In which Knitters live up to expectations

Yes, I was gone.  And yes, I have returned.  Normally, on trips like this, I do my very best to either go a bit early or stay a bit late or carve out some time in the middle to go exploring.  Alas, this year, that didn’t happen.  The current spate of snow storms meant flights were a mess, and I couldn’t make it on time.  (As a side note, I was flying United, and they were less than impressive.  Once it became clear snow was going to mess up my travel, I asked if I could take the exact same flights, on which there just happened to be empy seats, one day early.  They said sure, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in change fees.  I declined and instead had to go a day late, only to have that whole string of flights delayed for maintenance.  Very frustrating day all around.)  My bad travel luck continued, and the ferry schedule never quite aligned to allow me to get back to the blanket place either.  I’m bummed about this on a variety of levels, not the least of which is that I have very little to share with you guys.

But…but I do at least have some yarn to show you.  Some of the folks attending the retreat had an absolutely lovely idea.  They suggested we each do a bit of stash diving and find the good yarn that we love….but just aren’t going to use.  The idea being that it would be easier to find that yarn good homes if it was going to live with someone who really loved it and could give it a better home.  I filled 1/4 of my suitcase with yarn, and traded it all in for these five skeins.

DSC_9636That’s Mopsy by BMFA in a mystery color, Silk Stainless by Habu in grey, and what I think is Silk Panda Sock by Sweet Georgia.  I say I think that’s what it is, because my tag says banbu sock, but I can’t for the life of me find find any reference to that anywhere, and the silk panda sock has the exact same fiber blend and yardage.  So I’m pretending that’s what it is.

It’s all lovely, and you’ve never seen a more ordered and gracious yarn swap in your life.  We all sort of put out what we had, and then spent a quiet moment looking at it and picking out our favorites.  There was no grabbing or trampling or misbehavior (and there was lot of really good yarn to be had).  Definitly one of those moments that confirm your faith in knitters.

And never fear, there was a bit of knitting that happened that I can show you soon, but I wanted to get something up (and distract you with the pretty) to get you to overlook my shameful absence and shocking lack of good story.  So sorry about that!

Shamelessly Girly

Of course, I did manage to squeeze in a bit of knitting while I was away.  I made good progress on the blue, leafy socks.  I’m about 3/4 done with the second one and should have a finished pair to show you soon.  But I wanted to see if I could squeeze a whole project into the trip, cast on to bind off.  That meant it would need to be a small project, but I managed it.

I wanted to take pictures there (seemed only appropriate, since I knit it all there), but that meant it was unblocked.  So I’ll show you this to start, but don’t fear, it gets much much better once it’s had a bit of a wash and a stretch.

The yarn is Space Cadet Creations Astrid in one of the Department of Rocket Science colorways.  I got both cuffs out of less than 100 yards of yarn (that’s less than half of 1 skein).  I’m seriously contemplating making a matching piece out of the remaining yarn.

I can’t say enough good things about cuffs in this shape.  I find they’re one of my very favorite knitted things.  The Smidgen cuffs I made a few years ago are probably the single piece of knitting I wear the most often.  The shape just suits my hands and suits my life (they don’t get in the way of typing or knitting, and you can just shove them up your wrists when you need to wash your hands).  Love on all fronts.

The only tricky thing is blocking, but I’ve got that sorted too.  I’ll show you just how to do it next time.

Retreat, Mind the Loot

The goal of this retreat is for people who are working on self publishing knitting books to get together and help each other.  Well no, it’s a bit broader than that.  We’ve got a few things that aren’t exactly books, and a few things that aren’t exactly knitting.  But the gist of it is ‘fiber’ and ‘stuff that until recently was done only by big publishers (or maybe not even done at all) but is now being done by individuals.’  The technology is changing so fast that trying to pin it down more precisely than that gets tricky.  If you want to see the list of projects we’ve got out now, you can always look over here.

With a focus like that, you can likely guess that we’re a pro yarn bunch.  Very pro yarn.  Part of the fun every morning was looking over to your neighbor’s knitting bag and seeing what was on the needles that day.  So you can imagine the amount of gleeful squeaking when it turned out that several yarn companies had graciously sent us some of their yarn for us to get to know.  I’m going to ask that you lean in the ‘refined delight’ direction rather than in the ‘shameless scramble’ direction as you imagine, ok?  I promise it was all very decorous.  There was sharing and playing nicely and being generous.  There were also squeals of delight, but there’s no shame in that.  I walked away with several treasures.

