Friday, January 30, 2015

Settling In On A Sweater

I have a distant memory of reading my friend Deb Stoller's book, Stitch 'N Bitch, a part where she went from not being really enthusiastic about knitting to settling down on a long train ride, getting out a sweater she'd started then stopped, and finally it clicked. Obviously it clicked in a really big way since Deb has gone on to build a knitting empire with a series of books, workshops, and all around superstardom in the knitting world.

When I first started knitting in 1986, I made one super tightly knotty scarf, decided I was not into it, and put the knitting down. For fourteen years. Then I picked it back up, and thanks in large part to Deb's book, I totally got into it. To the point that now it is a running, loving joke amongst my friends how I am never seen without knitting, be it at a concert, dinner party, or even on the hiking trails (which I like to do on Monhegan Island-- knit and hike simultaneously).

I'm thinking about this because I've been stopping and starting on the adult version of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. It's been giving me headaches. I chose really small yarn and tiny needles. At one point I totally messed up the decreases and had to frog a ton. Now I'm on the increases and I think I keep messing it up but I can't even tell. The pattern is very mysterious-- hence the word surprise in the title. And I've had my moments of thinking I'm going to quit. But then, I'm just too far along to frog now. So I'm doing some Faith Based Knitting, not religious faith but Zimmermann Faith. EZ is a goddess among knitters. I'm praying she won't let me down now.

Part of my procrastination had been helped along by the fact that I very often keep at least one other project going when I'm working on something tricky to me. The second project is always easy, and usually easy to the point that it gets bumped up to the Primary Project. Such was the case with a beret I recently finished, picture above in progress. Now I am very tempted to get some easy socks on the needles, but I think that, at least for a few days, I'm going to just keep going with the sweater, see if I can truly get to that Deb on the Train moment, get motivated to really power through.

And if it doesn't happen, well then Hello Easy Socks. I just need to remind myself sometimes that I'm in this knitting game for the calming, meditative aspect of it, not to become some Olympic Gold Medalist Knitter.

There are so many things I love about the Knitting and Yoga Retreats I'm fortunate enough to attend. A big part of it is the camaraderie with other passionate knitters. But more nuanced than the We're A Group of Happy Knitters is also this other thing. I have made so many knitting friends on retreat, many of them with skills so astonishingly honed they can knit circles around me. But instead of some competitive air, I get encouragement and reminders: have fun with it, it's not a contest, enjoy yourself, don't sweat the little errors, just keep calm and knit on.

I'm carrying my knitting friends in my head this week as I work to shift my attitude about this sweater in progress from I'm not sure I can do this to I'm sure it's going to be great because it's great already, just knitting and knitting. 

And so here's to all my wonderful knitting friends-- thank you for support so big and strong that even when we are scattered across the country during the rest of the year, all the love I get from you on Monhegan Island carries me through.

I hope you're knitting something fun right now, and that any challenges are more exciting than frustrating. I also hope that if you haven't yet signed up for the Maine retreat or the Vermont retreat (or both!) that you'll do that soon. All the information you need is over at Knitting and Yoga Adventures. 

Can't wait to see you in the fall.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Knitting Family

Hey Y'all,
Hope you're getting through January swathed in hand knits. I certainly have been trotting out everything I've ever knitted as the temperature in Austin has dipped down into the upper 40s. Haha. That's a little joke for all of y'all up there in the North. Really though, it's all relative, and we've had a few days here in the 20s, which, I know, is not the same as the negative 20s some of you have to deal with, but to me, it's more than cold enough.

In addition to bundling up, the other thing I do is stay inside far more often than I like. Which means I have to keep myself occupied. Which, on the bright side, involves knitting and eating. So if I wanted to be creative, I could say that I am "in training" for the 2015 Knitting and Yoga Monhegan Island Retreat

In December, while I was pretending to be in training, I was hanging out with my friends-- key members of my chosen family-- Bart and Doris Ann, and their kids Leila and Will. That's Leila up top in the picture. She asked me for a knitting lesson, and I so delight in sharing the healthy addiction that is knitting, that I settled in and got her going. Leila is, at the tender age of twenty, an amazing tattoo artist. Here's a picture of some ink she gave me back when she was still a teenager:

Leila is also a black belt martial artist. What I'm getting at is that her physical coordination and spatial relations skills are top notch. So she latched onto knitting very quickly. In fact, I started her in the round, on DPs, working on handwarmers made from some cashmere yarn I got when the Knitting and Yoga Retreat gang stopped at Tess in Portland last year.

