Saturday, April 30, 2016

Knitting, Nature and Friends (Old and New)

Two weekends ago, I made a quick trip to California to attend the Northern California Knitting Retreat. While there, I experienced two days of hanging out with other knitters, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, going for walks at dawn, and generally having a wonderful time.

In today's post, I want to simply share some photos from those magical two days. This is truly a case of a picture being worth a thousand words. Take a look, let your imagination take flight, and enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Birthday in Birdland

The inviting pathway above is at the entrance to the trails at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, where we went two Saturdays ago, on my birthday. It was a cool, cloudy day, perfect for exploring this little natural gem, which I have driven past many times on my way to and from meetings and events in Olympia, which is only about ten miles further south.

The wildlife refuge is especially known for the wide array of birds that live or pass through it, so Mr. D brought the binoculars and I brought my camera's long lens. We were not disappointed.

Not long after starting our walk, we encountered this male Downy Woodpecker. I have never been able to get a good clear photo of one of these intriguing birds before.

The trail initially followed the Nisqually River, and we spotted these Hooded Mergansers swimming purposefully through the water. I love how my photo captured both the still and broken up tree reflections.

Eventually, we reached the estuary, where the Nisqually River and another waterway meet and intermingle with Puget Sound. It is such a beautiful vista! In the photo below you can see a bit of Mount Rainier on the horizon.

The trail continues on a long earthen dike, that eventually leads to an even longer boardwalk. While still on the dike, we came upon a Great Blue Heron.

By the time we reached the boardwalk, the tide was beginning to recede, and we encountered this shore bird (either a Dunlin or a Dowitcher), looking at its reflection in the sand.

A little further on, we observed these Green-winged Teals nibbling something tasty.

We even saw an eagle, but he was too far away, and flying much to fast, to get into a photo. When we returned to the Visitor Center, I was able to get a photo of this flock of geese, heading north.

As you can tell, we had a magical morning, and it was a perfect way to start the next year of my life. Happy Birthday to me!

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Report From Stitches West

I bet you were wondering if I was ever going to tell you about this year's trip to Stitches West. I didn't forget you, and in fact, had great plans to write this blog post yesterday, until the wind started to blow and the power went out for nine hours. Things are back to normal today, so here I am to tell you all about it.

This year was a little different than previous Stitches West trips. Mr. D and I didn't combine it with a visit to our Santa Cruz family and a trip down the Central Coast. The Santa Cruz family is spending this year in Zurich, Switzerland, so Mr. D stayed home, and I flew down with my knitting friends, Sarah and Martha.

Day one got off to a VERY early start. I spent the night at Martha's house, and we had to get up at 3:00 a.m. in order to be at the airport for a 6:00 a.m. flight. Once we got going with the day, we were all okay, but by the end of the day we were really dragging.

Once we arrived in Santa Clara, the fun began. The three of us found a comfortable couch in the Hyatt lobby and waited for our rooms to be ready. While sitting there, we greeted friends as they arrived and had a very interesting conversation with a designer, Patty Nance, who happened to sit down next to us.

Within an hour or so, our rooms were ready, and then it was time for lunch. Every year we go to the Teachers a la Carte luncheon, and sit at a table with our friends Barb, Tracie, Pat and Mary. A number of the Stitches teachers rotate to each table for five minute segments, and they tell us about their classes and specialties. It's a great way to get ideas for what to take at Stitches West in future years.

After lunch, it was time for my first class, Stashology 201, with Chris Byslma. Barb was also in that class, and we had fun working our way through the various exercises that provided me with new ways to think about my stash and how to use those partial balls of yarn leftover from other projects. Here is a photo that I took of some of our class samples:

Then it was time for the market! Stitches attendees who register for classes or events get admission to the market preview on Thursday night. This is a huge advantage, because it is a lot less crowded than on Friday or Saturday. Sarah, Martha and I always do the passport game—you print out a passport before leaving home, then visit the booths on the passport and when done, turn it in for a prize drawing. None of us have ever won the prize, but it is a great way to scope out what vendors have to offer. At one of the last passport booths we visited, Dizzy Blonde Studios, we had our photo taken in the "transporter". It turns out that this is the only photo I got of the three of us during the whole three days. I bet you can tell that this was when we were really tired from our long day.

