Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Knitting Vacations

We has them! Most knitters I know will go anywhere at anytime if it means we can sit and knit
and have the potential to buy yarn!
One of the most recent knitting vacations we went on was to the Taos Wool Festival in Taos, NM. We go every year. I joined the crew in 2009 as I was still working in 2008. It is awesome fun filled with good friends, good food and good yarn and knitting. We always arrive Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday. As we are checking out of our room we reserve the same room for the next years Wool Festival. We have now stayed in the same suite, room 104/105 at the Historic Taos Inn, for 4 years.

There are things we always do each time we take this trip. The road into Taos is not a large one. Once we pass through Santa Fe we get into Espanola. We always eat at JoAnn's Ranch O Casados. We have been there enough times that seeing JoAnn is like seeing family. She always gives us her new Rancho O Casados pens when she sees us! The link to her restaurant can be found here. From Espanola the road is mainly 2 lanes through the Gorge along the Rio Grande. We always stop at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center for some fantastic pics and wonderful views!

  Except this year. I was driving this leg and I almost hit the sign when we made the turn. 

Thanks Congress. The knitters were now being affected by the Government Shutdown and we were not happy. It did cross my mind to call the number and let them know that they were throwing a wrench into our plans and we were a little less than thrilled. Thankfully no one was having a bathroom emergency so we kept right on movin' through the Gorge. It is always a beautiful and colorful drive through the Gorge yet this year the colors were turning later than usual. If you have not taken this drive before I highly recommend it. 

When we pull into Taos another one of the things we often stop to see is the St. Francis of Assisi de Ranchos de Taos Mission Church. There is a nice page here that talks about the history of the church. It is among the most photographed and painted churches in the country and it is easy to see why. We spent at least an hour there getting good artistic shots ourselves. Here are some of my favorites...

I love the way the sun is shining in from the upper left in this top photo.  Honestly, I think its probably difficult to take a bad picture of the church. It seems every angle, every view, every 5 more feet this way is a good picture. We were fortunate this day to get there early enough that we were able to avoid getting visitors in our shots. I hate that! I want the shot all to myself!

The sky was so blue this day....not a cloud anywhere to be seen which made for fantastic pictures! 

Any number of the angles you get looking at that back of the church are also good ones. This particular angle is one of my favorites. 

It took me a while to get this shot exactly the way I wanted it. And I love it!

There were so many bees buzzing around all the lovely flowers there and I knew if I waited long enough I could get this shot. Patience is a virtue!

This has always cracked me up because it looks like St Francis is on his cell phone, maybe Facebook, maybe reading my blog!

Sadly, I don't have any pics of our Hotel from the outside and the ones I have on the inside are, trust me, less than stellar. Usually the first night in the hotel we eat treats that we have brought along and hang out and knit in our room. This year we heard there were 2 new yarn stores that had opened up so we ventured out to go see them. Mooncat Fibers located off of Bent Street was fabulous! Down the road a bit was the new store Moxie. I took a pic of my Mom and I outside of Moxie and it happens to be my favorite of us in a very long time...

 Me and my mother Kay outside Moxie in Taos, New Mexico

Saturday morning breakfast is always at the Bent Street Cafe. The folks at Bent Street are fabulous and their food is memorable. The offer all local, homegrown and organic fare and its incredible. There is a reason we have been going back there year after year for our breakfasts on Saturday mornings! The afternoons are all spent at Kit Carson Park where the Wool Festival is set up. We meet up with our friends and go from booth to booth gazing at all the wonders for sale. Many of the vendors have become good friends too. Its always nice to see them and see them doing well in their own endeavors. We sit in park and sit and knit, many people bring their spinning wheels and spin or do whatever it is they do. And the weather this year was incredible! A tad cool, there were no clouds...just blue sky! It was beautiful! This was my haul from this years Festival...

