Saturday, August 16, 2014

Less Than a Month til Monhegan Island 2014!

Hi Y'all,
Greetings from Galveston, TX, where I'm sitting in the MOD Coffee Shop, eating a delicious muffin and thinking about knitting. I didn't purposefully set out to make this trip to an island a dress rehearsal for our upcoming jaunt to Monhegan Island, but in some ways, that's just what it is.

As with Monhegan, I've been traveling to Galveston for many years. And when I am here, near the salt water, and with my knitting at hand, the whole world feels better, I feel calmer, and I wonder, only half-jokingly, why I don't live near the sea year round.

Also as with the Monhegan trip, I give myself permission to just sort of explode my arts and crafts and clothes and books across the little room in which I stay (in this case, a garage apartment behind the home of my good friends, who allow me to refer to this space as The Writer's Garrett). There's something about being contained in a small space on a small island that comforts me and allows me to exhale as I am not always able to do in my day-to-day city life. I limit my choices in the very best sense of the word "limit." Maybe a better way to put it is that I carve out time for the things that bring me the most joy: reading, walking, crafting, breathing mindfully.

Island vacations offer a chance to deeply tune into nature. Those of you who've been on the Monhegan trip already know, but for those of you joining us for the first time, I can't wait to see your faces as you take in the incredible cliffs, the light dancing across the Atlantic, the towering forest trees, the Fairy Houses in Cathedral Woods, and the sun's twice-daily dazzling performances aka sunrise and sunset.

As if all this weren't enough, there are other moments, transcendent for knitters I'd say, when the worlds of Nature and Knitting collide naturally and beautifully. Toward that end, I saw a sunset on this trip that I can't help liken to Noro, which is one of my favorite lines. And then, another day, walking under a pier, I came upon a patch of sand shaped by tide and rainstorm, that created a pattern I wish I could somehow work into a sweater.

I've also spent a bit of time on Galveston digging deeper into the history of the place, something I've been exploring sporadically since I first started visiting nearly twenty years ago. There was a time when Galveston was the richest city in America, before the devastating storm of 1900. I love to tour the mansions and take in the architecture, and visit displays dedicated to helping us to remember what it once was like here. I was at the Henry Rosenberg library yesterday when I came upon an installation that included not one but two tributes to knitting.

The first featured a pair of socks dated back to 1860. Of particular note to me-- besides the fact that these socks survived-- is that they are knitted in a lovely pattern. I just love how through history it seems that utility in tools, vessels, clothing, and shelter has almost always been enhanced by an artistic touch. The second, a single cotton sock, not done, still on the needles. This one dates back to 1849 and they even know the source of the cotton. I wonder if the knitter died before finishing? I mean, I could understand quitting before turning a heel, but once that heel is turned, really there's just no excuse not to finish.

I hope when you're on Monhegan Island with us you'll take time to visit the Lighthouse Museum. It features a hodgepodge collection of furniture, fishing and boating gear, tchotchkes, and clothing (including, yes, knitted items), donated over the years by island families. So much history in that little place. I promise exploring it will enhance what, I also promise, is going to be the trip of a lifetime for you.

Can't wait.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Six Weeks til Monhegan Island!

Hi Y'all,
Oh SO SOON we will be on Monhegan Island! I just can't wait. It's going to be great to see everyone. It's going to be great to wear some hand knit sweaters and socks and scarves and hats and hand warmers and leg warmers (yes, I make leg warmers). And it's going to be great to sit up on this bench and look out over the harbor. My happy place!

Oh, one other thing? It's going to be great to feel inspired to knit. Don't get me wrong-- I knit nearly every day of the year. But we have finally gotten our heat down here in Texas and so I'm knitting less often and not particularly fast. I started some purple alpaca socks last week. I think I will push myself to work on those more so they'll be ready for Monhegan Island. I still haven't started my sweater-- not yet totally settled on a pattern, though still contemplating that one I found in Rowan.

In the teach-a-woman-to-fish department, I was delighted to receive an email recently from my niece, Geena, whom I taught to knit maybe six or seven years ago? Now she's in college, studying engineering in upstate New York, and in her downtime she knits. Granted, she doesn't have a whole lot of downtime given how hard her classes are. But on the other hand, it gets coooooold up there, so that's a motivation to pick up the needles. Geena sent me pictures of all the hats she made last winter. Now she's picking back up the sweater I got her the yarn for years ago. We're both excited. I've lost track of how many people I've taught to knit, but I think it's well over one hundred. It'll be nice to be in the student's chair on the island, sitting back and letting Susan do the driving and teach us new techniques

Can't wait! See you soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Knitting Through the Dog Days

Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer Knitting. Pictured above is my Boston Terrier Rebound. I made her pose on top of the grandfather clock sock I've been knitting forever (as you can see she did not put up a fight). I wanted to capture the scale of this project. It just never ends. My fault as I put it down frequently. Knitting a hat in the round is one thing. Knitting a nearly seven-foot long tube is quite another. And the hotter it gets down here in Texas (we hit 100 degrees for the first time this summer just yesterday-- amazing it took so long) the less inclined I am to pile this 900-ton project on my lap. And yet... I am determined to finish it soon, as my reward will be... drumroll...

