opened this fortune after our take-out Chinese dinner?
"I Agree!"

Me too. Time to try to saddle the horse up again. As I said, I've been gathering some historic knitting ideas together - working through some stuff - mostly just getting my mind back into the creative groove.

For knit design, that groove includes math as well as inspiration. It's important to think of a project from a math perspective; how many panels would be needed for a certain fit, how will the row/st repeat impact the shaping - lots of stuff like that. If I can start off with my mind in this direction, it makes it easier when I eventually write it all down and do the pattern calculations. Now on to the snake goddess.

I spent the day today nursing a chest cold-ish thing, it's been hanging on for a bit, and to be honest I think I used it as an excuse to stay rooted in my chair so I could get some decent knitting finished.

I'm almost done with a cute little cardigan - the sleeve openings look big to me, but that may be in contrast to the very fitted sleeves which have become fashionable. Fitted sleeves are great - but not always the most comfortable.

It's far enough along that I'm starting on the worksheet which will allow me to figure the different pattern sizes. It has a nice, easy lace repeat that is 22 sts wide, so I'm trying to figure ways to divide that repeat so that from size to size I can accommodate many variations.

I also pulled out the hem of a chemise type top I'm knitting with a worsted lace waist and dk ribbed bodice. If you'd like to see more detailed photos of how I did it, click here.

The yarn - Chameleon Colorworks Evolution - is a little on the thick side - the dk feels more like worsted to me, and the worsted almost like bulky - but it's SUCH amazing yarn to touch that I'm making this top in my size - with any luck it will be good for next summer...

It's been windy here - and I was looking forward to Virginia, thinking I'd be down in the sunny South. However, the weather comparisons for St. Paul and the zip where I'll be teaching don't show much difference.

Good thing I love the chilly weather!

My experiment in Denver was to pack as lightly as possible - and it worked. I think I'll try the same to Virginia - leaving more room for books. I hate taking books with me - I'd rather ship them - but I'm afraid that the books requested by the shops won't arrive in time, so here's more to carry.

My back, by the way, is wonderful. Thank you again, Ruth! And I won't resort to the Giles Corey school of packing any time soon, I promise...
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Monday, November 05, 2007


At first I thought we just had a weird cat. He likes to dress up in doll clothes. GIRLS doll clothes. Then I got this email... Evidently it's a movement. And who's on the cutting edge of it?


Yep, apparently while I'm out earning a living running all over hells half acre teaching knitting skills to stunning women (all of whom are fabulous...) he's out gallivanting at the Minnesota/St. Paul Airport, trying on American Girl doll clothes.

How do I know? He was captured by the paparazzi. Or should I say puppy-razzi...

So we're keeping a low profile. When I left to walk Max to the bus the photogs were 12 deep in front of our house. Hoping for a glimpse of Shiloh, evidently.

I Love St. Paul in Autumn
(how 'bout you?)
Being home for more than 4 days is a unique and wonderful experience, and also a chance to catch up on some work that's needed to be done. Winterizing - that's the ticket! So I'm going to run down to the nursery today and grab some bulbs and FINALLY get some into the ground before the frost comes. Or did that happen already...?

Then I can pretend that I'm sort of gardening. Last week I finally trimmed our hedges, what's next - putting the garden to bed? Folks here are serious about gardening, so I'd better get on the stick. My reward? A lovely pumpkin cake, baked in a bundt pan, which the entire family is enjoying (Thank you, L&L!)

Another thing they're serious about is KNITTING, which is one of the reasons I dragged my poor family halfway across the country to this Midwestern paradise, and I'm so gratified every time I see folks sitting around knitting at school events, coffee shops, police lineups (oops, didn't mean to mention that last one. Damn kitten.)