Saturday evening dinner has always been at Graham's Grille. However unfortunately, this year they were plagued with old sewage lines behind their restaurant that caused them to remain closed for repairs while we were there. Instead, we ate at Doc Martins inside our hotel and we very well taken care of. We had eaten there before and knew that it would make a very nice substitute for the evening. Sunday was always go back to the Festival for a final go around. We check out around 11am and pack up for the drive home. On the way home we always stop at lookout points going through the Gorge to take pics of the Rio Grande and the gorgeous views. This is what we saw on our way home...

It was a fabulous trip as it always is. The views are good, the food is phenomenal, the shopping is one of a kind and the company cannot be beat. Knitters will go anywhere, anytime as long as we have the chance to be surrounded by other knitters and the possibility to shop for yarn! If you're reading this then you know exactly what I mean!  Sometime when I win the lottery I would love to go on a knitting trip with Stitchtopia Knitting Holidays which you can read about here. I would love to hear where you go for your knitting vacations and excursions! Tell me your stories!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

UFO's, we all have them...

UFO's. We all have them...some more than others. 

I think I have about 16-18 projects on the needles right now but about 4-5 I'm actively working because they really need to be finished for various reasons. I really admire those people who start a project, work solely on that project through completion before casting on something new. I cant do that. Ever. And I blame Ravelry. If it weren't for the ability to see so many brand new fantastic patterns out there everyday I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now, or my Mom, or several of my friends. I thought I would share some of my most critical UFO's at the moment. If you see me Tuesday night's you've likely seen these. Please help me. Give me reasons why I need to finish these items...I need to hear encouragement rather than to see new patterns that will surely lead me astray.

Pattern is Sweet Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier done in KnitPicks Swisk DK on a US 6

This is Savannah's Sweater. This is the very first garment I have ever done in my whole life. Several months ago I was encouraged by a close friend who is a national knitting judge to "expand my knitting experience" to include garments, regardless of how absolutely terrified I am of them. Shawls are easy. Lace shawls are easy. Designing shawls has been easy for me. But garment work? Not so much. I mean, I get the pattern and the basics of how this is all supposed to go together but I am a novice in the garment department. It was suggested that I begin with a child's sweater rather than be totally overwhelmed at a garment for myself that I a) may not like when its finished and b) just sank $5,028.50 into the attempt only to realize I hate it or it doesn't fit the way I would like it to. I figured I was safe with a kids sweater. My friend Lisa's daughter Ariane was a step mom to a wonderful kid named Savannah. I love that child and her family enough to make this attempt and so far, I'm doing fantastically well if I do say so myself. I'm so tickled that the 2nd sleeve is about done and I'm almost on to the rest of the body. Soon it will be time to choose some rad buttons and finish her off! I let this sit dormant for a bit for reasons only knitters could possibly understand. I didn't like where I joined the first sleeve and I thought if I ignored it long enough it would just go away. It didn't. Well, news of all news, Ariane is pregnant! It occurred to me that I really need to finish this sweater before Savannah grows out of it and before there is a new baby to knit for. This is why Savannah's Sweater MUST be finished! I'll never admit to how fond I am of this little sweater.

Pattern is Bermuda by Ilga Leja done in KnitPicks Chroma on US 7

This is my Bermuda. It took my long enough to jump on the Bermuda band wagon and it feels like its taking me even longer to finish it. I have discontinued using the pattern and am completely free forming it on my own now...definitely part of what makes this fun. I would like to finish this because I would like to actually wear it someday. I LOVE the colors and there are so many things it will go with...I just need to actually finish this. Mom is now making a Bermuda and there is a good chance she could finish hers before I finish mine. Of all the work that I have done I have really very few wearable pieces. Most have been given away. It wasn't until I started designing myself that I retained these shawls in my own wardrobe. So this one is all about having another piece to add to my collection...another shawl to wear. And no doubt about it, the design is a show stopper. But then again, it was designed by the genius that is Ilga Leja.