The first is Vice’s Carnal in the color Waterlily.  Now you guys know just how much I love Vice.  It’s in the next book, it’s on my needles right this minute, and it may well have taken the coveted favorite fat sock yarn spot in my personal yarn hierarchy.  This color is that weird 80s periwinkle shade re-imagined and made 1000 times more awesome.  It somehow both reminds me of the colors of my childhood and feels completely modern at the same time.  I adore it.

Next up is ClaudiaHand Painted Yarns Fingering Weight in Prussian Soldiers (that’s the solid) and Giraffe (the multi…no idea about the name, there’s no brown or orange to be seen).  Now if you’ve been here for a while, you know I can be, um, color challenged.  I tend to lean towards the semi solids more than the multis.  But, and this is a big but, when I can find a multi that plays well with a semi solid, I feel so much more confident.  It leads to playing.  And I think something fun will happen here, look how well those two work together!  I’ll update you when it gets on the needles.

And last but never least, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Mopsy in Deep Unrelenting Gray and Socks that Rock Lightweight in Downpour.  You know gray is near and dear to my heart.  These are both absolutely my colors.  They leapt right out of the pile and twined themselves around my neck and whispered in my ear that they were mine and they would be coming home with me.  I don’t disagree with talking yarn (it leads to unsightly arguments), so here they are home with me.  I’m making plans already.

Retreat, Now With Work and Secrecy

On Thursday, the retreat proper began.  This is where it gets tricky to talk about.  We’re all there to make progress on our various projects (and to help other folks make progress on theirs).  That means things that get discussed there are often still fairly confidential.  This is understandable and hugely important (ideas need a safe space to come to fruition), but it does make for rather tricky blogging.  So, I’ll tell you what I can, but on the whole, I’m going to be maddeningly obscure.

Cat’s got plans for something grand that in no way involves socks.  Jeny is moving fabric around in a way that makes my brain hurt (in a totally good way).  JC is doing things with charts that cause the same sort of brain-hurty goodness.  Jill and Janine are both making me want to knit sweaters, and Sarah is doing an awful lot to turn me into a spinner.  Brenda is about to dramatically increase the knit-based travel to Wales, and Deb is busy proving you don’t need to be in an academic environment to do really amazing history.

And that’s just a tiny sliver of the projects I heard about.  I want to follow each and every one of these folks around going ‘hurry uuuuuuuuuup,’ but I’m not sure it would be all that useful.  I promise to tell you more about the projects as they are ready to go public.

What I can tell you about is yarn.  I (somehow, no idea how, must have been some sort of terrible head injury) walked away from the retreat with a bit of lovely fluff.  That is in no way secret, so I’ll come back tomorrow and show it all to you.

Retreat (now with actual rest)

Having spent 12 hours traveling on Monday, and having engaged in unexpectedly vigorous relaxing on Tuesday, I decided to see if I could spend Wednesday in a slightly more restful fashion.  I went into the town of Friday Harbor and passed a lovely morning perusing book stores, art galleries, second hand shops, and sampling the products of the local bakery.  I’d hoped to stop by San Juan Island Distillery, and tried calling several times, but never managed to find them when they were open.  I consoled myself by procuring a selection of their products at the local grocery store.  Then I took a bit of a scenic drive around the island (that’s my story, it’s not at all that I got horribly turned around and went the wrong way while headed back to the lodge — nope, not that at all).

This was all quite relaxing, but I really wanted to step up the laziness, so I went back to the lodge to explore napping/knitting possibilities.  My cabin mate Brenda, dedicated to helping me get on the right time zone, kindly suggested we take some pictures of one of the projects in Welsh for Rainbow instead.  She’s very helpful.  But really, shamelessly hijacking the furniture of the resort to facilitate knitwear appreciation is for the good, so I can’t object much.  I can’t show you too much (her projects, her reveal schedule), but this might give you a sense of the place.

My duty done, I settled in for some knitting, tea drinking, and yes, perhaps just a bit of a nap.  The retreat was starting the next day, and I wanted to be well-rested.  This would prove to be a foolish hope (the retreat was many things, but restful was not one of them), but I did have the best of intentions.

Retreat, Part II

After the stroll (no, no it was more of a hike — a hike with moments of slog), it was time for lunch.  I went back to Eastsound (small island, small towns, that was the closest spot that promised a selection of lunch spots).  I stormed the first restaurant I found and devoured some sort of massive sandwich product.

As I was sitting there, marveling at how amazingly tasty things are after a nice long scramble in the woods (and trying hard to ignore the muddy cuffs on my pants), I though hmmm, perhaps I should double check the ferry schedule. So yeah.  That was the wrong order of operations.  The ferry was leaving in about five minutes.  And the next one didn’t leave for about four hours.  I said bad words.  Several.

