Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Long Hot Discombobulated Summer
It's been a long time since I was here and I've been using as an excuse the fact that I'm not traveling so I'm not discovering new fiber events to write about.  But probably that's a rationalization.  I'm good at those.  So I'm going to pick up a long way from where I left off.

First, a bit of background for this post and the ones to come.  I've been home all summer and home is New Orleans.  It's been probably the hottest summer in a very long time with far less rain than other years.  One of the reasons I stay here is because I need rain and usually we get plenty.  There's nothing that makes me happier than a nice rainy day when I can stay home and knit.  I believe I get seasonal affective disorder (SAD) from not enough rain, which is why I probably couldn't live in the desert.  Technically I'm sure you can't get SAD from not enough rain, because it's about light deficiency, but it is my version, scientific or not.
Where I'd rather be than here...

Even though I haven't travelled recently, it has not been an uneventful summer.
Why I'm discombobulated:
1.  See paragraph above.

2.  I had a cataract removed, which means that with the replacement lens I can now see perfectly at a distance with my "new" eye.  But I can't see close with it.  Having been nearsighted all my life, I have always had good vision up close without glasses.  Great for knitting and reading, two joys in life.  Now I can see near but not far with my other eye, and far but not near with the new one.  Makes it difficult to adjust to reading and knitting.  Frustrating, but soon the second lens will be replaced and I'll be able to correct vision with glasses.  That should resolve this issue.

3.  I have been having some lower back problems, which are in the process of resolving, hopefully, but which make sitting uncomfortable.  Not being able to settle into a comfy chair with my knitting is unsettling to say the least.

4.  I have finally gone off lexapro, an antidepressant I've been taking since not long after my firstborn daughter died suddenly in an accident in 2008.  I began using it for treatment of severe anxiety I was experiencing, after seeing a therapist just wasn't enough.  For a good while now I have been feeling stable and not anxious, and I have finally weaned myself off of it (my at least 3rd attempt to do so).  Now let me just tell you that there are severe physical effects from discontinuing this drug, at least in some people, me being one of them.  They manifested themselves in me as what I call electric shocks in my brain and body, leaving me feel like an electrical storm has short circuited my being.  They are not imaginary.  The first time I stopped taking the antidepressant, I didn't know what to expect, and when I realized what it was, I went back on it.  I tried at least once, maybe twice again, but went back to taking the drug. This time I was determined that I would succeed, and I have.  What a relief.  After about 5 weeks of the after-effects, it now seems to be out of my system, and I rarely feel more that a quickly passing "brain shudder" or two.  Totally tolerable and I am doing well.  What has happened however, is that I do feel the lows of normal life "normally" again.  I can cry at movies and when I'm having a self pity party.  Like we all do.  This is good.  I believe that this means that I also will feel the highs better, too.  Yippee I like me a good feeling!  But this transition has also led to the discombobulation effect.

5.  Finally, the summer itself is the first one in which I haven't left the city for the entire months of June, July and August; and, as I mentioned, they have been hot ones.  Taking all these factors together, it's surely been a trial.  But I will survive and things will get better and the temperature cooler.  Looking forward to fall and a new outlook.  And some traveling, starting with a trip to the Texas Hill Country and a big swimming pool for my sister's birthday.  Can't wait for that water to lift me up.

So what have I been doing knitting-wise?  Crocheting.  Not my forte nor my favorite craft, but I was drawn by the Sunday Shawl that I happened to see on Ravelry and felt compelled to make.

