Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Your 2010 Knitting Horoscope!!

Greetings Fellow Knitters,
2010 is just about upon us so herewith is your knitting horoscope for the New Year!

Capricorn (Dec 22 – Jan 19)
Cappy the goat is known for patience, resourcefulness, setting big goals, and reaching them. But reaching these goals can, goat-style, require climbing the mountain slowly and sideways, and stopping to eat everything along the way. You can’t help but set your sights on a mountain of projects for the new year—and that’s fine. Just remember that slow and steady wins the race, and it’s okay if you get distracted from that six-month sweater pattern by ten other irresistible projects. Don’t be hard on yourself if meeting goals takes a little longer than hoped-for deadlines—you’ll get where you’re going because you always do. Also, your stubbornness means you like to learn by doing, often on your own. Consider taking a class or two, even if you wind up not following instructions—you’ll enjoying knitting with the herd.

Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 18)
The symbol for Aquarians is the water carrier, and those born under this sign are known to be a little kooky (in a good way of course), super-creative, and dreamy/floaty. Go with your natural flow in 2010, and don’t get anchored down by projects you feel you “have to” knit. Instead, let the tide of knitting take you where it will, and if you wind up with a few unfinished projects, so be it. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination. You might want to start the year off knitting a dozen swatches, just for the hell of it, trying out a range of fiber weights and needle sizes. Your streak of originality will lead you to some off-beat patterns, some patternless seat-of-your-pants projects, and possibly even a foray into other crafts. Maybe a little crocheting or Cricket Loom weaving awaits you?

Pisces (Feb 19 – March 20)
Greetings my fishy Pisces friends, and welcome to what promises to be an exciting new year—nay, decade—in knitting for you. Time to start swimming upstream, against the tide, and thinking about taking on those projects you only dreamed about until now. You’re known to adapt well to whatever water you swim in, so think about jumping into the deep end, and go ahead and bite off a little more than you think you can chew. You’ll be surprised. Been meaning to try out an Aran sweater? This is the year to go for it. Of course your need for originality might find you knitting such a classic pattern in some bold or even fluorescent color. Do not be afraid. This is going to be a time for real growth in your knitting, with lots of experimentation in textures, colors, and challenging patterns.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Oh my stubborn Ram! What are we going to do with you? I have an idea. Let’s put that hardheaded tenacity and incredible enthusiasm of yours to work in 2010. Pick a project, any project—socks, hats, scarves, sweaters, leg warmers—and stick with variations on that singular theme for at least the first six months of the new year. Challenge yourself to memorize a basic pattern—say socks or a top-down sweater—then see how many of this one particular project you can make in the first half of the year. Think of it as full-immersion learning, and don’t move on to something new until you can make your project without consulting the pattern. Then spend the second half of the year taking what you’ve learned and teaching yourself to improvise as you go, and see what kind of designs you can create on your own.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
You’re not the only stubborn, hoof-footed member of the astrological pack, my bullish friend, but you might actually be a hair or two more tenacious than Aries the Ram and Capricorn the Goat. You cannot help but charge into projects, and—naturally—you’re drawn to anything made in red, with capes being especially attractive to you. This loyalty to particular colors/patterns has served you well, and with your generous spirit you have given away many a knitted gift. But how many red capes can you gift to friends and family members? Time to come charging out of your corner in 2010. There’s a huge arena of possibilities that away you. If jumping into projects and colors heretofore unknown to you feels off-putting don’t let that stop you from experimenting. Just keep a small project-of-familiarity on the needles at any given time (like comfort food) while simultaneously trying out some new projects that let you show off the fancy footwork you didn’t even realize you possess.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
Geminis, symbolized by The Twins, have such a hard time with singular projects. Preferring instead to create two of everything, knitters born under this sign are apt to be working on socks, mittens, gloves, leg warmers, earmuffs, arm warmers, and the occasional knitted bikini top. These smaller projects serve you and your restlessness well, knitting up quick as they do. But 2010 is a time to slow down and pick something big to work on—afghan anybody? If such a big change feels daunting, here’s an idea: grab a book of sampler patterns, and knit up individual panels you can sew together later. This will allow you to try out all sorts of techniques, from intarsia to Fair Isle to cables to bobbles. If you simply cannot break away from knitting in pairs, here’s an idea: try knitting mittens in two different colors or, at the very least, testing out the Noro sock yarn, which—with its cool variegation—yields a pair of socks that match, just not identically (you know, fraternal socks).

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
Oh my crabby friend—you Cancers are actually known to be pretty good teachers, but when it comes to learning, you prefer to do so on your own. 2010 is going to be different. When the Knitting Muse whispers in your ear, “Time to take a class,” you mustn’t block the advice (blocking is for sweaters, after all, not smart suggestions). Set aside your fears and self-absorbed knitting tendencies, and crab-walk on over to a felted bootie class, an intarsia bag class, or—and this is really the best idea—an ongoing weekly class. It’s not just about learning new skills it’s about camaraderie and also it’s about learning how other people teach, so the next time you’re called upon to show someone how to knit, you’ll have fresh insight on the best way to do so. Being the crab, you’re drawn to the beachy side of life, so go ahead and indulge the urge to work with sandy colored linens, light colored cottons, and sea green bamboo yarn.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)
Leo you know it, but allow me to confirm: you are king of your own jungle. And what a jungle your knitting life has become—that stash in your lair has gotten a little out of control, no? Consider 2010 a time for purging a bit, or at least rearranging to make the space the comfortable den you know you prefer it to be. As for projects in your near future, embrace your regal ways and go for the gold—think mustards, reddish-oranges, and mane-like fuzzy stuff. And before you fall prey to your own love of working alone, be sure to make plans to pop by KnitBuzz at least a couple of times per month to bond with your kindred spirits. That’ll allow you to roar for joy in the new year.

