June 18, 2009

Dance, Weave, Knit


I didn't go to the TNNA convention this year, because the dates conflicted with Allegra's dance recital. Above, she is pictured as a huntsman in this year's Sleeping Beauty. The huntsmen were the part given to her jazz class. In addition to jazz, she danced tap, ballet, and modern, and had a tap-dancing solo this year. Hard to get pictures of her that aren't a blur of motion, but will try to post another one or two over the next few days. Also, I am thinking of this as the "year of dancing in the dark" -- many of the dances had atmospheric, dim lighting, which also made the photo-taking difficult. For example, her ballet class was a group of thorns and brambles threatening the prince -- and if you didn't know which kid was yours, and where she was onstage and when, it was really hard to pick her out among all the other similarly-dressed, dimly-lit girls.

Rather than TNNA, what I went to was the weaving workshop with Judith MacKenzie McCuin that's held annually at Suzanne Pedersen's house. I went to this workshop 5 years ago ... came immediately home from that and wove one more project ... and haven't woven since. I was shocked at how much I had forgotten! (You tie the cross in your warp? What's a cross, and how on earth do you tie it? And so forth and so on for me, with the most basic of questions about things I used to know, for the 5 days of the workshop.) I was able to go to the weaving workshop during the days, and go to the dance recital in the evenings, happy as the proverbial clam.

Here's a picture of Judith tying a replacement heddle in someone's loom. The workshop format is that each weaver works on her individual projects, and when teaching moments occur, we have the opportunity to see Judith demonstrate various techniques.


And here is proof that Suzanne actually took a few minutes to sit at her own loom and weave on the baby blanket project that's been on her loom for awhile:


Suzanne usually was so busy, fixing breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for us, that we had to insist that she get out of the kitchen and sit at her loom. (Another student, Lisa, is standing at the warping board, winding for a new project.)

I chose for my refresher project a very simple, plain weave scarf, following Judith's instructions for "Mother MacKenzie's Miracle Warp Scarf." It's a miracle because it's foolproof, and it's a miracle because it's an easy way to use leftovers. You wind an extra-long warp, then fold the length in half so that the width becomes a mirror image of itself. Voila! I'll confess to breathing a sigh of relief when Judith and I talked about what size of a scarf I would like, and we were talking in inches! In that environment (that is, Suzanne's house), I have gotten so used to measurements always being in centimeters for Nihon Vogue class, although, even after two years of Nihon classes, thinking in centimeters doesn't come naturally to me. I could say to Judith that I wanted my scarf to be sixty inches long and eight inches wide, and we understood each other perfectly! No looks of puzzlement between us, as sometimes happens with Jean Wong and me.

My scarf on the loom:


It's a mixture of yarns from my stash: Kidsilk Haze, Zephyr, and Douceur Swirls --


and I am really pleased with both the color and the feel of it! It took a lot of concentration for me to place the weft with my beater, rather than bang down the beater and pound the weft in, but I think all of that effort paid off. The Douceur Swirls turned out to be a very delicate fiber for a warp, and two of these warp threads broke when I was weaving the scarf. Judith turned these into teaching moments: we tied in fresh threads, and pulled them through the scarf once it was woven and taken off the loom. The fresh threads replaced the old, broken ones perfectly.

I really, really enjoy weaving. In yoga teacher training class, we talk about "stilling the random fluctuations of the mind." Well, there were whole hours during the five days of the workshop where I was so completely focused on the fiber in front of me that my mind had no opportunity for flitting about thinking random thoughts.

I've warped my loom for a second project -- dishtowels, since practically everyone else in the workshop was weaving dishtowels. Stay tuned to see whether I really get back to weaving...

... and now to write about knitting. I have been in a huge knitting slump since the day after Thanksgiving of last year. We were anticipating having stay-over company in December, at the beginning of the month and again at the end. And the day after Thanksgiving was the day we began cleaning house. And I don't mean just a little tidying up to make things look presentable. We did a lot of deep cleaning, and did some major re-arranging of furniture, including adding in a few new pieces. During the cleaning process, I came across knitting project after knitting project, stalled on the needles, abandoned. I had a knitter's dark night of the soul.

That experience made me gunshy of starting anything new. (After I first wrote this, I realized the obvious: I've also been gunshy of working on any of those stalled projects! Didn't knit a stitch, all of December; tried to start a sock in February, the day after Cappy died, but didn't like the needles I was using and stopped working on it after about three rounds....)

On May 30th in Nihon Vogue class I cast on for the current assigment, and have knitted this much so far (7-1/4 inches -- sorry, Jean, that I am not speaking in centimeters!):


I'm using the gansey sweater assignment to knit something that's been on my Must-Knit List for a long time -- I even blogged about it here. It's the River Grass Gansey from Jamieson's Shetland Knitting Book 2. As I wrote about in that earlier blog entry, I have been stymied for years about how to adjust the sizing for this sweater to come out with something that would fit me. Well, Nihon Vogue is all about tailoring to fit, so this is the perfect time to make this sweater. I dutifully made my three huge swatches prior to that May 30th class -- used up an entire 245 yard skein for the swatches! Consulted with Jean Wong, and now have the sweater in progress, feeling fairly confident that it will fit.

Alas, Book 2, which has always been one of my all-time favorites, just recently went out of print, and Two Swans has no copies available. I am using traditional 5ply gansey wool, British Breeds, in the color Fleet. I may be out of stock of Jamieson's Book 2 and Jamieson's color cards -- but I am well stocked in British Breeds 5ply gansey yarn -- check it out!

Posted by Karen at 10:53 AM

June 03, 2009


Here it is, June already! And this month marks the one-year anniversary of when I last had any stock of Jamieson's color cards. That's right -- for a whole year, I haven't had any color cards. The mill is in the process of revising the color card to show the new Spindrift colors now available, and, apparently, it is a very long process.

And I know that many, many, many of you knitters out there want color cards! Especially new color cards that will show the new Spindrift colors that are now available! I get about 4 requests per day for color cards, and I really try to meet each request graciously ... even though, in effect, I am saying No, no, no, sorry, no over and over and over to the point where I am sick of hearing myself say it. I used to tell people I'd have cards in a couple of months ... but as the months have turned into a year, I no longer even pretend to know when I might have more color cards.

Last week, I received an exceedingly nasty e-mail from a knitter who had inquired previously about getting a color card. Obviously, I must be deliberately withholding a color card from her! Obviously, by withholding a color card from her, I am ruining her life! She called into question my character; I think she would go so far as to put me out of business, if she had that power.

What I really wanted to reply to her was: You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar! Sending me an exceedingly nasty e-mail does not make me want to send you a color card, even if I had one to send.

Instead, what I wrote to her is what I tell everyone: I will add you to my list of people to notify, and when I get more color cards in, I'll let you know and you can buy one then.

Meanwhile, let's keep a sense of perspective about this. If there's a particular color or colors that you are interested in, the best suggestion I can make (until the new cards are here) is that you buy a skein of it so that you can see that color up close and personal. Remember, you're building your paint box for Fair Isle knitting....

Posted by Karen at 08:25 AM | Comments (4)