Saturday, May 16, 2015


Howdy Y'all,
I found the above photo of me at my first Knitting and Yoga Monhegan Island Retreat many years ago. So glad that gem floated to the surface because it really captures the spirit of life on the island-- I mean it is total R-E-L-A-X-A-T-I-O-N.

I want to share with you a big triumph I had just yesterday. I FINALLY FINISHED MY ADULT BABY SURPRISE JACKET. Well actually finished is a relative term. What I mean is I knitted the last stitch, which I think was Stitch #7,438,204,134, give or take. Never have I gartered so much in my life. And on Size 4 needles. I went from initial excitement to total boredom, to extreme ARE WE THERE YET? And then, finally, as the second sleeve was nearing completion, I had this thought about how when you're on a very long road trip there can be stretches in the middle where hundreds of miles whip by but then the last fifty miles seem like some endurance test. You just want to get there and it's taking forever and there are slow zones and roadblocks and exhaustion and all of it. But then, finally: HOME.

Such was the case with this sweater. Here is a picture of THE LAST STITCH. (If you don't count all the seaming I have to do. Let's not count that.)

Even though I'm relieved to be in the super homestretch on this project, I am also at the place where I am thinking about all the flaws and errors and stuff I am not in love with. For example, down below, you see that first red stripe closest to us? That's where I added on the sleeve. It looks a bit kooky in the back but this is part of the pattern. Not my error. What was my error-- a total rookie error that I should not be making sixteen years into knitting-- is that when I realized I needed more of the beige-ish yarn (this is Brooklyn Tweed Loft), I went to get some without taking a sample of what I had. So you can see there are two different colors of beige. Fortunately I am from the school of DESIGN ELEMENT where you just say anything that looks a little... um... different than you had hoped is a purposeful element of design. At the rate I'm going I qualify for the title of DESIGNER.


Down below you'll see still more DESIGN ELEMENTS. See how those corners up by the collar look like inverted little hoods? Even as I was knitting these areas I thought something looked off but I checked the pattern ninety times (not like me at all) and I swear I got it right. Although maybe I slipped or passed over one direction when I should've gone the other way. Who knows? All I know is that once I really could see these concave "features" I was far too far along to even think about frogging. I'm not a frogger under simple circumstances and I sure didn't want to deal with trying to get eight million stitches back on the needles. (Though come to think of it, very very early in this sweater, I was forced to frog quite a bit when I realized the miter was totally off. Oh I hate frogging.)

Down below witness me weaving in ends. Funny thing about this is that looking at how many I have to do I felt a little bummed out. But then I settled into it and I'm actually finding it sort of soothing. What's helping tremendously is that I've found yet another TV show to binge watch-- and this sweater has seen me plow through several series in their entirety. The show I'm hooked on now is BLOODLINE. It is magnificent to knit to. It's just magnificent period.

And finally, here she is: DONE! I know I keep saying this sweater is done when technically it's not. But humor me. Once I get those ends woven in I am going to seam up the sleeves and shoulders and block it. I've done blocking pre and post seaming and can't say I think there is a huge difference. I wonder if any of you feel strongly about this topic? In the case of the Baby Surprise Jacket I can't see how you could block it pre-seaming since the shape of the thing is so crazy and won't lay flat. I'm also wondering if, during the blocking process, I should try to super flatten those DESIGN ELEMENTS at the collar or just let them be? 

Decisions decisions.

Next up I'm going to knock out a pair of socks using Freia hand painted yarn and also a quick baby blanket for an imminent arrival. (Not mine!) For the blanket I indulged myself and got some Blue Sky Cotton. Like knitting with butter if you could, in fact, knit with butter without making a huge mess.

I hope your life is KNIT FULL and FROG FREE these days. I also hope you'll JOIN US ON MONHEGAN ISLAND in September. As of this posting WE ONLY HAVE THREE SPOTS LEFT. If you want to grab one of those just CLICK THIS LINK.


Friday, May 1, 2015

I Picked These For You

Hey Y'all,
Super Happy Springtime! Guess what? It will surprise precisely none of you to hear that I AM STILL NOT DONE MY DANG SWEATER! Rather than force you to look at yet another in-progress photo, I decided on another plan. I was just out walking around my Austin neighborhood, feeling so much gratitude for nature's delightful color schemes. So I picked you a bunch of flowers. Here are some: 

And below are some more. But first let me remind you that if you come with us on our tenth annual Knitting and Yoga Adventures trip to Monhegan Island in September, you'll get to see all sorts of amazing foliage. From the Cathedral Woods to the stunning cliff views out over the Atlantic, with diamonds of sunlight dancing across it, there is never a dull moment. Avid hikers will love all the many trails. But you can also just sit on the porch in a rocker, knit the day away, and look out any which way to see endless beauty.

 Spaces are filling up but we still have room for a few more. Just visit the REGISTRATION PAGE for our trip, tap in your info, and away you can come with us on an unforgettable journey.