Starting a new sweater! Which, yes, probably halfway through that, I'll be all, like, WHEN WILL THIS BE DONE? But mostly it's all fake complaining because I do so love the process and I love the finished project. Speaking of which, look! I finished the socks finally, just in time for the heat:

The sweater I'm starting on soon will involve Brooklyn Tweed yarn. LOFT to be specific, a great fingering weight that is truly a pleasure to work with. I got a BT pattern to go with the yarn, but once I looked at how long it was and how complicated it seemed to my eyes, I decided to try to find something simpler. For the moment I am considering this pattern, only without the Fair Isle part, just the design and shape:

It's super cute, isn't it? Of course being over at the Rowan site, I was overtaken by certain weakness. I had purposefully not renewed my subscription this year, simply because I have a massive pile of old Rowan mags, and I am at a time in my life where I hope to de-cumulate, not accumulate. But I just could not resist when I was there, so I renewed, my rationale being that Rowan mags totally deliver and are well worth the cost. I don't think I've ever used a single pattern in one of the magazines, but I always, always, always feel better just holding a copy in my hands and looking at all the gorgeous pictures. Here's the cover for the latest edition:

It'll be arriving any day now, along with the gift Rowan sends to subscribers. I got a hat/handwarmer kit that includes yarn and patterns. I can't wait. But I'll have to wait. Because dagnabit I WILL finish that grandfather clock sock and the sweater I am so hungry to crank out.

I hope y'all are staying cool and knitting hard. Just two months til we meet on Monhegan Island for Knitting and Yoga Adventures annual wonderful fest. Yay!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Hi Y'all!
Well I just got back from Monhegan Island about a week ago. The sunset picture was taken by my Austin friend, David Gottlieb, who just so happened to visit the island with his family while I was there. As I was mentioning in my last post I LOVE IT THERE! And I can't wait to see you when we head out with Knitting and Yoga Adventures in September. 

I've got a bunch of pictures for you. While I was out on the island I bonded, as I always do, with Holden, who will be our host at Monhegan House. Here we are bonding:

Mary Alice, who comes along as our massage genius, sent me an email while I was there and included pictures of her latest amazing knitted accessory. MA's sister makes her the most incredible things. To commemorate MA's 21st year of offering massages at the Boston Marathon, this is what she created:

Meanwhile, I kept chugging along on the socks I've been working on forever. I didn't get a ton of knitting done on the island, since I was there to write (and write I did-- 70 pages!). But during my eighteen gazillion-hour layover at JFK on the way home, I did manage to finish Sock One. And, not to brag or anything, but as I was sitting there in a busy airport kitchener stitching away, I felt a little pride. When I took a sock class years ago to fight my sock-making phobia, my teacher emphasized to us that we should never ever ever kitchener stitch in the presence of others, as it was too easy to get distracted. Now, though, I've finished enough toes so that I can almost do it with my eyes closed. (I'm sure I just jinxed myself saying all this, and the second sock will wind up with Funky Toe Issues). Here I am nonchalantly finishing the sock and then showing it off:

And finally for now, a post about Monhegan wouldn't be a post about Monhegan without several Amazing View pictures. So here are a couple of more for you to tide you over til you get there:

See you in ten weeks! Can't wait.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Greetings from Monhegan Island!

Hello From Monhegan Island!
No, you didn't miss the trip-- that's in September just like we told you. But I have come to love Monhegan Island so much that I take an extra trip here each year and bring a bunch of writers with me. We are having such an amazing time. The weather is perfect. Holden is, as ever, his fabulous Holden self. The food is fantastic. And the sunsets just cannot be beat.

Even though technically I'm here this week to be working on a book-- which I am, I swear-- I'm still finding time to knit. I am working on some socks for me, me, me now that I finished the baby blanket and the horsey hats I was telling y'all about in recent posts. Below is a picture of the sisters I've been knitting for forever. I finally delivered their horse hats and they are so psyched they don't even care that it's in the 90s in Austin-- they are wearing those hats! Thank you girls!

And below is a picture of my new grand nephew, Parker. He arrived before I finished the Chevron blanket I knitted for him out of Blue Sky cotton and some wild Noro bumpy stuff. But I knocked out the last few rows pretty quickly-- as you can see the blanket still fits him just fine. (He's the one on the left, in case you were wondering.)

And speaking of family members... today I finally got to meet Susan Mills' beautiful daughter Mackenzie. She's on Monhegan Island for the summer working at the Monhegan House and the Novelty, the great pizza and ice cream joint behind (and owned by) Monhegan House. I'm pretty sure she'll still be here when y'all arrive in September, so you'll get to meet her, too, as well as learn cool knitting tricks from her amazing mom. 

