Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Knitting or Spring Hiking?

This was my dilemma as I sat down to write a new post, after three weeks of not doing so. Because I can't decide, I'm going to give you a little bit of both.

First the knitting: I've been working on socks, a shawl and a hat.  None are finished yet, but the socks and the shawl are getting close.  Here are one of the three pairs of socks I'm working on, Irishgirlieknits Honey Badger. I took the photo a few days ago, so I am almost to the heel now on the second sock.

I'm going to save a photo of the shawl for when it's done, but I will show you the hat I'm working on:

As you can see it's colorwork, Kate Gagnon Osborn's En Blekksprut Beret. I am currently much further along than the photo shows; I have finished the Fair Isle portion, and just started the stripes. The yarn, Fibre Company Canopy Fingering, is yummy.

I have one other BIG project that is off the needles, but not quite ready to be photographed. I'll give you a teaser photo for now, though.

On to hiking! There is a lot of snow in the mountains, so we have been hiking almost exclusively in the foothills, and, with one exception, we have gone to Cougar Mountain. In fact, we have hiked in Cougar Mountain four times in the last month. It has been a treat to watch spring advance a little each time we go there. Here is some of what we have seen:

The view of Lake Sammamish on a gray day, but with a bit of new green beginning to appear.

Beautiful blossoms, hidden in the forest.

Salmonberry blossoms, skunk cabbages and trilliums.

Tall trees, with new leaves silhouetted against a blue sky.

Yes, It's definitely spring!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Lot of Stitches West, 2014 Edition

Stitches West, 2014—FANTASTIC!

That doesn't make for much of a blog post, so I'll try to cover the highlights here. You may remember from last year's Stitches blog post, that I went by myself and only spent Thursday and an hour or so on Friday morning at Stitches. This year I had lots of company, and I got to spend almost three full days there. My friend Nancy and I shared a hotel room, and Sarah and Martha also came and were only three floors below us in the Hyatt.

We knew it was going to be a good day on Thursday when we looked out our hotel room window and saw this spectacular sunrise:

Like last year, Barb (knittybarb) and her daughter Tracie (alittleposy) arranged to meet us first thing on Thursday and we attended the opening spotlight together. This year, the speaker was Myra Wood, and she gave a fascinating talk, based on her new book, Knit in New Directions.

Then we moved on to the "speed-dating" luncheon, where the Stitches instructors move from table to table every five minutes and do a short presentation on their classes, designs and other interests. Sarah and Martha, who had just arrived from the airport, joined Nancy, Barb, Tracie, me and two of Barb's friends, Pat and Mary, at our lunch table. We had a lot of fun, and got a lead on some cool project bags, which you will see later in this post. After lunch, Martha took a photo of (left to right) me, Sarah, Barb and Nancy, and Nancy texted the photo to Sharon (SheKnits) Dreifuss. We all listened to her former podcast, and met through the She-Knits group on Ravelry. Thanks to Nancy for sharing the photo with me.

In the afternoon, I took a class on lace edgings from Myra Wood, and she was just as interesting as she had been in the morning. I learned some new skills for shawl knitting, too.

Thursday evening was the Market Preview, which is open only to people registered for classes or events. Just like last year, it was huge and overwhelming, but amazing, at the same time. Unlike last year, however, I was not  prepared with a good list of what I wanted to look at and buy, and that was a mistake. I spent too much time just wandering, and that contributed to the feeling of being overwhelmed. I did buy some yarn, though, which I'll share at the end of this post. I also managed to take a photo of one of the vendors at the Verdant Gryphon booth:

On Friday, I took a class entitled "Disaster Recovery" from J.C. Brier. It, too, was an excellent class, and I learned how to (finally) drop down and pick up dropped stitches, something that I had never learned how to do in all of my years of knitting. Hooray! 

Friday evening, Nancy, Sarah, Martha and I attended the fashion show, and Nancy and I attended the dinner afterwards. We saw some amazing knitted garments, some of which I would never in the world consider knitting myself (too difficult) but I would love to own them!

On both Friday and Saturday mornings, I took a walk on a walking/ bicycle trail that runs behind the hotel and convention center. It was wonderful to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. On Saturday, Martha and Sarah joined me.

Speaking of sunshine, it was so beautiful that we were able to eat our lunch outside on both Friday and Saturday. Here is a little corner of the hotel's courtyard, where we ate our lunch:

When I wasn't in class or the market, I was busily knitting on my final Halos of Hope hat for Knitters Brewing Company's team in the podcaster throw down. The deadline for turning in hats was Stitches West, and I bound off my final hat on Saturday morning, and immediately took it to the Knitters Brewing Company booth in the market and turned it in to Wendy:

It was such a treat to meet and talk to both Wendy and Kelie, who host the Yarn on Tap podcast, one of my favorites. I bought some of their yarn, too, as you will see at the end of this post.

My last event at Stitches, and one of my favorites, was the podcaster meet-up, which was held in the Hyatt bar on Saturday afternoon. It was lots of fun to hang out with my knitting friends. Here is a photo of Nancy with fellow She-Knitter Debra (Javanut). It was so nice to see Debra again this year!