Virgo (August 23 – Sept 22)
Oh Virgo—Virgo, Virgo, Virgo! You with your need for precision, over-organization, and insistence on constant order has led you, until now, to stick with carefully selected patterns, monochromatic designs, and lots and lots of Virgin-y wool. Well guess what? 2010 has some big surprises in store for you. The whim won’t strike often, but when you do find yourself inexplicably drawn to some variegated something, or a pattern with more than two colors in it, or a design that involves something that—at least to your eyes—seems a little…er… messy—don’t avoid the urge. Go for it. You’ll make at least three projects this year that, by your definition, count as unconventional. Enjoy the process and remember it’s the journey, not the destination. Bonus points if you can keep yourself from TINKing and ripping out rows.

Libra (Sept 23 – Oct 22)
Well-balanced, Libra? Not exactly. Despite the scales that symbolize your sign, the thing is, nothing in life is ever totally balanced and, admit it, this drives you nuts. You hesitate to start a sweater because what if one sleeve winds up a hair longer than the other? Your idealism and difficulty with decision-making throw further hurdles in your path. But great news: 2010 is the year you’re going to learn how to exhale, forget about seeking perfect balance, and just knit, knit, knit. Your first knitting assignment for 2010 is a stash scarf—keep the stitches simple (garter, St, st, or a 2-2 rib will do), but really mix it up with the yarn, using light and heavy weights, natural and manmade blends. You might want to toss several balls in a bag and pull out a new one (no peeking) every five to ten rows. This won’t be easy for you, but it will help you let go of that decision-making quirk of yours.

Scorpio (Oct 23 – Nov 21)
Scorpions are a resourceful lot, with plenty of passion to boot. In 2010 it’s time to apply these assets and think about checking out the organic side of the knit-life. Other good project possibilities come in the form of gathering up all those UFOs and making a plan. Perhaps you’ll unravel them and repurpose the yarn for something you truly want to finish. Or maybe, by the time you start unraveling UFO numero uno, you’ll get a burst of Must Finish All UFO’s, and knock out those old projects pronto. Particularly playful Scorpios might want to try something really different—bind off those UFOs now, wherever you are in the project. Now felt these pieces, cut them into manageable shapes and sizes, and sew them together to make a bag, blanket, hat, iPhone cover or whatever your imagination dictates.

Sagittarius (Nov 22 – December 21)
Just about everyone loves the low-key Sags of the world. And Sags, for their part, give the love right back. Both independent and loyal, Sags know when to listen during knit group, and when to offer gentle support. Same goes for Sagittarian knitting—you’ll continue to be dedicated to your projects, and you’ll finish nearly everything you start. Your mellow nature will lead you toward soft yarns and patterns with curves—I’m thinking cables, chunky fibers, and maybe even a few pom-poms thrown in for good measure. And Sag? Do us all a favor and sign up for a knitting retreat in 2010. Your even keel and good nature makes for great fun and great company. You’ll be a welcome addition to any group you join be it ongoing or a one-week knit-themed vacation.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

There's No Place Like Hill Country Weavers

Knitting on the Bullet Train to Paris

Hey Y'all,
Well, poor me, I am STILL in France! Earlier in the week, I was on the Riviera, in a little place called Cagnes-Sur-Mer, near Cannes, Nice, and Antibes. Our last full day in town, we hopped the train to Antibes, and walked all over the old port city in the pouring rain and freezing cold. Quite by accident-- or at least not by design-- we stumbled upon a little knit shop. I mean, it was tiny. We popped in-- stopping at knit shops in other cities/states/countries is a favorite pastime of mine. The shop owner was really nice, though we had a hard time communicating. I finally scrawled on a piece of paper Marche d'Tricot which I hoped meant "knit shop" and wrote the url for this blog, trying to explain that I write it. I picked up a couple of balls of this golden yarn to knit up a thank you gift for my friend, who loaned me her apartment in the South of France. The needles I bought were pretty long, and plastic. They actually had much longer needles, no circulars (my preference) in sight.

Christmas Eve, we walked for thirteen hours (!) around Paris. Oh, this really is an incredible city. I took out my knitting at the top of the Eiffel Tower and promptly lost one of those pink rubber pointy needle point covers I use to hold my DPs together when I'm working on socks. This led me to be able to announce to Warren that I had "lost a nipple on the Eiffel Tower." I'm guessing not a lot of folks get to say that. I also knitted at Cafe Carette, where the hot chocolate (chocolat chaud) was so out of this world, so rich and thick, that I honestly wanted to cry. It was one of those moments that instantly sears into the mind, and I know I'll remember it always.

Knitting at the top of the Eiffel Tower

After the hot chocolate, we then tromped up the Champs Elysees, and on to Cathedral d'Notre Dame, where a children's choir gave a concert at 11 pm. We got there at 10 pm (and based on the crowds, we should've got there about 6 pm) and to wait out the hour, I again got out my knitting and worked in the total dark. So this particular sock is like a knitted postcard of sorts.