I taught two classes at Borealis Yarns on Saturday (incidentally, they have a cat dressed up on their webpage - maybe it's a St. Paul thing...?), and the folks there were so wonderful! It was my first time meeting Abby, the owner, who - along with Carol - took me out to the Ginkgo Cafe for lunch. Very good! I like this shop very much, and if I didn't live within walking distance of the dear Yarnery, I'd be at Borealis once a week! I may just drop by for the Tuesday night knitting, at any rate...

The Borealis classes were pretty crowded - not lots of room to move around - but we got by one way or another! It made the rules more important than ever, though.

Anyone who's taken a class with me knows my rules (yes, free-spirit Annie has rules. Obey or suffer.) So for those of you who haven't yet taken a class with me, here they are:

Rule #1
You are NOT allowed to say anything about yourself in class that you wouldn't want to hear your daughter say about herself.

This seems pretty much self explanatory (except for the time I had Joan Crawford in a class.)

I don't like folks to talk themselves down - they pay me good money to do that myself, and if I let them do it, then I'm superfluous.

Seriously, though, words have power.

Not using certain words - ie,
"I stink!" "I suck!" "I can't do this, I'm stupid!" is one way to get my students to begin to wrap their minds around the concept that they have ALL the knowledge they need already within them.

My job is to bring this knowledge together in a useful way so they can connect the dots and remember the techniques.

Rule #2
When I'm talking, I should be the only one talking.

This is from my Brownie Leader days, but it serves me in good stead. Talking is a distraction and disrespectful, not just to me, but to the other students.

I lose my place, I become distracted, and then we lose precious time while I vamp about my 5th grade sleep away camp experience while I try to remember where I was in the class.

Plus, the folks sitting next to the talker have a hard time fully concentrating. I'm doing this for your own safety, the annoyed knitter next to you has sharp objects within reach.

Rule #3
Do NOT rip out in my class!!

I don't mean that folks should NEVER rip out - I rip out frequently (I think of working through those rip-out knots as my own kind of sudoko - time consuming but fun and challenging)

My intention is that if folks make a mistake that they can't solve in class, I'd like them to let me know, and we can go over it together and use it as a learning experience. I LIKE folks to make mistakes - I often say that if one isn't making a mistake in my classes, one isn't trying.

Mistakes - if we choose to embrace them and learn from them - can be a way to discover several new ways to do something. But I have to be able to SEE the mistake myself in order to give any sensible suggestion on how something might be fixed.

Few things are as frustrating to me as having someone try to describe a mistake to me, ask me how to fix it, and see the tangled mess of yarn in front of them
(knowing that just 3 minutes earlier they had the errant swatch in their hands - and I could have really helped them quite a bit - had they not let some misplaced sense of shame force them to rip out the swatch.)

What usually happens is that as soon as I pick up a swatch and look at it
(and, if you ever take a class with me, please DO let me take the swatch out of your hand! Don't fight me, one of us will end up with the yarn, and one of us will end up with the needles...) the knitter has a mental connection and they'll understand very clearly what happened - even before I do!

Sometimes it just takes someone else looking at your work for something to click.
Improving ME /Improving YOU
I can be kind of blunt about my need for students to follow these three rules. I'm finding that lately I have less patience than I used to for folks who just refuse to help me out by following rule #2 - and patience is the most important thing to have when teaching.

So my goal as I continue teaching is to find inventive and kind ways of getting folks to follow these three rules - to make the class more comfortable for everyone, and more useful for THEM!

Knitting Update
On the knitting end, I have some patterns to write up, and some designs to work through. I think I'm getting back on track for the Historic Knits book (working title) and I have a few designs that should be out soon for sale on my website.

And I'm really digging Ravelry. I already love Flickr, this takes the whole using photos while talking about your work to a new level. Knitters are geeks - thank god.
Right now I'm working up a version of Backyard Leaves in two colors (Autumnal) for my class in Virginia at On The Lamb,

finishing a Tilli Tomas cardigan and shell,
working on a Chameleon Creations summer top
and pondering life. And Max's Heel.


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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


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