Leila has gotten into knitting so quickly and passionately, that a trip to the LYS was needed. I'd passed along to her some of my stash but not enough to keep up with her knitting hunger. She had been to the LYS once or twice as a kid, but that memory was distant. I thrilled watching her take it all in, float from display to display. And I admit I thrilled a little in using my hopefully not too know-it-all tone to share with her some of what I've learned about yarn and knitting in the fifteen years since I started. We wound up leaving with an impressive starter stash.

In this picture, Leila's mom DA and I are, you can see, having a good laugh. This was shot on Christmas morning, right after I was gifted the sweater I'm wearing. It's a vintage, hand knit Cowichan sweater from a thrift store in Canada. DA is also wearing a vintage Cowichan sweater. Years ago, I knitted Bart (DA's husband and Leila's dad) a Cowichan sweater featuring whales and waves. That was such a tricky project for me and I was pumped that I made it happen. Here's a picture of that sweater in case you missed the earlier post about it:

Speaking of family, this month I got a great surprise. I knew my son, Henry, who lives in Brooklyn, was coming to visit me in Austin. What I did not know was that he planned to stick around for a couple of weeks. Even though he's staying with friends, just waking up in the morning knowing he's nearby makes me so happy. We meet up in the daytime and hangout. Yesterday was great because it had warmed up enough to sit outside at a cafe. I did teach Henry to knit once, many years ago, when we were stuck in the car for around seven hours waiting to cross the border from Mexico back into Texas. Sadly, he did not take to knitting the way Leila did. But as you can see, he definitely is into the whole arts & crafts thing. 

And so we did what we have done so often since he was little, and all over the place from Mexico to England to Japan to countless points around the U.S. We just hung out and I knitted and he made pictures.

Which brings me all the way back around to reminding you about the Knitting and Yoga Retreats 2015, both the weeklong trip to Monhegan Island and the long weekend retreat to Quechee, Vermont. Both trips are excellent opportunities to chill out, hang out, laugh, craft, learn and share. I've been going on retreat since 2008 and so many people choose to return repeatedly that these folks, too, are part of my family. I hope you'll join us and see for yourself just what an amazing thrill it is to dedicate yourself to hanging out and pursuing your passion in some stunning natural locations.

All the information you need is at the Knitting and Yoga Adventures website.

See ya next month,

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Registration for Monhegan Island, Maine & Quechee, Vermont Retreats Opens January 1st!

Hi Y'all!
Happy New Year! Isn't that an adorable little handwarmer I made for my adorable little friend Zoë? Actually, I splurged and made her two handwarmers. I used Freia hand painted yarn and besides being incredibly beautiful, it's also wonderful to work with. Nice hand! (Get it?)

Speaking of incredibly beautiful and wonderful to work with... once again Knitting and Yoga Adventures will be heading off to Monhegan Island, Maine in September for a weeklong retreat and Quechee, Vermont in November for a long weekend retreat. REGISTRATION FOR BOTH TRIPS OPENS ON JANUARY 1st! Space is limited and there is an Early Bird Discount, so be sure to head over to the website and REGISTER NOW

If you've been with us before you already know the magic of the places we go, the camaraderie we funny fiber fools forge, and the wonderful designers who help us take our knitting to the next level. If you're new to Knitting and Yoga Adventures, I invite you to scroll around this blog and take in some of the photos and posts. I've been the KYA blogger for seven years now and I never get tired of recording what a great adventure it always is: hiking, food, yoga, massage and, of course, KNITTING KNITTING KNITTING!

This year for the Monhegan Island trip designer and cable genius Norah Gaughan joins us. And in Vermont Rachel Kahn will be our guest designer teacher.