My time in the market over the three days kind of blurs together, so I'll just show you what I purchased:

A kit to make Knitted Knockers (more on this charity in an upcoming post)

A mini-skein set in the Bloody Mary colorway from Pigeonroof Studios

A sock blank from Western Sky Knits

Dragonfly Fibers Pixie in the Blue Velvet colorway 

I was pretty moderate this year, don't you think? Actually being in the Stitches market is more than just buying. While there, I turned in my recently completed Mother Bear, and returned the next day to find her on display in the Mother Bear Project booth.

We also spend a lot of time looking at the items displayed in various booths, and often take photos of them so we can remember just what that pretty shawl was called once we return home.

Sometimes we just marvel at all the gorgeous colors, like these, in the Neighborhood Fiber Company booth.

There were many more adventures at Stitches West: a great class on Mitered Squares from Marly Bird, the Friday night fashion show, pizza deliveries and Girl Scout cookies, not to mention the enjoyable podcaster get-together in the Hyatt bar on Saturday afternoon. As always, it was a whirlwind of fun, and over all too soon. Before we knew it, we were on another plane, watching the sun go down as we headed back home.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Smidgen of Madrona and a Significant Day

The Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat happens in Tacoma, Washington on President's Day weekend every year. I live only about an hour away, and I have attended every year since 2009. 2016 was no exception, but this year my attendance was brief.

I decided back in November not to register for any classes, a first for me. My friend Angela was  coming up from Portland, so I decided to drive down for part of Friday to spend some time with her. I left for Tacoma on Friday, mid-morning, got stuck in a huge traffic jam on the way, and arrived just in time for lunch. (Funny how leaving later in the morning to avoid traffic doesn't always work.) I got to spend some time with my dear friend, Nancy, at lunch and for a while afterwards, and once she went back to class I found a quiet corner and knitted and people-watched until Angela arrived. Once she checked in, our first order of business was to go and browse the market. I enjoy doing this every year. I often don't buy much, but I get vicarious pleasure from seeing what my friends purchase. Angela didn't disappoint; she picked out some gorgeous yarns! I was pretty predictable and purchased a skein of my favorite Hazel Knits in the 1984 Lipstick colorway. Isn't it delectable?

After our market adventures, Angela and I met up with Nancy and we went to dinner at our favorite Japanese restaurant. After a satisfying meal and conversation, I headed home.

So that was Madrona this year: short and sweet. 

Today is Leap Day, a very significant anniversary in my knitting life. On Leap Day 2008, I joined Ravelry. At the time, joining didn't seem all that significant. I had been told that it was a great source of patterns and full of project and yarn information, but I had almost no inkling of how important the forums would become in my life. Through Ravelry I learned about knitting podcasts, and without Ravelry's podcast groups, I would never have met Nancy, Angela, Sarah, Barb and a several other wonderful knitting friends. In addition, Ravelry is probably responsible for transforming me from an occasional knitter to a knitter with a capital K. I never would have guessed back in 2008 that Ravelry would send my life in a completely different direction. So on this Leap Day, my "second" (eighth) Ravelry anniversary, I want to say a big THANK YOU to Jess and Casey for creating this wonderful community!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Winter Dawn

One of the quirky things about the Pacific Northwest in winter is that despite many cloudy, gray and rainy days, we also get many wonderful sunrises, probably because there are often clouds gathering at that time of day.

I started photographing the sunrise a few years ago, when I was still working. My 20th floor cubicle window faced east, and there were many winter mornings when I arrived at work just as the sun was peeking over the Cascade Range. 2011 was a particularly good year for those winter dawn photos—including the first three shown here.

Coincidentally, our house also has an east facing window, and there have been many winter mornings when I have looked out that window and immediately grabbed my camera and long lens to capture the incredible colors spread across the clouds.

Do you get amazing winter sunrises where you live? Whether you do or not, I hope you will enjoy seeing some of mine.