Christmas Day, I was so wiped out from the day before, I just sat home and worked on the sock, and managed to snap one of my DPs in the process-- but I had a spare. Then today, we headed out to the Jardin d' Luxembourg, and the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) where I picked up yet another bag for my knitting at Shakespeare and Company, an American bookstore in the neighborhood where Hemingway hung out in the 1920's. And then... and, it was off to 9 Rue du Jour, which is the address for La Droguerie, which I'd read on the Internet was maybe the best knit shop in Paris. I got so excited on the way I nearly peed my pants. And it was exciting, just not how I expected it might be.

Knitting over hot chocolat et macaroons

First, I was bummed out when we walked in to see the No Photos sign. How can I accurately report to you all without the benefit of photos?! The place was packed, I mean absolutely jammed with shoppers. And I was beyond confused. There seemed to be three or four distinct lines but no real indication of what line was for which purpose. The store also serves as a bead shop, craft store, and also has a little bit of quilting fabric in addition to the yarn. Warren doesn't speak French, but he is trilingual, and fluent in Spanish, so he has been sort of able to figure stuff out. He tried to guess exactly how one maneuvered La Droguerie, then gave up and went to plop down on a bench while I fingered the goods.

Not that life has to be a competition BUT... Hill Country Weavers has a far more massive selection than LD. Then again, I like to always get a little something as a memento of other stores, so I started looking for some DPs to replace the one I'd broken. I found a rack of needles, some bamboo, but most plastic, and all about seventeen feet long. I did find a few DPs tucked away in a drawer, but wasn't sure if I was rooting through their stock, and felt a little nervous. I found a mitten kit I was thinking about getting, but it was 26 Euros (about $40 USD), and I already just made some hand warmers. Finally, I settled on a little kit that is supposed to yield a knitted cat (le chat). It should be interesting trying to figure out the directions in French/metric.

I stood in one line for a really long time, long enough to realize this was not the checkout line, and also to figure out how the store works. You wait in one line for one of the beautiful clerks-- all of them dressed in some lovely knitted something-- to approach you and ask what you need. Then she takes you to it. THEN you get in another line to pay.

When it was my turn to pay, I asked if the clerk spoke English, and she said "a little," so I explained I write this blog, and asked could I please take some pictures. She said okay, but not any of people. So Warren took a few shots, and we immediately got reprimanded by another woman. I looked at her, flustered that I didn't know how to say in French, "BUT THAT LADY SAID I COULD!!" So I just stood there gesturing like an idiot and turning red, and she said, "Say it in English!!" So I said it in English, and all was repaired, and we took a few more pictures.

I'm glad I got to check out the shop, and I'm glad I still have several more days left to walk around Paris. One of the best parts of all this walking and people-watching is that with the weather being so cold, everyone has trotted out their knits and there is no shortage of smashing sweaters, scarves, and chapeaus to be admired. But I have to say I also will be happy to get back to HCW and just sit in my happy place, and look at our massive happy inventory (and check out all the new Lantern Moon tape measures that apparently came in when I was gone). I'm also psyched because I'm going with Suzanne to market in January, almost the minute I get back from France, so I'll get a sneak peek at all the stuff she'll be selecting for the spring shipments. And bonus points, market happens during my birthday. I am really, really digging all this knit-travel stuff that keeps popping up.

Oh, and just because I'm on the continent doesn't mean I'm knitting continental. I'm still throwing like a maniac, and hope to finish up those socks soon.

Au Revoir,

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! Happy December! (Whatever You're Into, We Wish You a Very Merry)

Bon Jour Again From the Riviera, Y'all,

I would like to wish every single one of you a super happy whatever you are into celebrating around this time of the year. And if you prefer hiding out from the holidays, holing up and knitting without all the blinking lights, and shopping madness (which is just how I like it) then I wish you great luck in your efforts to keep it on the down low.

Before I left town, I stopped by the store to check with Suzanne about some ideas for the blog, so that I could post while I'm over here in France. Actually, I could post every day about being here, and I could make it yarn related. For instance yesterday, I was at the Musée Renoir in Cagnes-Sur-Mer (the ville where I am staying), and I saw a lovely painting of sheep. Then today, I was at the Musée Fransicain, a monastery/church in Nice, and I knelt down to check out the nativity scene, and there were still more sheep. But, most practically speaking, I have to tell you-- in all seriousness-- I have had sheep on the brain all day. Because it poured rain here and we don't have a rental car, just our feet, and the buses, and one umbrella apiece. And it is really, really cold. So out we set, in the pouring down, freezing rain, for a day in Nice. We walked and walked, got lost, walked some more, saw the Musée Matisse and the Musée Chagall (Chagall was more into painting goats than sheep), then walked some more. And the entire time, my feet stayed warm and dry, thanks to my homemade wool socks. And my inside layers of clothes stayed dry thanks to my Manos sweater jacket. And my head stayed warm courtesy of my Nashua hat. And my hands were toasty, too, because I made some booty-kicking Noro handwarmers.

Boy was I grateful to the sheep today. And to knitting.