I can't wait to meet you all and show you the wonders of Monhegan Island, and sit by the fire with you, and rock the needles.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Hey Y'all,
Hope you're having a great December. I am so happy to report that I FINALLY FINISHED IT! Yes, the grandfather clock sock I started maybe a year and a half ago is now DONE! It measures 79" in height and 64" around. I sure hope it fits. I'll be delivering it to my friend soon and we shall see. I made it with pencil roving, the same sort I used for a Cowichan sweater a few years ago. When I first started with pencil roving it felt like knitting with cotton candy, I broke and tangled the strands a lot. But now I'm so accustomed to it (after nine million hours) that I might just order another Cowichan sweater kit and try to make a new and improved one.

This is not all I've been working on. I knocked out a hat for a friend and made some progress in my Adult Surprise Jacket, based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. I thought I was doing great when I discovered I'd made a huge mistake. Hint: when the pattern says s1 K2Tog psso it does not mean ssk. Several rows into this wrong move the whole thing had gone awry. I thought I was going to have to unravel it down to the studs, but I frogged for a spell, got it back to a not-messed-up spot, wondered how I might get nearly 300 tiny stitches back on the needles, then remembered the blessing that is an embroidery needle and an after-the-fact lifeline.

To insure I would (hopefully) make no more errors, at least not of the variety already made, I broke down and watched a couple of YouTube videos laying out just how to work the Surprise Jacket. I don't know why I don't watch these videos before casting on-- SO HELPFUL to have it explained. Because even though EZ was a genius, and her knitting prose (and even patterns) are deliciously conversational, there are definitely spots in her directions where it sure helps to get pointers from someone who's gone before you. I just read ahead a bit in the pattern, started to panic, then remembered that I'll check out more videos before proceeding to the next section.

Beyond that, I got on the needles the start of a beret, using a pattern I picked up at KnitWit in Portland and... I admit it... the wonderful Swans Island yarn I was supposed to be using for my lace half-pi shawl. I'd put that down to focus on the clock sock, picked it back up, convinced myself that the many errors weren't so egregious, did a few more rows, realized I was not relaxing, accepted that I am powerless over lace, and then decided to just unravel. That yarn is so soft, so amazing to work with, I decided I wanted to use it for something simple and fast, so I could focus on the feel and not tear my hair out over my ongoing difficulties with charts.

I still will try charts again-- see aforementioned goal of another Cowichan sweater. But I'm going to wait until after the holidays, when all this end of the year chaos gives way to something calmer. Hope you're working on lots of cool projects, too.

Don't forget you can Early Bird Register for the 2015 Knitting and Yoga Retreats starting January 1st.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Report from the Vermont Retreats!!

Hey Y’all,

Lisa just wrapped up a couple of Knitting and Yoga Adventures weekend retreats in Quechee, Vermont. Not surprisingly, everyone had a great time and attendees came from all over New England and as far away as the Virgin Islands. Week One there was a big group and Cathy Payson came along as the guest teacher. She led classes teaching some of her original designs with fall-inspired themes. There was also a mini-workshop at Six Loose Ladies, a trip to Northern Nights Yarn Shop, and fab food at King Arthur Flour Café.

Week Two was a smaller group, but no less fun. Lynne Barr came along to teach, and really challenged the attendees with a technically tricky sculptural knitting project from her new book, The Shape of Knitting. Week Two folks also attended a mini-workshop at the LYS, learning to crochet flowers to embellish knitting. And dinner at the astonishingly fabulous Cloudland Farm, a farm-to-table restaurant in the Woodstock area.

Registration for next year’s retreats open on January 1, 2015. Set a reminder for yourself! We are going to have a great time on Monhegan Island and in Vermont. The Monhegan trip will be in September. The Vermont trip will be November 5-8.

Enjoy your December knitting!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Knitting Every Day

Hey Y'all,
Hard to believe we left Monhegan Island a month ago! I'm pleasantly jealous of those of you who are going on the upcoming Vermont retreats. I'll still be in the throes of Busy Wedding Season down here in Austin, where October is sort of our June. The weather is so splendid-- 80s in the daytime, 60s at night-- that everyone wants to take advantage of it and get hitched outdoors. I myself mark the big drop down into the 60s (from our summertime triple digits) but stocking up on firewood and getting probably too many projects on the needles, the idea being that I'll get a big fire going the second it drops down to 59F and I'll bust out all these sweaters and shawls and just knock 'em out like that.