I hope wherever you are this summer that you're getting in a lot of knitting, a lot of relaxing, and plenty of gorgeous sunsets. Can't wait to see you on the island!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tis the (Shoulder) Season

Hey Y'all,
Well Memorial Day just passed, and so even if the calendar doesn't agree, it sort of is (un)officially summer. For those of you who travel to Monhegan Island from other parts of the country, you might not know that the very beginning of the season and the very end of the season are known as "shoulder season." I learned that term from Holden at the Monhegan House, where we'll be staying. Seems easy enough to decipher-- like it's the week or so on either side of the prime days of summer. Maybe there's another reason they call it that. I suggest we get Holden a wee bit tipsy and see if we can get him to tell us the long story behind the title, even if he has to make it up.

Meanwhile, here's a not-so-secret for you: I actually prefer shoulder season. The island isn't crowded, you can really spread out. And while it's entirely possible we'll have super warm and sunny weather, and get to wear our summer clothes, it's also entirely possible we'll get to wear our hand knit sweaters and hats and mittens and scarves and (in my case) eighties style leg warmers and bust out our umbrellas. Then there's a third possibility, known as All of the Above. I just love that about shoulder season-- really unpredictable but in the best sense of the word.

Those of you joining us on the Knitting and Yoga Retreat on Monhegan Island need not start packing yet. But Lisa, our fearless leader, and Susan Mills, who will be back teaching this year (YAY!), did do a little prep work recently. Up above, at the top, is Susan's beautiful daughter Mackenzie, who you might recognize as a model in knitting magazines. Susan and Lisa took Mackenzie to Port Clyde last weekend where she boarded the Laura B and headed over on the little ferry to work at Monhegan House for the summer. So you'll get to meet her.

While they were out that way, the talked about the project Susan is working up for us-- a Pi Shawl. Pi Shawls are SO fun to make, and rewarding, and even if you aren't a shawl person they look great as throws. They also popped by the Lobster Shack to do a little quality control check and I can assure you you will not be disappointed when we stop for lobster rolls.

We aren't quite at the 100 Day Countdown yet, but we sure are getting close. I'm going to go on a mission of my own in mid-June, and take a bunch of writers to the island. I'll report back with some pictures and all the exciting news I can cajole out of Holden. Until then, Happy Summer, Happy Shoulder Season!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Are You Working On?

Hey Y'all,
Spike here, checking in from Austin, TX, where we are having an utterly bizarre break in the weather. Usually it's pushing toward 100 degrees by now. And we did have a couple of borderline scorchers recently. But just for a couple of days now it's been downright cool and very wet. Not only is this weather so welcome in the land of perpetual drought, it also gives me an added measure of happiness because it SO REMINDS ME OF MONHEGAN ISLAND.

And how much do I love Monhegan Island? I love it so much that in addition to preparing for our big Knitting and Yoga Adventures trip there in September-- which will be my 6th with the group -- I also now go in June. That's when I take a group of memoir writers off to my HAPPIEST PLACE. We hang out with Holden. We have enforced quiet time. And we write to our heart's content.

Last year was the first year I did the memoir trip and folks loved it so much I immediately booked rooms for this year. We head up in four short weeks and I cannot wait. In the picture up above you can see I am working on the first of what is hopefully going to be a pair of socks. And those socks will hopefully be ready for the June trip. I say hopefully because, as is the case with so many of us passionate knitters, I always have Other Projects pop up that prompt me to set down whatever I'm working on for me so I can make something for someone else. It's not such a bad problem to have. For instance, take a look at this:

That's a baby blanket for my grand-nephew, Parker. Parker isn't even born yet, but he already has a name and not one but two color schemes. Really. Isn't that hilarious? I remember when my son was born in 1990. Color schemes were the last thing on my mind and it took me nearly a week to name him. But kids these days (I mean our adult kids and nieces and nephews) seem to be more on top of these things. And so Parker will get a cool blanket that matches his bedroom. Or his wardrobe. I can't even remember which now. I just know when my sister Kitty, who will be Parker's grandmother (or Mom-Mom as we say in our family) told me this color scheme, I rushed right out (any excuse) to my LYS, Hill Country Weavers, and scored some Blue Sky cotton and some Noro Tanabata. Yes, this is going to be the world's most expensive hand knit baby blanket and also it'll be hand wash only. Look, I didn't say I was going to make a practical gift. I said it would be exquisite.

I'm using a chevron pattern designed by Suzanne Middlebrooks, who owns Hill Country Weavers. It's one of those best-of-both-world patterns-- simple enough for me to memorize it but with enough switching around from stitch to stitch that I don't get totally bored. I have a hunch Parker is going to beat me and make his appearance in the world before I bind off. But that's okay. Because just on my side of the family he's got fourteen other great aunts/uncles, plus his grandparents. No doubt they're all getting ready to heap on the gifts, too. So mine can wait a little bit. Maybe I'll even set it down this week and do a few rows on my socks.

How about you? What are you working on? And will you be bringing it to Monhegan? If so, and if you haven't registered yet, here are all the details. 

See you in September,