Which brings me back to y'all. A few weeks ago, I wrote a Love Letter to Hill Country Weavers. Now, on behalf of Suzanne and everyone at the shop, allow me to write a love letter to y'all. Thank you so much for keeping the store thriving, even through what has been such a tough economic time for just about everyone. Thank you for signing up for so many classes, for hopping on the Cricket Craze, for welcoming warmly Brooklyn Tweed and Cookie A. And thank you, from me, personally, for reading this blog. I've been at it for about a year now, and regular readership is growing and I am just so digging being in regular touch. The store wouldn't be the store and the blog wouldn't be the blog without y'all. So thank you, thank you, merci beau coup from the bottom of our warm and woolly hearts.

I hope you get all your holiday knitting knocked out before midnight on the 24th. I'm going to try to wrap up a leg warmer tonight so I can get cranking on some socks tomorrow on the bus to Antibes (Whee! Oui! Zee Musee' Picasso!)

Oh, and about the pictures here (I mean, besides the Renoir painting) the knitted Christmas lights can be found in the book Christmas Knitting in Color by Nanette Blanchard - and the picture at the very top is of a massive knitted Christmas tree (the largest in the world), worked on by over 1000 knitters for The Eden Project a couple of years ago to raise cash for charity. Hey, if any of you want to come up with some massive HCW group knit project for 2010, count me in.

Au revoir!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bon Jour Y'all!

Bon Jour Mon Cheries!
I am writing this in the South of France. No kidding. Very cool-- they have the Internet here in France, too! And speaking of very cool-- how's about 30ish degrees F every day? I'm not complaining considering we are in a smashing tenth floor apartment a few blocks from the Mediterranean so, voila! every view is a spectacular one. Plus, I have had a chance to wear about ten different things I've knitted-- all at the same time!! I'll post some pictures soon.

Meanwhile, after a very long walk today, up to a castle, and then back home where I devoured a half a loaf of bread, I sat down to take a peek at the news. I don't look at the news too much when I'm on vacation. Mostly I knit. But lo, there at the New York Times website, in the Most Popular Articles box, was a link to a piece about people who quit their day jobs to sell their crafts and make their living on

The article opens up with the tale of a knitter, Yokoo Gibran, who earned over $140,000 (!!) last year with her knitting. But she says she also works more than thirteen hours a day. And frankly, I'm a little worried she's going to get carpal tunnel. I checked out her Etsy site and, for example, she's selling a super-chunky, 8 foot long scarf, made of an 80/20 acrylic/wool blend for $150.00. Wow!

Anyway, it's a good little article about the pros and cons of selling your crafts to a big market.

Also featured in the article-- Caroline Colom Vasquez, who doesn't sell knitted stuff but who does live in Austin. She makes ceramic and wood collectibles and the name of her company is Paloma's Nest. She, too, is exhausted from her success.

I guess this is the old be careful what you wish for routine, but since I'm not in the position of feeling overwhelmed by making six figures a year for knitting, and since I am knitting like mad over here in France, well, I'm sort of fantasizing about trying to find out, firsthand, how tiring such success can be.

Anybody have an stories about your adventures selling at Etsy?

Okay, back to vacation.
More soon!
Au Revoir!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finishing School: Lessons Learned

Well, I did it. I finished the sweater I was working on, in time to wear it on the plane to France, which I'll be boarding later this afternoon. As I approached the finish line, I headed on over to the store to pick out buttons. I needed three big ones.

I don't know about you, but for me, shopping for buttons counts as a pretty exciting adventure. For starters, since I waited til I was just about done knitting (are we ever really done knitting?), this was like a reward or icing on the cake or cherry on the sundae or picking out the perfect shoes once you've already got just the right dress. It's a sign you're about ready to unveil the triumph of a project completed.

Another thing I got worked up over was just hanging out in the button section of the store. Actually, there's that one wall of buttons, but there are also a lot of cool ones around the checkout desk. But the wall of buttons thrills me because you have this big collection of all sorts of sizes, colors, and designs. Sort of like going through a jewelry box. Plus, as with the yarn, there's the tactile pleasure of feeling the different surfaces of the buttons, smooth, textured, glass, plastic, wood...

I wound up with three from Lantern Moon, really gorgeous, about 2" in diameter. Then I brought them home, and set them out where I could look at them, and practically hear them whispering to me that, just as soon as I finished my seams, I could sew them on.

I have to say that, as I sat to seam the sweater, I thought a lot of Renate, HCW's own Finishing Queen. A lot of folks send their unseamed pieces to her so she can work her magic on them. Maybe she could come to my house and just make this sweater come together magically? Because even though I'd learned to seam in Fran's sweater class, that was almost a year ago, and I realized as I tried to get going, that I'd pretty much forgotten what to do. It was early on a Sunday morning, store not yet open, so I turned to my friend, The Internet, and found this How To Mattress Stitch Video. That was helpful, and so I set myself to the task. There were a lot of seams-- this sweater has raglan sleeves and a hood. And it's a really long, really heavy sweater, so it was pretty tricky to maneuver, and took the better part of the day.

Then there were all of those ends I had to weave in-- I think I used something like fifteen balls of yarn and I thought I'd never get to Button Time. I finally took a break Sunday night. Monday morning, I had to knit three more loops-- instead of i-cords, the recipe called for a pretty fast technique: cast on twelve, then immediately bind them off. I made a note of the final, final stitch, relieved to reach it (and, on another note, excited this meant I GET TO MOVE ON TO ANOTHER PROJECT!)

