Hospitals Are a Great Place to Knit, Unless You're Me

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Everyone always says hospitals are a great place to knit, what they don’t tell you is that you probably won’t want to. My husband was in the hospital for three days last week and I brought my knitting ( and some spinning, and embroidery) but I barely touched any of it. I can’t stress craft. I couldn’t do much more than just stare at him, just in case.

He is fine. He developed an infection that required IV antibiotics. He almost never gets sick and had a weird pain. He went quickly from Urgent Care, to the ER to being admitted. We are lucky he caught it really early.

Now I’m catching up on work, getting ready for a teaching trip, and a family vacation to the southwest. But I’m still watching him out of the corner of my eye, just in case.

Hug your people, and if you have a weird pain, go to the doctor.

DM Fibers - Meet Sasha and David

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If you’ve taken a class with me in the past year or so you will have spun fiber from DM Fibers. All of the solid colored Corriedale that we spin into gorgeous marls and draft together with variegated fibers comes from DM Fibers.

You’ll have heard me talk about what wonderful people Sasha and David are, how easy they are to work with, and how they make my teaching life so much easier by always getting my order right and delivering on time . Plus all the fibers they have are :chef’s kiss: fabulous!

When I was at TNNA (The National Needlework Association convention), I managed to get a picture of Sasha and David, so you can see their smiling faces. They love making spinners (and teachers and shops) happy.

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They gave me a sneak peek of new colors of Corriedale. Deb Robson and I have been asking for awhile to get some brighter colors, and Sasha and David came through!

The photo is close with the colors, but what looks like red in the photo is actually magenta.

Starting this July, these colors will start showing up in my classroom ‘s rolling stash.

Wee Woven Patches

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Sometimes I want a patch instead of a visible mend on a garment, I like the look. Sometimes I just want a cute little patch because it's cute.

I have a set of Minute Weavers from Purl and Loop that make 2"-ish woven squares. They are great for making tiny patches. The set comes with three weavers that use fingering to worsted weight yarns.

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They are a spectacular take-along project, or I-just-need-to-finish-something-real-quick project, or maybe you need a coaster for your shot glass.

The patch in the photos is woven from a Merino single (I think it's Hedgehog Fibres), the color is so magnificent that I will put up with the inevitable pilling.

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This little patch was destined to cover a little hole in a sweater, but since I’ve made it, I’ve been carrying it with me and just petting it. I guess sometimes a wee patch is all I need for some fiber comfort.

Sit at the Table, Jump Off the Rock

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One of my strongest memories of teaching at the Mason Dixon Knitting Getaway is of tables. Think about it, at any retreat or class tables are important. You learn at them, eat at them, gather around them.

The tables at the MDK Getaway were especially welcoming. Sure friends sat with friends, but no one was ever turned away because a spot was saved for someone else, chairs were drawn up, buns were scootched down a bench, there was always room.

The tables where we ate were long and communal. There were tables in the library for after hours knitting and crafting, and people moved around greeting old friends and settling in with new ones.

The tables in my classroom, had to be moved between for supplies, and there was all kinds of encouragement and all the answers to any curiosity as people bopped from table to table.

I was lucky to sit at a special early morning table. The east coast early birds, met every morning at 6 for coffee. Ann Weaver and I roomed in an apartment in one of the dorms. We had a kitchen with a big table, and Nell, who was next door, had the holy AeroPress.

Folks would show up in jammies or already dressed with their knitting or stitching and we would get ready for our day with craft, chatter and caffeine. No one was ever in a hurry. It was a perfect way to start a day, slowly connecting over craft.

I am grateful to have been invited to sit at the tables at the Getaway.

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There was a reservoir a five minute walk from campus and I was determined to go swimming. It rained a lot over the weekend, but there was a magical two hours one afternoon, when both the weather and my schedule was clear.

One of the young women who worked with us took me down to the res and asked, did I want to go down the ladder or jump off of the rock?'

The rock was about 10 feet from the water, and just a little slippery. I stepped up and jumped, no hesitation, just reaction born of a lot of summer memories.

In that airborne moment I was 8 not 56. It was bliss, the combination of freedom and terror.

The weekend at the MDK Getaway was a great reminder to me that when the opportunity presents itself, sit at the table and jump off the rock.

Mason-Dixon Knitting Getaway

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I’m just back from teaching at the Mason-Dixon Knitting Getaway at the Shakerag Workshops in Sewanee, Tennessee. It was 100% like camp for grownups with all fiber fun and booze.

The people, the food , the location were all perfect. It rained a lot and that didn’t dampen (heh) anyone’s spirits.

There were four teachers, I taught weaving yarn bracelets, Ann Weaver taught knitting braids, Sunne Meyer taught Alabama Chanin-style stitching, and Donna Brown taught natural dyeing on sock blanks. Each class was about 2-ish hours long, quick hits of creativity.

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My weaving students were fantastic. We had low tech tools, a cardboard loom, a plastic weaving needle, and a fork.

Kay and Ann raided the MDK yarn closet of yarn left over from kits and projects, I brought some ribbon clasp closures and all the beads, buttons, fabric and other goodies that I could find at my thrift stores. I also brought a bunch of novelty yarn. #bringingbackrailroadribbon

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From these humble materials my students made glorious and creative bracelets. The weaving was simple once they got the hang of it.