Monday Dawning

Painted Sky

A Bluer Dawn (with Crow)

February Dawn

Cold Light of Dawn

Blue Waves

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cold Days, Warm Knitting

It was cold, cold, cold two weeks ago, when I traveled to Minnesota for the Knitajourney Midwinter Retreat. You may remember my 2014 and 2015 posts about this retreat, which is so much fun that I return each year. Two years ago, there was a lot of snow, last year, there was very little snow. This year, there was definitely snow, but the word of the weekend was not just cold, but frigid! On Sunday, the coldest day, it got down to -18 degrees Fahrenheit, which was the actual temperature, not the windchill (which was -38).

With temperatures this cold, most of the activities of the weekend were indoors, but I did get some amazing outdoor photos, too. Here is a sampling:

The setting sun, seen through the old oak trees at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. I took this photo (from the warmth of my friends' car) in the section of the cemetery where my grandfather is buried. I hope to return next September when I'm in Minneapolis to look for his grave.

The view of Lake Superior  from the upstairs window at Playing With Yarn, in Knife River, Minnesota.

Sea smoke on Lake Superior, which is caused by cold air moving over warmer water. 

 Jack Frost left his calling card on this window at Playing With Yarn.

It wasn't all snow and cold, of course. Lots of knitting was going on, as well as a bit of spinning, weaving, and, of course, eating.

I finished one sock, and cast on another. Here is the finished sock. The yarn is Intrepid Otter Rustic Stripes.

Here is Ellen at her spinning wheel. I took the photo at her house before we left for the retreat.

Susan experimented with a backstrap loom while Ceci looked on. 

 I ate very well all weekend. On Friday night I had pan-fried whitefish and wild rice risotto, Saturday lunch was warm beets and carrots and Sunday dinner was macaroni and cheese.

The overarching theme of the weekend was fun, laughter and fellowship. Many thanks to my fellow retreaters for their friendship, which keeps my heart warm on the coldest of days!

Friday, January 8, 2016

It's That Time Again...

Have you looked at the calendar? It's January, and you know what that means: New Year's resolutions, or, in my case, the annual goals post on the blog.

I tried really hard last year to not have too many goals, and I'm not sure that worked very well. I wanted to post more photos on the blog, and I did that to a certain extent, but the total number of posts was down significantly last year, so I'm not sure I accomplished much.

I also didn't have a hiking goal last year, and hiking was almost completely absent from the blog, and wasn't a big part of my life, either. (I blame the hottest summer in Seattle history for that.)

One area where I can report a bit of success was my goal to "significantly reduce my stash" in 2015. I didn't reduce it any, but it didn't grow, either.  I have exactly the same number of skeins in my stash as I had a year ago, so that means that my purchases were balanced by what I knit up and donated during the year. And, another small victory: I spent about $200 less on yarn than I did in 2014.

So, where do I go from here? I have come up with a fun challenge to use the older yarns in my stash. I love doing random drawings for projects, and have been randomly drawing the names of my self-striping and self-patterning yarns from a hat for my vanilla sock projects for the past couple of years. This year, I have something a little more extensive in mind.

1. I have listed the years 2008-2014 on slips of paper.

2. I've written items from my queue paired with stash yarns on other slips of paper.

3. I've written some ideas that set parameters for a project on still more slips of paper.

The photographs above are just a sample, so there are more project possibilities that I have included.  I have enough items to keep me knitting from my stash for at least two years.

The plan is to randomly choose one slip per month and cast on. For January, because I hadn't put together my choices for random drawings, I just picked a yarn and pattern that had been on my radar for a while. I'll leave the pattern as a surprise for now, and will reveal it in a later post. The yarn, which is shown below, was purchased in 2012 while I was at the Knitajourney Midwinter Retreat. The colorway is called Yarn Harbor, named after the yarn store in Duluth where it was purchased, and it's a store exclusive.

So that is my plan for stash reduction for this year, and perhaps for next year, as well. It should be fun, and I'll keep you posted on my projects as the year progresses.

So, how about you? What are your knitting goals or resolutions for 2016?

P.S. I photographed the slips of paper on three of my knitted shawls, Castanets, Burning Branch and Streusel. Follow the links if you want more information on those projects.