Then, at super long last, after all these months, it was Button Time. I got them on, tried on the sweater, and noticed a couple of things. First of all, I had to move one of the buttons. Second of all, and this is sort of funny, I realized a big error I'd made. It's not an end of the world error, but it certainly taught me a huge lesson, emphasis on the word huge.

Okay, so the pattern was pretty hard for me, and called for a repeating eight row pattern that included bobbles and cables. As I went along, sometimes I'd see a little error. Mostly I kept going, reminding myself no one would be able to spot the error. A few times, I took the time to rip out and fix things, which wasn't really fun, but did make me feel sort of proud that I've reached a point where I can rip out without having a breakdown, and get those stitches back on the needles without having to take it all the way back to the cast on. You know that old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? Well let's just say all those little errors turned out to be the trees. Here is where I made an error in the forest:

When I tried the sweater on, it was big. Really really big. Like massively big. I had to roll up the sleeves, which is not what the designer intended. Then I pulled on the hood, which hung down over my head to a sort of Grim Reaper effect. How the heck did the sweater get so huge? Here are a couple of pictures:

I looked at the pattern again. And for some reason I can no longer remember, I apparently determined that I was supposed to knit the version designed for a 50" bust. Hello? I might be well-endowed, folks, but I am not a 50-incher. Yikes. Maybe I was thinking that patterns probably run small, or that I wanted the sweater to be roomy. It certainly is that. Warren, my bf, tried to console me by saying it's like those Snuggie blankets with arms.

Yes, a very expensive Snuggie. One that took maybe three hundred hours to knit. I'm not too upset with the results. First of all, it's a gorgeous sweater (I credit the designer). Second, I certainly will be able to wear plenty of layers under it-- very important since I think it's about five degrees in Paris. Plus, it's only my second tricky-pattern sweater, and even if I didn't get the seams perfect, and even if it does hang on me, I still have the enormous satisfaction, as I move into my tenth (or is it eleventh?) year of knitting, that I can really, truly read patterns now. (At least some patterns.) This blows me away, since for the first four years I only garter stitched rectangles.

So there you go-- my New Year's vow of 2009: Knit a Sweater, has been realized not once but twice this year. I'm going to work on hand warmers in the plane, and I brought a couple of pairs of socks worth of yarn to work on while I'm on vacation. These will be a nice break from knitting big (literally). But I'm seeing another sweater or two in the works for 2010. And looking back over the year, I am so glad I took that class. Thanks Fran!

Okay, au revoir. I'll let you know how the yarn shops are over there. I've already been googling to track down the best ones.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fiber Friends Festival: Coming Right Up!

Boy I love how many art and craft festivals Austin has. This weekend, for example, the Cherrywood Art Festival happens within spitting distance of my house, at Maplewood Elementary. And over at the Monarch Events Center, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar is happening until Christmas Even.



It's time for the FIBER FRIENDS FESTIVAL at Hill Country Weavers!

Saturday, December 12, 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, December 13, 12 – 5 pm

This is yet another chance to hang out with your fellow addicts, and to see what they've been up to all year. You can buy all sorts of groovy knitted, crocheted, felted, and handwoven items. You'll also find hand spun and hand dyed yarn and lots of related craft accessories. And if you think about it-- you're busy knitting gifts for everyone on your list but are they busy knitting for you? Probably not. So how will you acquire some lovely handmade fiber art for yourself? Well, give yourself a gift, eh?

Here's a list of who will be offering up their lovely work for your buying pleasure:

Come see and buy fabulous hand-crafted items by these local fiber artists:
Moonbeam Weaving,
Platypus Dreams,
Fashion Outlaws,
Meline Collections,
Silver Moon Studio,
Tricoté All Day,
Jill Smith-Mott,
Austin Handspun,
Alisha Goes Around,
Virginia Burnett,
Dancing Turkey Textiles,
One Basket at a Time,
Highland Lakes Weavers

See ya there!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Meet Murray's Knitterati!

Hello Y'all,
This is Episode Two of my very sporadic series where I introduce you to the ongoing knitting groups. Today I met up with Deb's Monday knitting club. Actually, I've been a part of that group in the past and hope to join in again sometime. The good news is, today when we met, it was for the holiday party and I took lots and lots of pictures. The bad news is, I apparently have not figured out how to use my new camera. So when I got home, there were no pictures to download. Fortunately, I was able to locate some pictures of groups of women knitting together.

ADVISORY: In no way do these photos represent the hip and swinging gals I hung out with today!! Well, wait-- they do in one sense. Just like Deb's group, these knitters of yesteryear totally knew the thrill of group knit.

Group Name: Deb's Deb Combined Mondays Group aka Murray’s Knitterati

The Story Behind the Name: Different groups- namely Murray's Girls and Knitterati, joined forces to form one group, hence the combo-name.

Who the Heck is Murray? Murray is Deb's dog, and Dog Sweater Model of the Century

How Many in Group? Around fifteen.

Can I Join? Yep, this group IS taking new members. Call the shop or better yet stop by for details.

Will I Be Hazed When I Join? Nope. Well, not too badly.

How Long Has the Group Been Together? That's a trick question. Or this is a trick answer. Murray's Girls started around five or six years ago. Knitterati started around four years ago. So let's say ten years altogether! (Okay, in truth, the group as it is now got together about a year ago.)

When Do You Meet? Mondays 10 - 1 at the store. Plus once a year at Deb's for a big holiday party.