Really cool border

I have to say, I did enjoy the process and do appreciate crochet more.  Might even have to do some again.  The border is much fun.  I've completed it all except for the final finish along the top edge. And that I have attempted at least 5 different times in as many ways.  Help!!! After doing the single crochet row it called for (I didn't like it on mine, although this is not a criticism of the pattern but of my crochet technique), I tried reverse single crochet, otherwise known as crab stitch over a single crochet row and on its own.  For the life of me, I can't do that stitch!!  I have repeatedly tried it on the shawl and on swatches, and it just does not work.  I am not cut out for that.  I can knit with the best of them, cables, intricate knitted lace, no prob.  You name it - nothing in knitting has defeated me (well, maybe intarsia), but I can't do backwards crochet.  So I thought, how about knitting an edging that looks crocheted?  Hmmm.....  The opposite of what is usually done (i.e., crocheted edging on knitting.)  I tried using a 3 stitch i-cord but every other row I wrapped the yarn around the outside (in front) of the i-cord instead of behind, trying to achieve a look kind of like crab stitch. I call it syncopated i-cord.  Since the edge goes across both the multi-colored border of the shawl as well as the main colored body, I used the purple from the border edging along the border piece then switched to the main color for the body of the shawl.  The edging looked good (to my somewhat compromised eyes) over the border part but the main color part is not to my liking.  Take a look:

The purple part - kinda cool.  Looks crochet-y

Where the colors meet

The main color  - not so great

So now I am engaged in finishing the shawl with yet more experimentation - suggestions are welcome, y'all - and looking forward to my next project.  I'm thinking fall.......

Guess what - It's actually drizzling out - things are looking up!

Monday, November 18, 2013

What is it about Port Ludlow knitters?

It's the last day of the retreat and there are things I need to do today, and they have to do with people. You see, I'm not the most gregarious person in the room, certainly not the center of attention.. That's fine with me, because I love to observe and listen. Hailing from New Orleans, people watching is a favorite hobby. New Orleanians are great fun to watch and hear.  So uninhibited and naturally funny.  But here, I need to curb my natural instinct and actually interact with these knitters!  There are soul mates out there.  I've found this at knitting events consistently, but for some reason, here even more so.  Maybe it's because we are all here for the same reasons. Or that we all are on the same level of some nebulous plane. I'm not sure. But these knitters, including of course the teachers, are awesome.

Of course I'm not the first to notice this. Why do you think folks come back year after year, to meet up with best friends they only see once a year, and to meet new ones?  If today I can solidify some of the connections I feel here, I will be a lucky knitter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In a Spin

[Note to Self:
When traveling, kind of the point of Road Yarns, if you are going to use your camera, you're sure as heck gonna need a computer.  Those durned iPads don't take camera cards. So, Self, either use iPad camera; or phone camera, which can upload to Dropbox; or bring computer.]

Now - yesterday. What happened was what I was afraid would happen. I kind of fell in lust with spinning.  I don't need a new crush.  My stash is too big for competition. Handspun?  I'd need a new room. And my stash would be jealous.  But spinning?  Oh so frustrating. I'm a genuine fiber mangler. The fur flew in my corner yesterday. But I'm going back this morning before class for more 'cos I am compelled, I tell you.  Must spin.

Of course I blame it on Judith MacKenzie, who could spin granulated sugar into a yarn fit for a queen or sand into a fiber strong enough to hold up a bridge if she wanted to. Judith makes it look Easy. Graceful, beautiful. Between her skill and her lovely manner and her ability to explain absolutely everything eloquently, I'm converted and would love to spend time with her just for the person she is. No wonder people in spinning circles go around spouting, "Judith says......"  I did it yesterday. I'll insert the spinning photos here when I get back to my computer later in the week.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I'm baaack

Hello fellow Fiber Fiends, it's good to be back. I took some time off to re-evaluate the purpose of Road Yarns. (Actually, I was doing other fun things.) If I only write when I'm on the road, there's a lot of down time. To say the least. And I don't like that. I want to have an ongoing discussion of all things knitterly, not just the traveling kind. But, importantly, traveling to fiber events and places is still the goal, hence the moniker Road Yarns. So, away we go!  I'll keep you abreast of knitting tips both needle and otherwise (Karbonz are up next), books (stay tuned for my take on the Yarn Whisperer), and much more.

But first!!!  I'm in Port Ludlow, Washington for a three day retreat with Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee,  Nancy Bush, and Judith MacKenzie.  I was fortunate to get in and I've been wanting to attend one of these retreats for quite a while. The intimacy of small classes with a group of other knitters is, well, I mean, what's better?  Ok, maybe one or two things, but not many.