Wait, did I just say "too many projects"? Well, what I mean is, I WANT TO DO THEM ALL! And I want to do them all RIGHT NOW. But I know I cannot do them ALL and RIGHT NOW. I have to slow down and pick. If knitting has taught me anything, it's either that patience is a must or, more honestly, that I have a LONG way to go before I qualify as remotely patient. Because right now I am trying to plow through the extremely basic Malabrigo stripey hat pictured up above in-progress and on Dante's head. Why the rush? Because I want to get back to the half-pi shawl which, yes, I put down-- WHAT WAS I THINKING? Also I need to get back to the adult sized Baby Surprise Jacket I'm making me on ridiculously small needles and using Brooklyn Tweed's LOFT. That is going to take me YEARS to finish.

I'm also needing to finish that grandfather clock sock I've been talking about since I started it in April 2013. I only have about six inches left on needles the size of motorcycle handlebars but I am SO STALLED OUT. Because it is SO BORING. But it's beautiful and I just need to get it done. One reason I need to get it done is because my reward is going to be to let myself start another project that involves ten-million knit-only stitches. That would be the Color Affection shawl like we saw when we visited TESS in Portland, Maine after the retreat. I just cannot get that shawl out of my head.

Because I did not pick up the yarn at TESS that they used to make the shawl, I have been desperately trying to find something even close to as soft as their KITTEN line. I'd gotten a bunch of Madeline Tosh (always a good bet, and pictured above with some LOFT). But still, I wanted softer. So then I came across some Classic Elite Yarns VILLA and what a triple score! Because not only is it incredibly soft and incredibly beautiful, it also makes me think of Susan Mills, who often comes to Monhegan with us, and who is the creative director of CEY. I cannot WAIT to start working with this stuff. (I'll figure out later what to do with the Tosh. Poor me-- what a problem to have.)

In other news, I confess I went ahead and got a new iPhone 6, which is a total indulgence EXCEPT if you consider I really do rely super heavily on my phone for work-- both my weddings and my blog work. The camera in the new phone is just amazing. I already was one to take a bazillion pictures daily. Now I am taking about two bazillion per day. I do enjoy all the nature I come across in and of itself, but I have to admit I also like to take color and design inspiration from all the flowers and critters, like the lizard that scared the hell out of me in the shower last night. (I feel certain I also scared the hell out of him).

And despite my busy-ness and my sometimes indecisiveness- WHAT to pick up and work on today-- I have to say that hardly a day passes that I don't do something knitting related. Usually that means actually knitting. Some days though, I only have time to ball up a few skeins. In the picture above, my son was visiting me from Brooklyn and a bunch of his friends came by to say hi. Courtney asked "What's that?" and so I gave her a lesson in swifting and balling. It was so fun and very Tom Sawyer of me to get her to do my work for free.

Down below is the Baby Surprise Jacket. Surprise! It's nowhere near a jacket yet. But it will be. I swear, it will be. I'll just keep taking it with me everywhere I go, working every day every day. Maybe if I'm lucky it'll be done in time for Monhegan Island 2015.

Happy Knitting Y'all,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Come Away With Us to Vermont November 13-16th!

Hey Y'all
Great news! Were you filled with pleasant envy reading about our recent Knitting and Yoga Adventure to Monhegan Island? Are you kicking yourself for having missed it? Or maybe you went with us but you need more, more, more knitting and stretching and retreating before next year’s weeklong trip? 

At ease! Turns out we’ve got a wee bit o’room for our upcoming Weekend Knitting and Yoga Retreat to Quechee, Vermont. We’ll be heading out November 13 – 16th, 2014. We’ve got amazing accommodations and incredible food lined up. Our teacher for the long weekend will be fashion forward designer Lynne Barr. There will be massages and yarn crawling, too. 

This is a great way to try out a Knitting and Yoga Retreat for those of you who’ve been meaning to get around to one. If you bring a friend you’ll get a discount. You can bring your whole knitting group, in fact. The fall colors in New England are spectacular this time of the year. And Quechee is an easy drive from all of New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

As if we even need to talk you into the trip you’ve been dreaming of forever. By all means, hop on over to our website for more information and register today! We can’t wait for you to come away with us.