What's Something Outsiders Looking In Might Not Know About the Group? They have an ongoing fantasy, led by Carroll, about the fireman from the station next door who runs around the block shirtless now and then. Some rumors hold that they are planning to knit him smaller running shorts. Sporadic sightings mean ongoing anticipation and random gratification. Watch attendant hot flashes or you might find yourself on the business end of a fire extinguisher.

Is There Much Cussing? Not like in Deb's other group. More like PG-13 with the language here.

What Are Folks Working On?

Peggy—Kimono sweater. Vintage Berroco wool. It’s a class project.

Carroll—The kimono sweater and mittens from Lambs Pride.

Pam-- A chenille throw for her oldest daughter.

Bren-- Unknitting a feather and fan. Bren also writes patterns-- her last one was the Big Ball shawl, which is a mitered shawl.

Nita-- Nita is a charter member of the group. She's working on a Sursa shawl with leftover yarn absconded from Debbie's Magic Stash closet aka the inner sanctum.

Lori – An honorable class hopper, Lori has done time in Monday class, Wednesday class, and Thursday class. Now a dedicated member of Murray's Knitterati, she's working on a pair of socks and trying not to be distracted by other projects. She’s never used big balls.

Kimberly-- Newbie knitter Kimberly has only been at the needles a year and a half yet already she suffers from Mad Knitter’s Disease. She cannot stop knitting. She’s done it all—lace, baby sweaters, and on and on, and she finishes everything.

Sandra— is working on the Mr. Green Jeans top-down cardigan from, using Miss Priss, a wool yarn.

Cele— Deb's great friend and a sometimes guest of the group, Cele can't exactly remember when she started knitting. She does know it was when she was a child in Germany, where it was obligatory to take knitting, crocheting, and sewing lessons in school. She's working on a cable express neck warmer out of a baby alpaca which "feels terrific." In between making the sweater, she usually has three or four projects going at once. "Sometimes you get bored. You have to stop and go to the next one."

Pat—Pat's a newcomer who just took up knitting a couple of months ago after putting it down a few years ago following a few scarfs. Right now she's working on "the baby cap from hell." And this time, she's not stopping. "I decided to commit myself to knitting." (We hear you, Pat!!)

Nina-- Nina has been with the group around three years. She's working on an amethyst cowl scarf and a ruffle scarf in organic cotton organic for the latter and wool and tencel for the cowl. "It’s extremely fun and therapeutic. Helps my anxiety."

What Do Y'all Talk About? Anything they want! Though for this meeting, Deb whipped out her latest genius idea-- a zipper fishing tackle organizer from Academy that just so happens to be the perfect organizer for circular needles. Also, they were deciding which charity to give to for the holidays. This year, the group skipped a White Elephant exchange in favor of sharing with others.

Thanks for sharing the party with me, ladies. Mmmm, warm brie. Mmmm, chocolate cookies. Mmmm, cheese log.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So Much Going On!

Hey Y'all,
Well there's a lot going on down at the store. First things first, in case you haven't heard the splendid news, Kathy & Leif had their baby on November 21st. Welcome to the world Athena Rose! As soon as we have some pictures of the latest addition to HCW, we'll post them here.

Next big news-- tomorrow is First Thursday and this month, to celebrate the event (and also the upcoming holidays and also to celebrate the weather forecast for SNOW!!!) you SAVE 20% off yarns of color (not including black and white yarns and not including already marked down merch.) Also, take 15% off books & bags...great holiday gifts!!

Speaking of gifts, there are also several Knit Purl Express classes coming up. These two hour, twenty dollar classes are a great way to offer the gift of knitting to a friend. You know what they say-- "Give a man a pair of hand knit mittens and he keeps his hands warm until he loses one mitten. Teach a man to knit and he stays warm forever!" Let me, once again, go on and on (and on) about how much I love, love, love taking classes at HCW. Not only do I learn a lot, I also get to be part of the community. Here's the schedule for Knit Purl Express classes:

December 2 KNIT PURL EXPRESS 6:30p 8:30p
December 6 KNIT PURL EXPRESS 3:00p 5:00p
December 16 KNIT PURL EXPRESS 6:30p 8:30p
December 20 KNIT PURL EXPRESS 3:00p 5:00p

But wait-- THERE'S MORE!!

Have you been meaning to learn Continental knitting just to test if it's really faster? And, like me, do you keep putting off learning? Well on December 12, Deb is teaching a class from 10 - 1 ($40) so you can finally figure out how it's done. And if you've never had a class with Deb (or if you have) I promise you, you will manage to learn and laugh at the same time.

Can you believe I'm still not done yet?

Our ongoing Hip to Knit series-- which happens every first Sunday-- is coming right up this Sunday, December 6th. Aimed to teach kids and teens how to knit, the class runs from 2 - 5. Plus we're starting up Hip to Weave, from 1 - 3. Classes, taught by Lindsay, are $20. Parents are welcome to attend and Lindsay is happy to help y'all pick out just the right project to work on.

To save a spot in any of these classes, call the store: 707-7396. Or better yet, make a reservation while you're shopping on Fyber Thursday.

See ya soon,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Deadline Knitting: Yay or Nay?

[Me, knitting over Thanksgiving weekend in Houston.]