This is my design Kerala knit in Hollywick Farms alpaca/nylon fingering weight on US 6

This is my latest design Kerala that I absolutely cannot wait to finish. I am working with cables in my own designs for the first time and am loving them! This will have a fantastic lace border with another cable incorporated into it. The sooner I can finish this the sooner I can put it up for sale in my Ravelry and Craftsy shops. I don't like to go much longer than about a month and a half between pattern releases and its been a little longer than that for this one. Partially because I had another design that was submitted to Interweave with the hopes of it begin published in one of their mags. Unfortunately, it was declined. I will continue to send submissions to so I want to always have one ahead of the game. If Kerala meets any deadlines for submissions anywhere, I will continue to make my attempts. (I am almost done with the large size of the Scottsdale Shawl and it will have its own blog post when I release the pattern.) I cannot say enough about this incredible yarn from Hollywick Farms. The color struck me immediately and it leaped into my hands and demanded to go home with me from Taos 2013. The colors are slightly different than what you see here. The true colors are of turmeric, cumin, coriander and a nice curry sauce. It was all about spices for this shawl. I look forward to getting this finished and released or submitted to another magazine. Either way, I can accomplish neither unless I finish it!

My own pattern, a seed stitch basket weave in 50/50 angora & corridale lamb from Rio Fernando Farms on US 6

See that halo? Finishing this is so I can hopefully wear it this winter. Who wouldn't want that lovely soft angora wrapped around their neck when its really cold outside?? I have plenty more of this yarn and plan to make some fingerless mitts to go with it. This is a simple basket weave pattern with a seed stitch border and seed stitch squares up the center. I love the simplicity of this and cannot wait to finish it. I want so badly to have this scarf for the upcoming cold weather. Its that simple. 

So yes everyone, I suspect most of us have UFO's. Some more than others. The other 12 or 13 projects are tucked away and perhaps at some point in the future you'll see those too. I'd love to hear about your UFO's and whats topping your list of things to finish! Are you a person who has a lot of UFO's or do you complete one project before moving on to another one?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Melanie's Effortless

Melanie finished her Effortless pattern!

The pattern is one of mine that can be seen here on my Ravelry Design Page. I am so stinkin' proud of her I feel like a Mom! I think this is maybe her third project. She started it on a Monday evening at Stitch Group. (We call it Stitch Group because not everyone knits, we have some beading and embroidery going on in there too). She wanted to make her Mom a shawl for Christmas and loved the yarn. I convinced her to try a real shawl pattern, this one for a couple of reasons. First of all, the name really is accurate. The thing is so easy to make its great for beginners but also more than satisfying for experienced knitters as it would be an easy project requiring not much reliance on the pattern. Its all easily memorized. Second of all, she had my right at her fingertips for help whenever needed. It took some convincing but she finally gave and allowed me to teach her the cast on. Then she was off. It has been so fun to watch her week after week progress with this shawl. The closer she got to doing the edging the more nervous she got...until I taught her that part and once again, she was off! I wasn't able to make last weeks Monday Night because I was house sitting and when I got home, her finished shawl was on my coffee table ready to be blocked! And anyone who knows me knows I will block happily. I LOVE blocking. Its such a "tah-dah!!" moment in one's knitting project and I love doing it. I was more than happy to block this one for her and have the chance to photograph her on Lucy. 

This  is the Effortless pattern in Lorna's Laces Shepherds Sock, colorway Maple Grove on US size 6

I cant wait to give it to her tonight when we all gather for another Monday Night. Melanie, you should be very proud of yourself! I am!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My First Knitting Project

The story of my first knitting project reads more like the story of when my life really began.

It was the summer of 2008 and my husband and I had just moved to Albuquerque New Mexico to be close to my folks. (My folks retired here in 1997 and I always knew I would move here it was just a question of when). For years I had been hearing stories about my Mom's knitting friends who had really become family to her. She belonged to 3 knitting groups and met with them all faithfully. The first was a Monday night group which was composed of 4-5 very close friends and they rotated between everyone's home each Monday. The second was a Tuesday night knitting group which, over the years has changed meeting locations. In 2008 they were meeting at an Asian Noodle Place which happily accommodated the group comprised of anywhere between 7 and 15 or more people. The third group she belonged to was the local Albuquerque Dropped Stitch Knitters Guild. The Guild met once a month and participated in lots of other activities. Knitting was super important to my Mom. Knitting, spinning, dyeing and designing has been a part of her life since I was very small. The only knitting I ever did was when I was about 8 yrs old. I can faintly remember handling a pair of knitting needles and trying to do the knit stitch. I was a kid and not that into it. To me, it was always just something my Mom and Grandmother did. 

