Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heart FELT and Close KNIT: HCW Summer Camp Fun!

This week our campers are in, learning to knit and felt and weave. I'm down here doing some textile-related research in muggy muggy Houston (if you thought Austin was hot and unbearable you should really try Houston out for size) so I haven't been able to pop by camp yet BUT... I have my insider sources. And I hear that, as with the very best summer camp experiences, the girls are enjoying crafting lessons as well as gossiping about boys and their mothers' ages. Not merely students, they are teachers, too, showing up with their iPods to teach the "ancient" camp helpers (already in their twenties!) a thing or two about the latest pop music.

Hat knitting is apparently most popular this year and the counselors have worked out a sort of carrot-on-stick motivational system that involves getting the kids to knit several rows, then handing it off to a "pro" to zip out a row, and then back to the camper.

Knitting isn't all that's happening though. There's weaving camp-- the kids are making simple chenille scarves, a woven felted bag, and a wall hanging using the floor loom.

And here's an excellent quote from my Little Bird source:

Last year one knitting camper came in with more stitches than she had gone home with. Once she found out that this was a bad thing she said "How do you delete stitches?"

Ah, yes, wouldn't it be nice if there was an alt-delete key on the end of our needles so we could just correct our errors in under two seconds. Keep dreaming, kids-- that's what camp is for. Here are some more pics-- wish we could all go to camp...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Retreat, Retreat, Retreat!!

I first heard about knitting retreats from our own spectacular Deb Marvin who, from time to time, likes to throw a knit-centric pajama party where attendees run away from home for a few days and focus on the most important things in life: knitting, laughing, and eating. Not sure when her next retreat is (of course I'll keep you posted as soon as I hear) but I am scheduled to head off for another retreat in a few months and people? I CAN'T WAIT!!

It's a weeklong knitting adventure on Monhegan Island, which is off the coast of Maine about twelve miles, and you get there on this rather little ferry boat. The event is put on by Knitting and Yoga Adventures. I found out about it from an ad in my Rowan mag (aside-- is everyone else as excited as I am that the new Rowan is going to be here really soon?!! Yay!!). I dropped Lisa Evans, the designer who hosts the event, a note to see if I might attend as a guest blogger. Lisa was game and so off I went and I have to tell you a week spent knitting, eating (the above picture is a whoopie pie, many of which I indulged in on my trip) and laughing has convinced me that world peace is accomplishable if only we can get everyone to go on a similar retreat at least once per year. Which is why I'm going again in September

I was so psyched about the trip that I actually wrote a piece for FiberArts magazine about residencies and retreats. Did you know that there are all sorts of travel/work/fun opportunities for crafters? Some are aimed at professionals who are awarded grants to do their work in a far off location-- say at a college where they also give lectures. Others are pay-for opportunities that sort of remind me of camp for adults. I had so much fun researching that story that as I was writing it I had this fantasy that I would spend the rest of my life traveling from residency to retreat to residency, a knitting (k)nomad. (I'm still working on making that come true.)

If you want to indulge in the fantasy, too, you can go to this FiberArts Link -- it's a supplement to the article I wrote and it's got a whole bunch of links to various residencies and retreats. So where are you going to go?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How To Knit a Wild Bikini

I'm on vacation this week which should mean lots of knitting by the sea. What it really means is taking my big pile of work with me to a different location. While last year I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii, this year the (financial) climate is a little, uh... different. And so I'm in Galveston (oh Galveston). Which is actually just lovely-- the weather's great, I'm working in at least a little bit of knitting with this awesome super deep purple yarn, and the dog's are digging early morning walks along the water.

This being an island in summer, scantily is how a lot of folk are clad. Which got me thinking about knit bikinis. Would I ever make one? Maybe. Would I ever wear one? Not unless there was a really big pile of cash riding on a dare. Still, I went surfing (the only surfing I know how to do-- on the net) to see what was out there as far as free bikini patterns. You know-- just for fun. I found a pattern for the Water Sprite Swimsuit, pictured above. Granted, it's not a bikini, but it is rad-retro, vintage 1948, something I actually might wear if I could make it elastic enough.

And Austin's own Vickie Howell, host of DIY's Knitty Gritty had an episode dedicated to knitting bikinis.