So I have been working on this sweater for what seems like weeks to wear (read, show-off) here, going to be the best thing ever, so stunning, what a design, brilliant, you know.... And of course I'm not finished. It's a variegated hand dyed wool from String Theory in Maine.  I love it but by God, it's dark. Takes really good light to work on. So, do I start a sock, or plod on through thick or thin?  Plod on, I think.

Finally, today I have an all day spinning class, lace spinning, to be specific, with Judith MacKenzie. I'm excited and intimidated, as I may be the only non-spinner in the class. I've been told by several knitters that Judith is the best and I do feel lucky to have this opportunity. I've always thought about learning but haven't known how I'd find the time. So this is an opportunity to get my toes wet. I'll let you know how it goes. Off we go

Friday, August 23, 2013


I have been reflecting on my recent road trip.  To begin with, it was quite scary to take such a long trip, one that included driving, camping, hiking, kayaking, dining, and all such things by myself.  But what was scary was not fear of physical harm.  That I didn't worry about.  It was being alone all those days in the car and nights by the fire without company.  Would I drive myself mad?  Would I be boring to myself? Would I regret that I didn't have someone to share the trip with?  I believe these questions poked at me long before the trip.  They didn't really surface clearly but instead hovered below my awareness and made it easy to find (legitimate) reasons for postponing the departure date by a few days, then for 2 weeks.

To my relief, once on the road I was just fine.  Living alone (except for various beasties), I'm accustomed to spending lots of time by myself and I like my own company. I had recorded lots of books on my iPod and enjoyed the drive once that dreadful road noise was gone.   I am a friendly person who likes talking with strangers and I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to meet folks along the way.  Fellow travelers and all that.  Memories of camping as a child are full of walks through the campgrounds and meeting other campers (while telling the boys that I was 16 years old instead of the 13 I really was.)   Eating out alone on business trips never bothered me and in New Orleans no one worries about whether the number of diners is one or a dozen.  It's all good as they say. (I hate that saying.)

So here I am, la la la,  heading to Vacationland.  Remember, Maine in July and especially August, is like a beautiful, nature-filled Disneyland with lobsters. Locals patiently endure the tourists, who after all are responsible for much of their incomes, while anticipating October and emptier roads.  Everywhere, vacationers are couples or families.  No apparent fellow solo travelers.   If they were there, it wasn't where I was.  Not a problem.  Did I mention that I meet people easily?

To my surprise,  the reaction I perceived to being solo was not what I expected.  My daughter thinks I am making this up; I'm sure I am not.  While the locals treated me kindly, and reacted to my traveling all that way by myself in the manner I anticipated ("You did what!!!  Oh my God you are so brave!  Or crazy! I could never do that by myself!"), the other tourists gave me questioning or pitying looks.  Even eyed me suspiciously.  "Why is she here alone?  What's wrong with her?"  A kindly older couple invited me to dine with them one evening, and when we were seated, disclosed that they felt sorry for me.  I was stunned.  I told them that while indeed I do have friends and family, and love to travel in a pack, this summer no one else was available and either I did it alone or didn't do it at all.  Maybe I should have stayed home.  Not.

Anyway, there is a point to this, I think.  Since returning home, I feel more self confident.  I have done something that was hard.  That I feared.  I think it's making me stronger but in a good way.  Not the way that when horrible stuff happens to you they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  I hate that kind of strong.  No, stronger as in I'd even like to do something I fear again.  Not like bungy jumping, no bleeping way, but something I believe would be fun or good but that I am hesitant to do.  That kind of strong.  I've crossed a bridge or two.  And the other side is a nice place to be.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We are now in Vogue

Yes, we knitters are finally considered to be chic!  Of course, we knew it all along, but now Chanel does, as well.  From the pages of the September 2013 issue of Vogue Magazine, I bring you (tadaa...)

Not sure what the message is.  Or what they are knitting...  Surely not dishcloths.