Shortly after we moved here, within the first month, I decided I wanted to learn this whole knitting thang. We moved to Albuquerque to be close to my folks and I wanted to take part and share in this knitting stuff with my Mom. It was so important to her and had been forever. My Mom and I have always been very close friends and I really wanted to share this thing I knew so little about with her. Sometime within the first 30 days I met my Mom at the Asian Noodle Place to meet her friends I had heard so much about. After being introduced to everyone I announced to the group "someone please  gimme some sticks! I wanna do this!" My Mom gave me some of her gorgeous handspun fingering weight yarn and cast on the first row of a scarf for me. She taught me the knit stitch and told me to just stick with that and practice that stitch. My Aunt Betty (not really my Aunt but not all family are blood relatives) gave me a beginners book for me to flip through and read. By the next morning I had completed about 4-5 inches of garter stitch and was bored out of my mind and wanted to learn more. I picked up the book Betty gave me and taught myself the purl stitch. I worked on that enough so that I had it down and then I ripped everything out back to the cast on. I had to leave that there because I didn't know how to cast on yet! I called my Mom and asked her for some more of her beautiful handspun in a couple more colors. I had an idea. One of the things that was important to me was that my project, even my very first one, be one that doesn't just sit on the shelf. I wanted it to be beautiful and I wanted it to be something I would wear.

I now had 3 colors of my Mom's beautiful handspun merino in fingering weight to work with. Before I go on let me remind you that I had no clue what Ravelry was. I think in 2008 Ravelry may had even still been in its beta stage I'm not sure. I didn't have patterns or books (other than the one Betty had given me) and I had nothing but what was in my mind to create. I had no stitch markers or row counters or any notions like that. I had Post-Its! I was confident in my knit and purl stitches to start knitting the picture in my mind. I remember being so excited about knitting that when I woke in the morning it was the only thing I could think about. I got a cup of coffee and went right to my knitting. I was working from home at the time so at 9am I would log in to work, all the while thinking about knitting. Any break I took I spent it knitting. When I was done with my work in the evening I gathered my things and started to knit. It was all I could think about. I felt like I had stepped into this huge world I knew so little about and I loved it. I felt like it was what was missing in my life. I had started to create a basket weave patterned scarf alternating each row of blocks with a different color. I wouldn't let my Mom see it until a week later when I had about a foot and a half of it done. I'll never forget when I first showed it to my Mom. We had gone to Casa Rondena Winery to have a glass of wine and sit and knit on a Saturday afternoon. I was patient and made her and Betty wait until we had our wine and we were out sitting below a canopy of vines to show them. They were so excited and couldn't believe what I had done! 

Looking back on those early days of knitting what I remember the most is the excitement. It was an excitement I had never known before. I had discovered something I truly felt had been missing from my life for 38 yrs. From this very first project, I should've known designing was the most natural course of progression for me. I felt like an artist who had just discovered her medium. Since this very first project and that first evening at the Asian Noodle Place, my life has become filled with the best friends I have ever had in my life, the most talented people I have known, and the most generous, giving and caring people I have ever met. My husband says I changed. I suppose I did. It was the most needed change and discovery a person could ever have of themselves. My Mom claims knitting is genetic...

P.S. This story of my first knitting project is being entered into a contest with Interweave. Should I be fortunate enough for my story to be found either humorous or heartwarming by the lovely folks there I have been asked to list the 5 items I would like to have in my prize package. Those items are as follows:
                                 1. The Ashbury Knitted Mitts Kit in Natural Cream
                                 2. Jane Austin Knits 2013
                                 3. Mink Leadville Knitted Cowl Kit
                                 4. Orenburg Knitting: Knitting Gossamer Webs with Galina Khmeleva
                                 5. Darjeeling Shawl