Then there was this one, over at Knitty.com -- The White Trash Black Swimsuit. Again, not a bikini but something you could lounge in poolside.

Plus, don't forget, you can always spring for a copy of Naughty Needles, written by former Austinite Nikol Lohr and knit that lovely two-piecer on the cover.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bowled Over

So to send Jordi off in proper fashion, the staff took her out for a night at the Dart Bowl. You'll notice that going bowling did not preclude keeping up with the knitting. Lindsay did realize that if she wanted to actually bowl she was going to have to put down the needles for at least a minute or two (and notice her fine bowling form). But suffice it to say many stitches got knit during the Bowl Voyage Jordi soiree. In fact, so much fun was had combining the two sports that Suzanne has decided to install a bowling lane in KnitBuzz next time she does an addition.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Free Pattern Friday: Because It is Called Hill Country WEAVERS After All

Hey Y'all,
Well at least for this week we're resuming Free Pattern Friday. It's been a few weeks since we last hit you with a freebie, what with so many things going on at the store to report. And this week, in honor of all the weavers that we love (yes, just as much as the knitters), here's a weaving pattern for you.

You can also check it out at our Ravelry page.

Woven Random Lace Scarf


3 skeins = 669.0 yards (611.7m) of Katia Colibri Yarn
Colorway 7555


Plain weave structure
12 EPI 108 warp ends
2 skeins warp 3.5 yards long
1 skein weft

Suzanne says, " I did the easiest weave of all 'plain weave' and it looks like I did a complex lace pattern, but it’s all about the changing textures in the yarn!"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jordi We Sure Are Gonna Miss You!

Our wonderful Jordi is working her last day today at the shop. If you read this before 8 p.m., you can even pop by and wish her a bon voyage. She’s been at the store close to three years now, and, she says, it’s time for her to head out of Texas. I asked her for a little exit interview—not the corporate kind, the “What are we going to do without you? And what are you going to do without us?” kind. And here’s what she had to say:

Spike: Tell me about you and knitting.

Jordi: I’ve been knitting since I was eight. My grandmother taught me. She lives in Ireland. I would visit her two months every summer. She’s 94 now and still lives alone in the house she raised her nine kids in.

Spike: Did you grow up in Austin?

Jordi: Mostly I grew up in Holland. I moved to Houston when I was fourteen and came to Austin to go to St. Ed’s where I majored in photography.

Spike: How did you wind up working at HCW?

Jordi: I knew about the store. I went in one day—I was broke and I wanted to treat myself to something and they were hiring. I was doing AmeriCorps at the time, a program called Communities in Schools. I was tutoring and mentoring about twenty middle school girls for a year. The job at HCW was a great supplement to my less-than-minimum wage job.
It’s my favorite job— I usually keep about three jobs going at a time and this is always the fun one.

Spike: So, why are you leaving us?

Jordi: I just am really bored – not with the job, just with living in Texas. I’m moving to New York. New York is exciting and big. I don’t want to live in the US but I don’t want to live that far from my boyfriend. He was going to go with me to NY, but now he’s moving to LA.

Spike: You’ve decided on an interesting travel plan to get from here to there.

Jordi: I’m leaving on my scooter. I’m going to take three weeks to get there. I’m going to go along the South all the way to Florida and then up the Atlantic Coast. The trip is about 2800 miles. And I’m going alone. And everyone can keep their opinions to themselves. I bought pre-routed maps from a bicycle touring company. I’m going on all well-worn, paved routes. I’m going to camp and hostel and hopefully once or twice treat myself to a hotel.

Spike: You can’t carry a lot on a scooter…

Jordi: I gave away almost everything. I’m shipping up two boxes to start with and my sisters will ship up two more boxes.

Spike: What’re you going to do when you get there?

Jordi: I have a free place to stay as long as I need it in Brooklyn. I haven’t decided what to do up there. The world is my oyster. I have a scholarship from AmeriCorps, so I could go to grad school if I want. Or I could nanny. I might look for a knit store job. Not every store is HCW though. This store is a gem. I don’t think it would be as satisfying to work in a different store.

Spike: Are you going to knit on the way up?

Jordi: I’m going to do socks on the way—portable, small, useful, a pleasure to knit.