Hey Y'all,
Taking a little survey here. So last week, for the holiday, I ran away from home and went to Houston to hang out with my partner's Dad and his friends. I'm a workaholic but lately I've been having some serious discussions with myself about the need to carve out time for things I want to do, like read more and knit more and just sit around and talk. Toward that end, I did an experiment. I wanted to see if I could go the whole long weekend without working. Technically, I didn't have any writing projects due Monday, so this was a do-able goal. On the other hand, I have some pending deadlines, so I could've worked on those.

I did very well with not writing. I took long walks, ate too much, and watched a couple of silly movies. All good. And yes, I knitted. I knitted and knitted and knitted and knitted. I'm going to France in a couple of weeks and I am hoping, so much, to finish this sweater I'm working on before I go. I honestly can't tell yet if I'll meet the goal. I've got the back and both front pieces done, and am working on sleeve number one. (I was going to try to do both at once but thought better of it, given my limited spatial relations skills-- I worried I would get to the shaping part and screw up both sleeves at once.) So was I/am I relaxing when I do Deadline Knitting? Or am I just applying all the anxiety that comes with deadline writing to the pastime that is supposed to help me chill out?

This is not a really Big Question. Let's face it, if I have time to sit around mulling if I'm knitting "too much," then life must be pretty good, right?

Anybody else out there get a little nutty with the knitting when either a) you want something done in time for a specific occasion and/or b) you're getting close to the end which makes you feel you must drop everything else and knit until it's finished? I actually think holiday knitting prompts this sort of action.

Speaking of holidays, I think I posted the following pictures last year, but let me drag them out again. My boyfriend, Warren, loves to ask me to knit him ridiculous items. Last year he wanted a roasted turkey hat for Thanksgiving and a menorah hat for Hanukkah, both of which I managed to create without any sort of real pattern. I kind of invented as I went along. My Fair Isle leaves something to be desired, so when I Fair Isled the 3-D menorah, I wound up making it way too tight at the top, which is why Warren can't pull it down properly. Now he's begging me to make him a hat that looks like the French flag, also in time for our trip, so he can let the folks over there know just how pleased he is to be visiting. Tres gauche? Perhaps. But I think I can knock it out on the ten hour flight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Putting a Spin on Things

I think I mentioned this already at some point, but every year I make a long list of goals, some more urgent than others. I live by my daily To Do lists, but these bigger, broader annual lists are more of the wish variety. Will I ever really learn Spanish? Maybe, maybe not. But if I never put it on the list, then it's a pretty good bet there's no chance at all that I'll ever conquer it.

Taking more classes at HCW has been on the list for years now. Last January I told myself this would be the year I took every single class my schedule allowed-- this is how much I've transformed from "I will only ever knit rectangles and never learn to purl lest I get all consumed by complicated patterns." Now I want to learn tricks, even if I won't likely use them in my everyday knitting. I want to, eventually, earn the equivalent of an honorary Ph.D in everything knit. I want to know all the kinds of yarns and techniques and abbreviations. So putting "take classes" on the list was one of those goals that actually took on some urgency for me.

Unfortunately, my past year was so busy I hardly had time to sleep and breathe, let along follow through on class-taking. This was so frustrating for me. By the time I finished my latest book (which comes out next year) I looked at the calendar and it was practically November. I'd let just about every knit-class opportunity slip by me because I just could not fit it in.

Then I got the note-- an Express Spin class was happening and, no small miracle, I had time for it. It took me two days to find the drop spindle kit I picked up at a craft fair some time ago. I showed up to find Deb circled by others like me-- those of us officially addicted enough to want to know how to make our own fiber. (My own goal-within-the-goal is to get a spinning wheel and learn to use it.)

It is always funny and humbling to me to take a 101 class and find myself, if not befuddled, at least put in my place. Sure, I can research the hell out of historic documents, teach fidgety little children poetry, and hold my own improvising in the kitchen. But when it's time for motor skills lessons, boy do I struggle. And, too, beneath whatever frustration initially visits me, I get very excited. Because I love a challenge, and I love learning about process.

And so I sat, more enraptured than frustrated, as Deb covered an awful lot of territory for such a short two-hour stretch. She introduced us to all sorts of helpful books, naming Start Spinning and Respect the Spindle as two good get-started manuals (and telling us that, if we're like her, we'll also wind up building an entire collection of spin books as there is no shortage or other titles.)

Then we plunged right in. If I try to define for you here the terms I heard-- prepared, roving, carded, top-- I will only wind up confusing you. From my beginner's stance, here is roughly what it looked and sounded like:

Take this fluffy stuff. Prepare it by pulling gently. Get it connected to your starter cord (which is attached to your spindle), then simultaneously spin and draft continuously until you have...

Well, in my case let's just say I wound up with some "artisan yarn," replete with lots and lots of spots that continued to have that "right off the sheep" look to it. Which is to say I didn't manage to spin continuously. On the other hand, I had enough fun and picked up enough knowledge to want to keep trying. In fact, I was so excited, I took out my spindle at dinner that night, and attempted to demonstrate my new fledgling skills for my bf, Warren, and our friend, Dave. Warren and Dave both have engineer type brains and were eager to give the spindle a shot. None of us had much luck with the process though, as you'll see, we did have more fun finding new uses for the fluffy stuff.