But wait!  There's more!  Also from the pages of the very same issue -- if you don't want to look at the knitting, you can view the source

Of course, on the page opposite there was a fashion item, but who cares?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Now is the Time for Knitters

Hello again, and to those friends and family who have been following for the Road content of my posts, I must tell you that we are now entering the Yarns part, so if you aren't a knitter or fiber fiend, you may lose interest immediately.  I do plan to travel to the Northwest in early October, however, and hope to turn that trip into another Adventure.  In the meantime, I'll focus on knitterly things and places, both in my fair city and the internet world.

First, about Comments.  I think I fixed the problem and anyone should be able to comment now.  Please let me know if you have trouble.  You can email me at if you can't post a comment so I will know.  Thanks for your help.

Next, my new bag!!!  I want to take it with me everywhere, because it's so beautiful.  I bought it at Casco Bay Fibers in Freeport ME (for a reasonable price, I might add), even though I have too many bags to begin with.  It's made by Reisenthel, a German company and maker of some attractive carryall bags.  Here ya go:

 It's Bright!  This is called a Special Beach Edition

Has pockets all around the inside!! (see my iPad?) Who doesn't love pockets??

Opens with a wide mouth and stands on four little feet

It's well made with lovely canvas and zips closed to a nice satchel shape

 And comes with a detachable shoulder strap.

Wow, I feel like an advertisement, but unfortunately, no one is paying for my endorsement.  I just love that bag.  Have satchel, will travel.

Next up, Today's Utterly Mind-Bending Tip, my new feature.  Yes, some of you will nod with ennui as you read things that you've known forever or that perhaps you yourself have published or taught.  I could even have learned it from you.  I am not here to claim that these Tips are original; and sadly, probably can never credit most of those folks who taught them to me, because I will admit I have read and studied everything I could about knitting since discovering Knitting Without Tears in a bookstore at a young  and tender age.  It all melds up there in my brain and in my hands, and becomes mine, just as I'm certain happens to you.  But there are some (incredibly simple) things that I believe have impacted meaningfully how I knit or see my knitting, and I'd like to share them.  It would be great if you do the same in the comments section, and together maybe we can help some newer knitters find the Zen in knitting.

OK, so now I feel really dumb, because this is the simplest tip ever, and I should have figured it out long ago.  At the risk of being ridiculed, here it is.  (Luckily I probably have too few readers at this point to be laughed out of town.)  It took me too many years to admit to realize that it isn't the size of the cast on needle but the distance between the cast on stitches that makes an edge loose or tight.  Duh.  In other words, you can easily cast on stitches with long tail cast on and control how much give the edge has.  After each cast on stitch, spread the yarn out between the stitches to a uniform length with your finger and then cast on the next stitch.  I'm in the process of trying to make a video.  If I succeed I'll post it here.  Another learning curve to climb, but I'm ready to do it.  Funny, when I looked for bulky yarn to demonstrate with, I realized that I only have lace weight to dk.  I guess that's why my big needles never get a work out.  

Speaking of needles, stay tuned for my experiences with Kit Picks Karbonz.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back Home and Dreaming of Casco Bay Fibers

Have I mentioned that there exists a very looooong distance between Freeport Maine and New Orleans?  About 3 serious driving days.  However, the scenery, driving between mountains almost the whole way, makes up for the time spent behind the wheel.  Changing skies, cumulous shapes to fantasize about, and prerecorded audio books on the iPod make it interesting.  Note to prospective travelers:  apparently lots of people drive up north in the summers, especially in August.  Result:  cars, RVs, and 18 wheelers shoulder-to shoulder.  It is nice to be home for a while, and while I plan my next trip, I'll keep you apprised of some interesting knitterly items, as well as a rumination on traveling solo.   First up:  Casco Bay Fibers, as promised.

 While primarily a yarn shop, Karen, the owner also sells beads;

fabrics and unique patters for dresses, tops and other interesting garments;

and of course lots of yummy yarns, knitting bags, notions, and other desirable items.   As I mentioned, my wallet may have taken a hit.  That magic box designed to keep my credit card locked up for 24 hours after I try to use it really should have been invented.