Thanks Jordi—have an awesome trip and a wonderful time in your new home. And come back and visit SOON, hear?

Monday, June 15, 2009

KnitFlix: Theme Knitting

Okay, okay, it's a little bit on the (TRIPLE DIGIT) warm side to be posting pictures of-- or even thinking vague thoughts about-- hats and leg warmers. But bear with me here, I can totally rationalize subjecting you to the pictures below. Last December I got into a little habit I call KnitFlix where I would, as often as possible, spend my nights watching movies and knitting. Only I didn't just knit whatever was at hand. I tried to match my knitting to the theme of the movie. Yes, that's what a dork I am.

So, for instance, while watching Fiddler on the Roof, I knitted a kitten hat as a Hanukkah gift for my boyfriend's niece. (Aside: I had to knit a duplicate when the first one got lost in the mail on the way to Israel. I wasn't mad about this-- I like to think the package was opened for inspection and that the folks at the PO there liked it so much they kept it for kitty-kat photo shoots.) You can see the original, above, modeled by my BF, Warren-- I knitted it up with some great bargain yarn I got in the sale bins in the back room.

I also knitted myself some leg warmers, which I happily worked on while watching A Chorus Line. If you've never seen the movie, or if it's been a really long time, go ahead and check it out some night when you want to see an example of a movie that did not stand the test of time. It's hilarious in a very unintentional way.

So I was thinking, it's summer, it's hotter'n A-Chee-Double-Toothpicks out there, and they do run the A/C at movie theaters right around meat locker temperatures. So how about some theme knitting for this season's big hits-- you can super-cool off while knitting something super cool. For instance--I found a great site with free patterns for Star Trek themed knitting. And HCW is offering a class in chicken knitting. As it happens, Hangover features a chicken (I won't say another word about that movie-- no spoilers from this reviewer-- except I thought it was very funny.) So maybe you sign up for the class, learn to whip up some (not so foul) fowl, and take your skills to the movies with you.

Which makes me want to ask-- anybody else knit in the movies in the dark like I do? And anybody else have any ideas for KnitFlix theme knitting?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

To Market, To Market AND Knit In Public!

This weekend, lucky lucky Suzanne is "at market"-- which means she is at The National NeedleArts Association trade show which, this time around, is in Ohio. She'll be hanging out with other needlearts fanatics, checking out awesome new products, and making some great choices to bring back for us all. If you want to be properly jealous, check out the TNNA Trade Show Info page here.

And while any weekend is a good weekend to go to market, this is an especially appropriate weekend as tomorrow is World Wide Knit in Public Day. Actually, these days the powers that be are referring to it as World Wide Knit in Public Weekend. And if you ask me, I think you should knit in public every day. But if you want to be certain to celebrate this official High Holy Day of Knitting in excellent company, I am totally recommending you check out the open knit/art installation happening on Sunday from 12 - 6 at 502 W. 33rd Street, real close to Guadalupe. This is the second of three open knits being held to dismantle and reformulate yarn used in a crocheted art installation. Last weekend HCW's own Jordi led the group and it was a great turnout, lots of people having fun and some of them brand new to knitting. For more info click here.

Happy Knitting in Public, Y'all (and Suzanne? Come back soon, hear?)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Second Sunday Brunch: Got Needle Felting on the Brain?!

Hey Y'all,
Second Sunday brunch is coming right up this weekend, on Sunday from 11 til 1. We've decided to start giving the brunches a bit more focus. So this Sunday we'll be exploring needle felting. Whether you're new to the concept or have had some practice, you are totally welcome to join us. That said, SPACE IS VERY LIMITED. You'll need to RSVP by calling the store: 707-7396 asap. We'll sign up the first fifteen people and it's free PLUS we'll have snacks PLUS we'll have some needle felting supplies to get you started. And if you can think of a better way to spend your Sunday well... you know you can't. So you better go ahead and call now.