It was also fun to meet and hangout with some of the podcasters that I've been listening to over the past six years. I got to talk with Dr. Gemma from Cogknitive, Gayle and Sharlene from The Yarniacs, and of course, Barb and Tracie, the 2 Knit Lit Chicks. I also sat and knitted with Seattle podcaster, Erin, from Doubleknit, who I seem to run into at almost every fiber event that I go to. I even remembered to take a couple photos of the meet-up:

So that is my time at Stitches for this year, except for one thing: my market purchases. Here is the promised photo of what I bought:

Clockwise, from the top: nesting bags (4) from Neece's Pieces, Knitters Brewing Company Zebra sock kit, two skeins of self-striping sock yarn from Invictus Yarns, Miss Babs Yowza, What a Skein in the Prince colorway, Knitters Brewing Company Brewski in the Framboise colorway, and a Della Q interchangeable needle case.

I'll say it again—Stitches West, 2014—FANTASTIC!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Little Bit Madrona, 2014 Edition

You may remember that last year I wrote a post with a similar title to this one about my adventures at Madrona and Stitches West. This year, I was able to attend both events again, but because I was at Stitches West for almost three full days this time, I am going to talk about each event in separate posts.

First up was Madrona. Unlike in previous years, this year I decided not to stay in the hotel, and when registration rolled around last November, none of the three- or six-hour classes appealed to me. So instead, I decided to go down to Tacoma for only one day, Thursday, February 13. I also signed up for two 90-minute mini-classes when they were opened for registration in January.

The first class was "Original Lace Design". I took the class solely to experience the legendary Evelyn Clark. She was wonderful, and I learned many new things about lace in the class, although I don't think I'll be doing a lace design anytime soon.

My second class was "Knitting with Your iPad", taught by Debbi Stone. Again, an excellent class. Even though I use knitCompanion, there are times when I don't want to go to all the trouble to set up a pattern in kC, and Debbi showed us some cool apps that will provide me with some other options to use with simpler patterns.

When I wasn't in class, I hung out in the beautiful Hotel Murano. The hotel is located a short walk from the Museum of Glass, so there are amazing glass art pieces located throughout the hotel. Here is the spectacular blown glass chandelier in the lobby:

I'm sure you are wondering if I spent any time in the Madrona marketplace. Of course I did! It seemed a bit smaller this year, with one favorite vendor, Blue Moon Fiber Arts, missing. (Sadly, Tina has given up vending at shows.) I made only one purchase, and I bet you can guess what it was:

Hazel Knits, of course! The colorway is Heartthrob, and it is a slightly more deep pink-red than the photo shows. Those reds can be so hard to photograph!

As we did last year, my friend Sarah and I met for dinner and went to our favorite Japanese restaurant. Then we went  to the third annual Teacher Talent Show, a Madrona highlight, which I still can't tell you about. Remember: what happens at Madrona stays at Madrona. We had a great time, and laughed a lot. When the talent show was over, I didn't have to do the hour-long drive home; I got to stay in Sarah's cozy upstairs guest room and drive home in the morning. Thanks, Sarah!

So that is Madrona in a nutshell. Up next is the much bigger Stitches West, which happened only a week later. That post will be coming up in a few days, so stay tuned.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter in the Pacific Northwest

A lot of people think that here in the Northwest, winter looks like this every day:

I will admit that sometimes winter looks very much like those photos, but this winter we have been treated to much more variety in our weather. Do you want to see? Take a look below:

Obviously, not just a succession of rainy days all winter long. But let's keep it our little secret, shall we?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Knitting in a Winter Wonderland

Have you been wondering where I've been? I've been absent from the blog for a couple weeks for a good reason: last weekend I attended the Knitajourney Mid-winter Retreat in Duluth, Minnesota. I know, I know, I can hear you already: "Minnesota in the winter? Are you crazy?" But I love Minnesota in all seasons. I spent 18 years and many Christmases and vacations of my life there, and in many ways I still consider it home. As a result, going there in the winter isn't as awful as it sounds.

That being said, it was pretty darn cold, and there was a lot of snow! This is the view from the second floor of the retreat house.

But the truth is that when you spend time in a cozy and beautiful house with a group of knitting friends, the cold doesn't really matter. This is our wonderful retreat house:

Here is the room I stayed in, and what I found next to my bed:

We ate very well:

Some of us went on a walk along the creek in the snow.

We went on a yarn crawl to two area yarn stores. One of them, Playing With Yarn, had more yarn per square foot than just about any yarn store I've ever been in. It also had a spectacular view of Lake Superior.

Mostly, what we did was knit and talk and enjoy the warmth of the fire and of our friendship.