See you in a few months,
Can't wait,

Friday, April 17, 2015

In A Bind (Off)

Hey Y'all,
Well in my fantasy world I was hoping THIS would be the post where I announced the triumphant completion of my Elizabeth Zimmermann Adult Baby Surprise Jacket. However, just like its title, this sweater continues to prove to be a rather unwieldy project. In fact increasingly so. Hahahaha-- I just made an accidental knitting joke-- increasingly! I've mentioned before how this thing is knit all in one piece for the majority of the work, and then you lengthen the sleeves after that. Well I've reached the part where it's time to bind-off the main body, which you would think is good news. And it is. But my goodness SO TEDIOUS.

Partly this tedium is my fault. For starters, I am using size 4US needles and Brooklyn Tweed Loft. If you ever make one of these I recommend a) use bigger yarn and b) start out making the baby size just to get a feel for the bizarre architecture of the thing. Size 4!! I might as well be using dental floss and toothpicks. Don't get me wrong-- I make socks on smaller needles, but this sweater is roughly eleventy-bazillion stitches, way more than socks.

The other "problem" which admittedly is not a long run problem, is that I have decided to do an I-cord bind-off. You know the I in I-cord stands for idiot, right? (It really does.) Well I felt a little idiotic choosing to go this route because I knew it would take at least six hours to bind-off, no exaggerating. On the other hand, when I did the Zimmermann Pi Shawl years ago, I decided to try a super kooky and involved bind-off she recommended and the results were so stunningly beautiful that when I got to the suggestion in this sweater pattern to take the time for a fancier ending, I figured I would regret going with a more raw standard bind-off. As you can see in the picture below (pardon my Labrador's strands of fur), this is a pretty sharp looking edge, and once I block this thing (if, in fact, I ever do finish it) it is going to look super fab.

This is what I often remind myself-- how great it will be when it's done-- when I hit that part of a project where I'm feeling fed up. I don't like ever feeling "done" with a garment before it's done, but I think there is a knitting equivalent to that so-called wall marathoners hit toward the end of a race. They just have to push through and then get to the triumphant part of crossing the finish line. For me big projects invariably come with that exasperation point. In this case, whereas I used to worship EZ, I am-- just momentarily I know-- having one-way conversations with her in my head: WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING? Ultimately though, those thoughts get overruled by being in awe of how she came up with these crazy patterns.

Something else I appreciate is that I've been turning to YouTube for help with the project. EZ was notoriously conversational in her pattern writing-- something I adore about her. But in this instance, there are sections where I really needed better visuals to get through. I found a terrific series on YouTube to help me through each part. And I found this video to show me how the I-cord bind-off works:

But while I do love that with Google I can find knitting tutorials 24/7/365, sometimes I struggle with video instruction, too. For me there is nothing like hands on learning with a brilliant teacher by my side. Toward that end, yes, it's time for me once again to remind you about our upcoming Knitting and Yoga Adventures Monhegan Island Retreat that happens over the course of a week in September. I have learned so much on these trips from so many terrific teachers. Beyond specific tips, tricks, and techniques, the biggest thing I've learned is PATIENCE, much of which I picked up by watching how patient my teachers have been helping me work through new knitting concepts. I sure hope you'll join us this year, our tenth, and see so for yourself. REGISTER HERE.

Happy Knitting!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Is Here! You Know What That Means...

Hey Y'all,
HAPPY SPRINGTIME! You know what it means when spring arrives, right? You start knitting stuff for next winter. Oh, wait. I mean you KEEP knitting stuff for next winter. Or the following winter. Really, who cares when you get it done? Just as long as you're knitting.

Even though I have done deadline knitting, I'm increasingly better at not falling into that nerve wracking trap. Knitting is for RELAXING not FRETTING. I figure this year, if I'm lucky, I'll knock out one sweater and one ginormous shawl-- both entirely done in tediously repetitious garter stitch, which I tell myself is meditative. And maybe I'll get to knit a couple of pairs of socks-- I'm on a Freia Yarn kick and am dreaming of doing one pair that is inspired by UPS drivers' socks. You know that certain brown and that certain gold? I love that combo.

Speaking of love... I never get tired of how often people send me knitting related pictures and news articles. Everyone on Facebook knows I knit. So they send me stuff like the picture above. And they request projects like the picture below, which I recently finished for a friend's baby.

And then there's this one, from the archives:

How about you? Do your friends and family send you every single knitting-related article and object and picture they come across? What was the strangest one?

Before I sign off here and go dance in the sunshine, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you-- WE STILL HAVE A FEW OPENINGS for our Knitting and Yoga Adventures weeklong trip to Monhegan Island in September. You really ought to join us. SO FUN.

Happy Knitting,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy Birthday To Us!

Hey Y'all,
Happy Almost Spring! Also, Happy Birthday to Us! Just dawned on me that this is the tenth year of Knitting and Yoga Adventures. That's a whole lot of relaxing knitting retreats, considering Lisa has hosted jaunts to numerous places, including Italy, Vermont, and Maine. This year, the Vermont trip is all full (though you can get on the waiting list over at the registration page.) We do have SIX SPACES LEFT for the Monhegan Island Retreat which happens September 13-19, 2015. You can snap up one of those spots at the Monhegan registration page.