What is needle felting? some of you might be asking. Well, we'll give you the full answer Sunday. Meanwhile, if you want to check out a rather perky video on the topic, you can click this link. Also, here is a picture of the project we'll be working on. The tank was designed by Mary Macaulay, who will be leading us on this adventure. And the patterns she'll be using are from Austin's own Sublime Stitching.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zen and the Art of Wabi-Sabi

Today, a quick round up of a few knit-related Japanese thoughts. I was in the store yesterday, looking around to see what was new-- or at least new to me (which is often a lot of stuff since you can usually find me with my blinders on, my face planted in the Wall-o-Noro). Come to think of it, Noro is Japanese, which might be part of the reason I love it. I am a huge fan of many Japanese things, styles and philosophies. I've been to the country twice. I've made instant, deep friendships that lasted the length of two train stops with little old women with whom I did not share a common language but, they made it clear, I did share a passion for knitting. I have such happy memories of my travels there, and my hours knitting on trains, that I often gravitate toward Japanese influenced whatever wherever I go, and I especially gravitate toward Japanese influenced patterns and yarns. .

Which is likely why the book Japanese Inspired Knits nearly jumped off the shelf at me. I've seen this book several times-- online, in regular bookstores. It keeps popping up. So I finally got a copy, brought it home, and took a look. Not everything in the book is my cup of (green) tea, but I really dig the sweater on the cover and also I am feeling a growing urge to knit one of two sweaters featured inside, which involve intarsia (!) and which results in very cool circles that sort of call to mind the Japanese flag.

And if I, an intarsia virgin, mess up? Well, there's more good news, this too from our Japanese friends. I was thinking about the concept of wabi-sabi. The very short version of wabi-sabi, my interpretation, is that it is about seeing the beauty in the imperfect. So if something isn't perfectly symmetrical or exactly this way or that, no big deal, love it for what it is, the "mistakes" aren't mistakes, they just add to the overall loveliness. DON'T YOU JUST LOVE THAT PHILOSOPHY? Sure keeps me from getting too fussy about the notion of ripping out small mistakes-- usually I just forge on ahead.

So there you go, a few thoughts on my Japanese passions. Domo arigato for following along.

Friday, June 5, 2009

It's Time To Learn Something New

Maybe I said this before, but let me say it again. When I first started knitting, I only knit. As in garter stitch. Period. I refused to learn to purl. This was in large part because I wanted only to relax with my knitting. I knew if I learned to purl that would then lead me, an over achiever, to want to learn patterns. And that, I thought, would take the whole relaxation thing out of the equation. So for four years-- I kid you not FOUR YEARS-- I only made rectangles.

While I still resort to gartered rectangles sometimes (right now I have a really simple, enormous purple rectangle on the needles), once I did learn to purl a couple of things happened. Yes, I wound up wanting to learn patterns, some of them tricky. And, true, it wasn't always relaxing. But man-- some of the stuff I can make now. Socks, I love socks. And though I can't do them in my sleep, I certainly have no fear around them anymore. And I've made several sweaters, all but one extremely simple, and every one leaving me with a major sense of accomplishment.

[My first top down sweater]
The way I conquered my fears and became the pattern-crazy gal I am today is by taking classes. Deb will tell you-- I used to be afraid of classes, too. I was worried I'd be so far behind everyone else I'd spend the whole time frustrated. That's where I was totally wrong. I took to classes like a hot pig in a cool mud puddle. Deb taught me socks and top down sweaters and I like to say it was a lot like jumping out of an airplane with someone strapped to your back. Someone who knows when to open the parachute. Step by step, stitch by stitch, I got all the help I needed.

This past winter, I signed up for a sweater class with Fran. It was out of control in a good way. I picked a pattern that was really challenging for me. I dedicated hours nearly every day to getting it done. I came to stop resenting and start appreciating swatching. And I was permanently relieved of my fear of messing up the seams. The sweater is the most gorgeous thing I ever made. I love it love it love it.

[Fran-- cruel swatch taskmaster!]

[picture from the pattern for my fancy sweater]

I mention all this because there are a couple of great learning opportunities coming up. Starting next weekend, on the 14th, Fran is offering a three week series: Tees, Tanks, and Vests. You can learn how to make gorgeous garments and, since it's summer, you can learn about the wonders of cotton and linen. Plus you don't have to worry about sleeves, so it's a quick way to get going on bigger projects without biting off what might feel like more than you can chew.

Also, starting on Thursday the 11th, the Adventures in Knitting gals are having free meetings to teach how to knit this really groovy bag that was in a recent issue of Interweave KNITS. If you missed that post you can click here and read up on the group. It's a really fun meeting, there's no pressure to get x, y, or z done in a certain amount of time, and usually there are some darn good snacks, too.