Deb is promising a spinning wheel class soon, and I am already planning to put that at the top of my Big To Do List for 2010. I am bound and determined to figure out this spinning stuff. In the meanwhile, I was glad for the bigger lesson learned during class, which is how much I love, love, love learning new things. I know we are about to move into the crazy-busy holiday season in about five seconds here, but even if you can't fit any more classes into your schedule this year, may I gently remind you what a blast it is to sign-up for a class-- there are ongoing classes, one-shot classes, and series classes, like the sweater workshop I did manage to fit in back in January with Fran, which inspired me enough to get me working on what is, for me, a crazy tricky sweater, one I hope to finish and unveil soon.

So thank you, beloved knit shop, for all the opportunities to take it to the next level.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cool Weaving Event Saturday, November 21st!

Hey Y'all,
Tomorrow-- Saturday, November 21st-- there's a cool, one-day art fair at Westover Hills Church of Christ, 8332 Mesa Drive. Put on by the Hill Country Tribers, it's a chance for you to buy lovely handcrafts-- bags and jewelry-- locally handmade by refugee artisans. You can find out more about these refugees and the work they do by clicking here. The proceeds from the sales go directly back to the weavers and jewelry makers, providing supplemental income for their families.

In addition to the stuff you can buy, you can also check out some cool weaving demos using strap looms. I know this time of the year we have tons of arts fairs to visit-- Blue Genie, Armadillo, and Cherrywood to name the biggies. But I'm thinking this will be a pretty cool chance to watch a unique type of weaving up close and an opportunity to meet the weavers.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Our Lady of the Needles (And Other Knit History)

Though I stop to ponder the point less now than I used to, there are still times when I look at the two needles I’m holding, and the yarn looping around them, and I wonder, “Who the hell thought up knitting?”

As far as I can tell it’s not like the craft was some obvious this-leads-to-that sort of development like, say, maybe scooping up sand with a clamshell might have inspired the creation of a human-crafted shovel, or brushing away dirt with a wispy-leafed branch might have acted as catalyst for the invention of brooms.

Contemplating what sometimes seems to be the absurdity of knitting leads me to think of other things that, when analyzed too closely, also seem a little nuts but, when simply practiced, bring great joy. For example: dancing. Do you ever just stop and watch people dance? Really, it can look pretty silly. And yet, when you're engaged in it-- I mean really into the beat-- seems not only normal but like "Why do I not do this every minute of every day-- it feels so good!"

Running also seems mystifying. Many years ago, when a friend first started dragging me around Town Lake because I needed to lose about fifty pounds (which I eventually did), I remember thinking how stupid it seemed. Here were all these folks, walking and running in circles, wearing ridiculous skintight clothes, and seemingly not going anywhere in particular. What a waste of time.

Of course, after a while of doing this activity, I became a big believer, and ultimately I got hooked on walking, which I still try to do every day. I came to understand the power of endorphins, the importance of ritual, and the joy of getting out of the house.

So the reality is, it hasn’t been a huge leap for me to set aside occasional thoughts that knitting is kind of weird, and recognize all the magnificent benefits: the tactile exhilaration, the meditative qualities, the splendid results, and the promising potential of “the next thing I’m going to make…”

Still, I remained curious about the origins of knitting. So I dug around a little, using The Church of the Internet and our good friend Google. I cannot promise the full accuracy of what I uncovered, but below are a few links to sites offering up various takes on Knit History. Beneath the first link, I’m including a couple of facts from the site to whet your appetite—pretty interesting stuff.

Meanwhile, I sure hope you'll post a little about your personal history of knitting here. (Mine includes learning in 1986, getting frustrated, quitting for 14 years, then taking to it like a baby to a bottle of sugar water.)


  • Knitting [the word]… is derived from knot, thought to originate from the Dutch verb knutten, which is similar to the Old English cnyttan, to knot.
  • Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, from where it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and then to the Americas with European colonization.
  • The earliest known examples of knitting have been found in Egypt and cover a range of items, including complex colorful wool fragments and indigo blue and white cotton stockings, which have been dated between the 11th and 14th centuries CE.
  • Several paintings from Europe portray the Virgin Mary knitting and date from the 14th century, including Our Lady Knitting by Tommaso da Modena (circa 1325-1375).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jumbo Yarn Love

Last January, I was presented with an excellent birthday gift—the Knit-a-Dress-a-Day Knitting Book. The book is a crack-up-- suggesting you could make an entire garment in under 24 hours-- and I’m pretty sure none of the dresses in it would look good on me even if I could knit that fast. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure the dresses wouldn't look good on anybody. But still, I love the idea of using super huge needles to make a project really fast.

I sort of forgot about the book until I saw some of the muy gigante yarns and needles from Big Stitch Knitting down at the store. Now I’m tempted to get a few skeins and make something—maybe not a dress but just something to see how it feels to handle such jumbo needles and yarn.

This in turn got me thinking about what the Yarn Harlot has to say about holiday knitting. She says you should only make gifts for people who really appreciate hand knitted gifts. Not people who say, “This looks like something from the store,” and not people who are going to shove the gift in the back of the closet.

The holidays are just about upon us—Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away. And despite the Harlot’s advice and any past experience we’ve had when it comes to unappreciated gifts, I think some of us can’t resist making a list that includes more hand knit gifts than we can realistically make.

So I’m thinking this big yarn might offer a compromise. If you can’t stop yourself from making presents, why not at least pick projects that knit up really fast? Nobody says you have to make socks for everyone that involve the equivalent of toothpick needles and dental floss yarn, right? Check out these pictures and think about the possibilities—maybe not a dress in a day, but perhaps a scarf or a hat.