As you can see above, the never ending sweater project I've been telling you about is, literally, taking shape. If you missed my earlier installments, I'm working on an Adult Baby Surprise Jacket from an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern. It is at times incredibly tedious-- all garter stitch, size 3 needles. It is also at times incredibly mysterious-- many times I've thought Is this really going to work? Because it's knit in one piece, but very different from a top down sweater. I'm still not convinced that the sleeves will be wide enough but what choice have I but to carry on? Plus, can you say BLOCK THE HECK OUT OF IT. I have put so many hours into this one I will find a way to make it fit, even if that means wearing SPANX on my upper arms.

Though I swore a couple of months ago, when I picked that sweater back up after putting it down many times, that I would work on nothing else until I finished it, alas-- along came an irresistible request. I work in a tattoo shop and one of the artists brought me the above picture. He wondered if I might make something similar for a little friend of his. How could I say no? I'm figuring out the pattern as I go. On the one hand, I feel very pleased that I have a solid idea of how to make all the pieces. On the other hand, I got a nice reminder about the necessity of prototypes when it dawned on me yesterday that I had done way too many increase rows on the ball part, and that if I kept going I would wind up with a basketball sized toy, when what I really want is something much smaller. And so, back to the drawing board. But now that I know what I'm doing, I think I can knock this out in a couple of days.

In other news I'm trying to come up with a name for that feeling you feel when you see something someone else has knitted and it knocks the wind out of you. The above two sweaters were made by my yoga teacher years ago. She actually (gasp!) stopped knitting. I don't know why. Maybe because once you hit the skill level needed to make such masterpieces there's nowhere else to go? That theory has holes in it, I know. But supposing it were true, I can totally relax-- I could knit every day for the rest of my life and not manage such exquisite detail work. And I swear, as I held these sweaters in my hands, my breathing pattern really did change. I had this palpable reaction-- awe, excitement, disbelief. What should we call this feeling? WOOLBERGASTED? Nah. Need to work on that.

And now, just for fun, a picture of me in this great shirt I got at TESS in Portland during our yarn crawl back to the airport after our wonderful week of island knitting.

Hope y'all are thawing out and warming up!
Until next time,

Friday, February 27, 2015

Not Quite Spring Yet...

Hey Y'all,
Greetings from Austin, TX. It's been a little while since I introduced myself so in case we haven't met virtually or on a retreat, I'm Spike. That's not me above, that's me below. I help out Lisa with the Monhegan Island Retreat every year. I've been so many times I've actually lost count. And part of the reason for that, besides the fact I'm in my fifties and can't remember anything anymore, is because the island is SO relaxing I lose track of time when I'm there. Or maybe more accurately, it's ALWAYS knitting time. Except when it's hiking time. Or snack time. But if you're me, you just keep knitting through the hikes and the incredible food experiences. Pretty much the only time I'm not knitting on the island is when I'm sleeping or getting an amazing massage from Mary Alice.

I spend most of my time in Austin, my home. Though I travel often and visiting LYS around the world is the only hobby I have that's more expensive than building my stash. I've been to yarn shops in Canada, Argentina, France, Israel, Japan, England, and all over the US. And I'd love to hear the most interesting places you've gone to add to your stash.

Today in Austin it's raining and in the thirties which I think is what Lisa, who's up in Maine, refers to as "summer weather." But I am FREEEEEEEEEEEZING. A couple of posts ago I was talking about the sweater I've finally settled into knitting, dedicating myself to finishing it. Well I'm not done, which is too bad, because by the time I do finish it'll be in the triple digits here. On the other hand, probably goes without saying, but I have lots of other sweaters I've made (and socks and hand warmers and scarves and hats) to keep me warm, so I'll be just fine.

In my last post I delivered the news (don't glare at the messenger) that our 2105 Knitting and Yoga Vermont Retreat is SOLD OUT. But you can still get on the waiting list just click here. And we do still have some room for the 2015 Knitting and Yoga Monhegan Island Retreat, so if you want to join us, don't wait. SIGN UP HERE.

I hope you're warm wherever you are, and that the only storms you're experiencing are the ones you're knitting up.

Happy Almost Spring,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep!

Hey Y'all,
Not that we ever need any excuses to grow our stashes, knit more often, and spend our non-knitting time perusing patterns for future projects but guess what? We got one anyway! Yes, that's right, it's officially The Year of the Sheep. Very auspicious for us wool fanatics.

If you have been on the fence about joining us for our Knitting and Yoga Adventure on Monhegan Island in September, consider this the sign you have been waiting for! On the other hoof, if you were waiting for a sign to push you toward the Knitting and Yoga Adventure trip to Vermont in November, I have some baaaaaad news for you. That tip is sold out. BUT... hold on... ewe can still get on the waiting list.

So to register for Monhegan CLICK THIS LINK or to get on the list for Vermont CLICK THIS LINK. 

Hope y'all are staying warm and knitting up a storm.