Whether you already know the joys of taking classes, or whether you've been too timid to sign up in the past, these are both really excellent chances to get in there and learn something new. For more information you can go to the main website.

Happy weekend,

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stash Re-Hash: The Report from Elizabeth

I met Elizabeth Musselman at the Yarn Harlot's most excellent soiree last week and E told me she was heading up the big stash swap that was planned for last Saturday. I asked her to send me the post-swap scoop, which she did, and I am kicking myself for having missed it (but I had a huge emergency come up so really, I think we should have a do-over swap this coming weekend to accommodate me, me, me!) Anyway here's E's report and some pictures:

Hi, Spike,

The sale went really well, I think. Sellers came and went throughout the day (well, from 9-3, when the last seller packed up), but there were about 20 altogether. The range of items made for fun shopping: we had hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn; hand-dyed fleece; raw alpaca fleece in feed bags; great craft books, some dating to the 1970s and '80s; fabric; an antique I-cord maker; Crystal Palace needles; finished knitwear; and of course lots and lots of gorgeous yarn, magazines, and books.

The day was hot (mid-90s at its worst) and sunny but breezy and we had tents and lemonade to keep us reasonably cool. Nothing could stop us from knitting anyway.

The famous Leslie even dropped by. Didn't buy anything, though. There were plenty of others who did visit the sale, though, and most of the sellers managed to off-load quite a bit of their yarn.

(BTW, the store didn't take any of the proceeds from the sale. All the transactions were directly between stash seller and buyer.)


Monday, June 1, 2009

Yarn Harlot Rocks BookPeople!

There is so much to say about Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s wonderful reading the other night at BookPeople. Stephanie—aka the Yarn Harlot—showed up to a beyond-packed house on the second floor. I’m guessing there were around 200 rabid fans there-- yes, most of them knitting-- and, during my informal roll call (I had the great honor of doing the introduction), I am happy (but not at all to surprised) to report that there were folks representing from HCW, The Knitting Nest, Bluebonnet Yarn Shoppe, and Gauge.

I missed the pre-reading reception because during that time, in the hour before the reading, I was at home bidding farewell to my eldest dog, Satch, who was put down after being in much pain for a long time. I’m not just randomly mentioning this loss, I’m mentioning because it actually figured in for me at the reading.

First of all, right before the dog departed, I was working on a sock to calm myself. In the process, though I’ve made a million socks, I screwed up. But I was too upset to figure out how. Then it dawned on me that Deb, who taught me how to make socks, would be at the reading. And so I made a plan to bring my screwed up sock—I had planned to bring socks anyway since the Yarn Harlot is the sock queen—and get help.

Matter o’ fact, Deb is the first person I ran into as I raced up to the third floor of BookPeople to meet Stephanie before introducing her. Deb, who knew about my sad day, gave me a huge hug. I started blubbering about sock mistake, and she just put out her hand, said, “Give me your knitting bag,” and I did, and a little later, voila, she handed me back the sock, unraveled down to the spot I’d made my gaff, and ready to go. How does she DO that so easily?

Meanwhile, Stephanie gave a reading that was so smart and so funny that I laughed and I laughed and I thought and I thought and what I thought was not, I am so sad, but Wow, that is so interesting. I don’t know about you, but I say that if someone can make you laugh and think an hour after your beloved old dog has headed off for the doghouse on the other side, that is one hell of a reading.

Besides sharing hilarious observations about what non-knitters assume (and often blurt out) about knitters, Stephanie also told us about a very cool study. If I try to repeat what she said here, it’ll turn into a bad game of Whisper Down the Lane, but the short version of how my ears heard it was that if you do something repetitive while processing trauma, you are going to have a much better shot at handling that trauma in an analytical way so that you don’t go on berserk-o sensory overload. Aha! I thought. That explains while I wanted to knit when I was waiting for the vet to arrive.

If you were there, I don’t need to try to explain any better. If you were not, I am really sorry you missed it but I do hope you’ll stop by HCW and pick up one (or lots) of Stephanie’s books. I’m pretty sure BookPeople got totally cleaned out of their supply the night of the reading.