There was a lot of talking and laughing. We sang along to Stevie Wonder and I may have done some dancing.

Of course, since I had a room full of yarn people, I talked about grist, the properties of yarn, and knitting. I even spun yarn to show the difference between woolen and worsted yarns.

It was a whole lot of fun! I’ll talk more about other things that made it special in another post.

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Planning for a Break

Imagine a hammock here…….

Imagine a hammock here…….

I remember summers when I was a kid. We might go on a vacation, but mostly I would play. I would ride my bike, go to the library and check out books to read under a tree, maybe go to the pool. I'd leave the house in the morning and not come back until the dinner time whistle, just spend the day meandering. I would do this for most of the summer.

I can’t remember the last time I drifted for more than maybe one day, getting up with no plan, maybe a direction, but no plan. I did recently have a meandering day with my friend Erica here in town and it was fantastic.

I recently realized I haven’t spun just for fun (deadlines) for almost a year. Things keep stacking up and time runs out. I’m not unhappy, I love the work I do and I love working for myself. But I need a little playtime, time to dabble and to try things, or to do nothing.

The spot in the photo that the arrow is pointing to is where my hammock used to hang. I haven't put it out for two years. I love rading in that thing, even when there are bugs.

I want to take time in August. I would love to take the whole month off, but that may not be possible. I know I can take a couple weeks off with the rest of the time very short work weeks.

I’m energized by just the idea. I know I need to plan carefully and to do extra work now to get ahead.

Have you planned for time off? How did you manage it?

Two Great Books Coming in October

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Get ready to stalk your library or pony up your book money for two book this fall. My husband is a book rep and I got my hands on advance reader copies of two fantastic fiber book coming this October. I've read them both and highly reccomdend them.

Clara Parkes new book Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool, tells the story of her bale of Merino. Remember that? I remember the bale! Here's the offical blurb:

*A fast-paced account of the year Clara Parkes spent transforming a 676-pound bale of fleece into saleable yarn, and the people and vanishing industry she discovered along the way

Join Clara Parkes on a cross-country adventure and meet a cast of characters that includes the shepherds, dyers, and countless workers without whom our knitting needles would be empty, our mills idle, and our feet woefully cold. Travel the country with her as she meets a flock of Saxon Merino sheep in upstate New York, tours a scouring plant in Texas, visits a steamy Maine dyehouse, helps sort freshly shorn wool on a working farm, and learns how wool fleece is measured, baled, shipped, and turned into skeins.

In pursuit of the perfect yarn, Parkes describes a brush with the dangers of opening a bale (they can explode), and her adventures from Maine to Wisconsin (“the most knitterly state”) and back again; along the way, she presents a behind-the-scenes look at the spinners, scourers, genius inventors, and crazy-complex mill machines that populate the yarn-making industry. By the end of the book, you’ll be ready to set aside the backyard chickens and add a flock of sheep instead. Simply put, no other book exists that explores American culture through the lens of wool. *

The other book is Threads of Life: The History odf the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter. I heard her reading from this book a few months a go on BBC radio and was entranced. Here's the blurb:

*A globe-spanning history of sewing, embroidery, and the people who have used a needle and thread to make their voices heard

In 1970s Argentina, mothers marched in headscarves embroidered with the names of their “disappeared” children. In Tudor, England, when Mary, Queen of Scots, was under house arrest, her needlework carried her messages to the outside world. From the political propaganda of the Bayeux Tapestry, World War I soldiers coping with PTSD, and the maps sewn by schoolgirls in the New World, to the AIDS quilt, Hmong story clothes, and pink pussyhats, women and men have used the language of sewing to make their voices heard, even in the most desperate of circumstances.

Threads of Life is a chronicle of identity, protest, memory, power, and politics told through the stories of needlework. Clare Hunter, master of the craft, threads her own narrative as she takes us over centuries and across continents—from medieval France to contemporary Mexico and the United States, and from a POW camp in Singapore to a family attic in Scotland—to celebrate the age-old, universal, and underexplored beauty and power of sewing. Threads of Life is an evocative and moving book about the need we have to tell our story. *

Make some room on your bookshelf.

Gauge and Knitting Needle Material

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I’m a little bit obsessed right now with my knitting gauge and all of the things that affect it.

I’ve experimented with twist direction and style of knitting. I’m developing arthritis in my hands and know I need to work on different ways to tension my yarn, but I’m leaving that for last. It seems like a hard thing to change.

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My latest gauge experiment was with needle material. I knit a swatch with Lykke Driftwood, needles (they are made of birch) and Chiagoo stainless steel needles.

I knew they would be different, but I was surprised how much. I knit a 25 stitch swatch with both needles using Swan's Island All American Worsted. The ballband calls for a gauge of 4.5 stitches nd sugget a needles size of US 7/4.5 mm.

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Since I know I am a loose knitter, I used a US 4/ 3.5mm for both swatches.

My swatch with the Lykke needles comes in at 4.5 stitches to the inch , and my swatch with the Chiagoo is closer to 4 stitches to the inch.

The Chiagoo swatch is on the left and the Lykke swatch is on the right.

A half a stitch to the inch is a lot of difference. I didn’t even need to measure to know that they would be different. I could see it and feel it in the swatches.

Do you choose needles material to compensate for gauge?