Many thanks to Susan, Alison, Betsy, Laurie, Ceci, Ellen, Lisa and Lisa. You made the weekend perfect. Let's do it again next year!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Annual Goals, the 2014 Edition

Well, here I am, with the third annual goals post. This year, all of my goals are knitting-related. "What?" I can hear you asking, "No photography goals, no reading goals, no hiking goals?" That is correct, and I'll tell you why: I did such a great job with those goals last year, that I'm giving myself the year off. In 2013, I completed a photo-a-day challenge, I read 52 books, and I did 22 weekly hikes. I also accomplished my long-standing goal of walking a half-marathon. Giving myself a pass on these types of goals in 2014 does not mean that I won't be taking photographs, reading or hiking, but it does mean that I am going to be more relaxed about doing those things. You can expect to see my photography here on the blog, and I will definitely feature weekly hikes in the summer. Who knows, I might even have an occasional book review here, too.

So, let's get down to the knitting goals:

1. Continue to finish or frog those long-standing UFOs and lingering WIPs.

I did fairly well on this goal in 2013. I finished two UFOs, one from 2011 and the other from 2012, and I frogged a project from 2011. I still have one UFO from 2009, one from 2011, and a couple lingering WIPs from 2013 that need to be dealt with. I hope that these will all be wrapped up in one way or another in the first three months of the year.

2. Knit from my stash as much as possible, and buy less yarn than last year.

This goal is on my list every year, and every year I say that I did a little better on this than the year before. I'm saying the same thing this year, but I'm hoping that at this time next year I'll have a significantly smaller stash.

3. Knit down my stash of self-patterning and self-striping yarn.

This goal shouldn't be too hard to accomplish. I have about 13 of these yarns currently in my stash, and I almost always have a plain vanilla sock in a self-striping or self-patterning yarn on the needles. Back in November, I got the idea that it would be more fun to knit with these yarns if the choice was random. So I wrote each yarn name and colorway on a slip of paper and had Mr. D draw one out of a hat. I just finished that first pair of socks two days ago:

Mr. D has already randomly selected the yarn for the next pair, and I'll be casting it on soon. Watch for more of these FOs on the blog in the coming year.

4. Knit projects with the gift yarn in my stash and the gift patterns and books in my library.

I am embarrassed to admit that I have received many skeins of yarn as gifts over the past six years and I've knit with almost none of it. This year, that is going to change. I have done a little better with knitting gift patterns: this past year I knit two of the three patterns I received as gifts from Ravelry friends last Christmas. But I am also counting the patterns in books I have received as gifts, and if you include all those patterns, I'm not doing well at all. Stay tuned to see if I can change that in the coming year.

How about you? What are your goals for the year? Whatever they are, I hope your New Year is a happy and healthy one!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Knitting Highlights of 2013

Only two days until 2014 begins, so it's a good time to look back at my knitting in 2013. It's particularly important that I do this, because the knitting posts have been few and far between this year. To make up for that lack at least a little bit, I going to share some of my favorite knitting projects from 2013, and add a promise that there will be much more knitting content on the blog in 2014.

So here is the whirlwind tour of my knitting year. Links are to my Ravelry project pages.

Hats: I knit more hats this year than in any other year since I returned to knitting in 2008. Below are a few of them.

The Mr. D Hat and The Matt Hat.  The pattern is BRRH! (Basic Reversible Ribbed Hat), designed by WillyG. The two clowns in the photo are each modeling one side of said hat.

The Baby-to-Be Hat, which I knit for my friend Emily, who gave birth to Oscar in late November. The pattern is Rhythm, designed by Stick Chick Knits, Melissa J. Goodale.

Over the past two months, I've been knitting hats for Halos of Hope, a wonderful organization that provides hats to people going through chemotherapy. So far I've knit three hats, and I have another one on the needles. The hat in the photo is Marly Bird's Gerri Hat, my Halos of Hope Hat #1, modeled by me.

Scarves and Cowls: I knit three scarves (two of them lingering WIPs, one from 2011 and one from 2012) and three cowls. Here are photos of my two favorites.

This is my Zig-Zagging Around the World, started on our European trip in August 2012, and finally finished in May. The pattern is Zig-Zag Wanderer, designed by Kimley Maretzo.

This is my Berry Breeze Cowl, the Summer Wind pattern, designed by Carrie Sullivan, Irishgirlieknits. I loved knitting this pattern, and I know I'll knit another one in the future.

Shawls and Socks: As always, my two favorite things to knit, and I knit many of each of them this year: 9 pairs of socks and 7 shawls. Some of those socks and shawls have gotten into my posts this year, but here are two that haven't:

My happiest pair of the year, Toe-Up Try (Once Again), the first toe-up socks that I have knit that actually fit! The well-written pattern is Straight Up Socks by Kellie Oreb.

This is my Rusty Milkweed shawl, started in 2012 and finished last January.The Hazel Knits colorway, Big Red, was a bit too orange to look good on me, so I gave it to my sister-in-law, Karen, and it was perfect for her. I loved knitting with the yarn, Hazel Knits Entice MCN, and the pattern, Laura Chau's Milkweed, is one I will knit again.

There was a real variety of projects in 2013 that I haven't touched on here—mitts, toys, coasters, dishcloths, and cardigans—but this post has gone on long enough, so you will have to wait and see what comes off the needles in the months ahead, as I know there will be more of all of these (except perhaps, the coasters).

Watch for my knitting goals for 2014 coming up soon!