Open for  business only about a month and a half, Karen already hosts knitting and other types of fiber classes, and drop in knit sessions regularly.  I can see why knitters for miles around would want to get together and relax in this inviting shop.  I certainly would if I lived nearby.  Check it out if you are ever in the neighborhood.  I certainly will again as soon as possible.  Later, more on the damage done to my wallet in this shop.  I walked out poorer but really happy!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

On the road again

I am headed south and am not going to spend long on this post.  Apparently there is some weather in between here and home, and I will drive till it's prudent to stop.  But stay tuned for the next post, in which I introduce you to Casco Bay Fibers in Freeport ME.  Simply fabulous.  My pocketbook is lighter but I have a rocking new knitting bag, which I needed like I needed another you know what.
Later, Fiber Fiends.  I mean Friends....

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Love with Maine

It's been hard to come up for air.  Or I should say leave the fresh beautiful air to blog.  Sorry, those of you who have been checking.  I have been staying in a B&B called Pilgrim's Inn for the last three nights on Deer Isle, ME, and am in love.  It has been picture perfect weather and the sights of harbors around every corner are breathtaking.  Let me fill you in on what has happened since I last wrote.

Remember I was going to visit Bee's Yarn and Candy Store in Baw Hawbaw?  I did, and found out that Bee was actually the Mr. B. who started the store in the 20's, selling candy, stationary and pens, and whatever people needed.  The currant owner began stocking yarn when the other existing yarn store in, ok, Bar Harbor, closed.  They have cool candy

Remember rock candy?  They have sea rocks and pebbles and all sorts.   And they have a nice selection of yarn.

I have been fortunate to have mostly great weather.  Here are some pics of my camping trip.

 The tent's first trip! I actually managed to pitch it by myself.

 The stove makes very good coffee, and lights like magic.  Better than the one at home.
 I used the "tech connect garage" to zip up my stuff when I was gone and at night.  Very nice.

 Mmmm, Maine Lobstah

 The kayak finally gets wet!!!  It's about time!  I paddled out against the wind and figured coming back would be a breeze.  It was a gale.  Whitecaps and all.  of course, blowing against me.  I got quite the workout.  But it was great.

Keep paddling, Girl.  Don't stop or you will definitely go backwards.

When I left Acadia Park last Friday, in the rain, of course (it only rains here when I am pitching or breaking camp), I drove to Bartlett Yarn Mill, which is a 2 or 3 hour drive inland.  Harmony Maine is a smaller than small town off the beaten path and definitely out of the iphone reception area.  And let me tell you, paper maps don't even show anything except a miniscule dot.  Found the Mill, which was having its annual open house, and enjoyed the tour.

It's been around since 1821 and houses the oldest working spinning mule in the U.S.  All the equipment is old but extremely functional and they put out a large volume of lovely wools.  Naturally, I had to have some.

Farmers (or are they ranchers?) deliver fleece.  Some of their lambs go to Whole Foods.  The fleece goes away to be cleaned and dyed, then comes back.  

 It's dusted

 And carded, and the 16 colors are mixed to become many more.

And spun on to bobbins (these machines are so fun to watch)

 And twisted

And plied, then put on spools or in skeins.  Some of it goes to sweater mills nearby, to be turned into sweaters, for Japan, for example.  

Then you can buy it!!!

So the next part wasn't so fun.  First, getting out of Harmony without a decent map.  Maybe that was my ignorance.  Driving into Bangor to find a motel, I encountered a million people at the only restaurant on hotel row, but at least they had a bar where I could eat.  Then, I spent an hour and a half in the car, with the sun getting mighty low, looking for a place to rest my weary head.  Turns out Miranda Lambert (who woulda thought) is way popular.  Way.  Hotels for 60 miles + were sold out and had folks calling for rooms.  Finally a B&B turned me on to a little cottage motel about a half an hour in the right direction and I got to lay that head down.  

Next day, Blue Hill and String Theory Yarn.  This was a Saturday and they were having a knit in on the back porch of the lovely old house.  The warm and lovely Tanis, one of the owners, and I discussed living in Maine, where I know I could get some knitting done in the winter.  They dye their yarn themselves, and it is truly yummy.  Unusual color combinations, and I had trouble containing myself. 

I am pretty sure I need to stop in today on my way back north from Deer Isle to get that sock yarn.  

It's about check out time.  I'm off to Camden, where there is a state park overlooking the water that I will check out for camping.  I'll either camp there or find a place in town for the night and do some exploring.  And it is time to make the big decision - do I head back south from here, or spend some more time (and money) and keep heading north?  I'm having a hard time with that one.  Any opinions?

Oh, and just one more thing.  My souvenir from Deer Isle, which is an artists' colony:

Nice, huh?

If I am not in the woods, or the weeds, I'll get back to you tomorrow.  Cheers, folks.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Bit of a Detour

Hello again.  Last time I surfaced, I was headed for Peaks of Otter Park.  I did go there on Saturday, toured around, and saw that the "lake" was more of a big pond and the campsite was pretty gloomy.  So, I decided to continue the trip north, toward Acadia National Park in Maine.  After spending the night in W. Virginia, I hit the road Monday morning, and then my daughter called.  She told me that the previously planned mid August visit to Ithaca NY wasn't such a good time due to their band's tour; could I come sooner?  Like in 5 hours, I asked?  For that's how far from Ithaca I was, according to my iphone map (which I love love love. It has served me well on this trip.)  So -- a great few days in NY.  Hiking, eating, stowing wood for the winter, visiting a goat cheese dairy.  Lots of fun, sorry, no pics.  Then unexpectedly I found a campsite in Seawall Campground in Acadia, for Friday, and left early Thursday for a 12 hour drive.  Drove through the day, and got to Acadia by noon on Friday, in a daylong downpour.  Cats and dogs, I tell you.  I checked into the campground, then hightailed it to Bar Harbor, where I found a great room (I know, I know, wussy girl) for the night and tooled around Bar Harbor, a charming little tourist town, in the unceasing rain.  I know, I know, please shut up.  I could have set up my tent in the rain and eaten cold food and stayed in the tent but, no.  I had better things to do.  Ate a delicious lobster mac and cheese last night, too.  I stand by my decision.  This morning I will go visit the local yarn and candy store, Bees, and report on that next time I'm around wi-fi.  Then go pitch my tent on this lovely dry morning.  Keep in touch, everyone.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Southern Highlands Crafts Fair and the Kayak's Next Stop

Yesterday I attended the Southern Highlands Crafts Fair, held twice a year in Asheville NC in July and October.  It was everything you could want to see, except knitting and yarn :( There was one booth with a spinner, and several lovely weaving booths, but other than that, it was wood, and pottery, metal, glass and other beautiful things. Well worth going for the variety and quality of the beautiful crafts.  Highly recommended.  Some of my favorites below:

Bamboo hand loomed shawls and clothing.  Exquisite

Cool pottery

A whole booth full of the most whimsical and useful wooden utensils!!  

Who doesn't need a hand carved wooden zinc, as we call them in New Orleens???


Wavy glass

I met a weaver, Kathrin Weber, who hand dyes warp threads in her Blazing Shuttle Warp of the Month Club.  She sells hand painted warps to weavers who then use them as they wish.  The idea has taken off to the point where Kathrin, who has been weaving for 33 years, is now basically full time hand painting the warp yarns.  She is dynamite, and her work is exquisite, and since I know I haven't done her justice, visit her beautiful website, Blazing Shuttles.

Kathrin with her work and hand dyed yarn

I also visited Home Crafts, a cool store where not only do they have a wide variety of yarn for sale, and a great selection of needles, shuttles, and notions, but they also sell the finished work of knitters and other fiber artists.  Two walls of felted hats!  Go see them if you are in Asheville.

Now the kayak wants to get wet.

Headed out today for the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I've been making my way up north and will camp tonight and probably the next couple of nights at the Peaks of Otter Campground in Virginia, and see how that goes.  No internet, I'm sure, so I won't be posting for a few days.  Keep cool. Ha.