Nothing if not stoic, I decided there were worse fates than having to entertain oneself for four hours on a beautiful island.  Properly fortified, I first sought out the local grocery store and secured provisions for my time at the cabin (it was cold enough that they would be fine in the trunk for a few hours).  Next, I walked up and down pretty much every street in downtown Eastsound (I emphasize again, it’s a small town).  Finally, I stopped in at the bookstore and equipped myself for any future unexpected delays.

I still had a bit of time to kill, so I thought I’d head out and see some of the other various bits of the island.  While driving, I passed several fields full of sheep and just happened to see this sign.  It seemed promising, and I had time, so I did a completely illegal u-turn and toddled off down the road.  This proved to be a wise choice.

I turned down a driveway and pulled up behind what seemed quite clearly to be someone’s house.  There was a sign saying the studio was around back, so (feeling like a trespasser the whole time) I headed that way.  As I got out of my car, the woman walking across the yard said ‘have you ever seen a newborn lamb?’  I muttered something less than clever and full of squeaks and squeals.

She very graciously interpreted that as ‘no, but I’d love to’ and took me in to see the lamb.  I made a complete dolt of myself fawning all over it.  It had been born just that morning, and its mom hadn’t bonded with it.  I expressed great distress at this, but was assured that the lamb would be well taken care of and should be fine.  I, on the other hand, nearly needed a tissue.  Cutest little fuzball ever.  And I did take a picture, but it was a black lamb under a red heat lamp (to keep it warm) in a plastic bin (to keep it safe and snug).  So the picture does in no way convey the full adorableness of the critter.  But still.  Tiny, newborn, baby lamb (and yes that’s redundant, but it was hours old people, if that’s not a baby lamb I don’t know what is).

After that shameful display, I gathered myself and headed in to the shop proper…where I promptly lost my mind in a whole different way.  Lots and lots of lovely yarn, much of it from the sheep in the adjacent fields was hanging out waiting for me.  I managed to resist most of the yarn (most mind you, not all), but I proved to have no resistance whatsoever to the blankets.  Blankets made right there, from sheep living right there.  I bought this one.  Feel free to gaze at it longingly and wish it were yours.  It is the warmest thing ever.  I will keep it forever.  I’m seriously considering writing away for another one.  I’m that smitten.

Having indulged myself (and after asking permission and being duly warned about the electric fence), I wandered over to meet the goats.  They had names, but I don’t remember them.  Besides, in their secret hearts, they are clearly Giovanni and Ernesto.  They told me so.  They also expressed their dismay that I was rude enough to walk up to their enclosure without bringing snacks.  How thoughtless.

 

 Feeling that sheep and goats and yarn and blankets and tiny baby lambs were likely the highpoint of the day, I headed to the ferry.  I was the first car.  I took my book, secured a cup of coco and a cookie, and found a place to sit and read while I waited.  At which point a squadron of attack bunnies descended upon the area and approached in a menacing fashion (they were after the cookie, I just know it).  I escaped without incident and spent the rest of the evening fighting to stay awake until a decent hour and so get on west coast time.

Retreat (noun or verb, you pick)

The choice seemed to be either the details of my trip were a bit disjointed and out of focus, or they didn’t show up for ages and ages.  I made the executive decision that quick and scattered was better than late and ordered.  For those of you in need of something more structured, my apologies.  For the rest of you, read on.

Monday the 4th, I headed out bright and early (this is a lie, it was so early nothing was anywhere near bright).  I clipped myself into a flying sardine can and had a truly uneventful trip west (when it comes to airplanes, uneventful is by far the best sort of trip to have).  I arrived, many hours later, at Lakedale and caught up with my cabin mate, Brenda Dayne.

Brenda had grand plans to forge ahead on Welsh for Rainbow before the retreat began, so I snuck out early the next morning and headed to Orcas Island.  Hint, you have to get there on a boat.  This means you really do need to match up your travel plans with the ferry schedule.  This takes some getting used to.

Once on the island, I felt like I could use a bit of a walk after the enforced sitting of the day before (they don’t like it if you pace around on the plane).  I headed out to Obstruction Pass State Park.  The directions included a bit about going down a gravel road for a mile or so.  They weren’t kidding, it was a rather narrow, rather bumpy, gravel road.  About three quarters of the way down it, I was faced with a bit of an obstacle (just for scale, that is both wider and longer than my car.  Think back yard pool, not puddle).

I stopped.  I stared.  I remembered all those stern warnings one hears about not driving through puddles of unknown depth.  I faintly recalled horror stories about shorting out your car’s electrical system and getting well and truly stuck.  This sounded unappealing (rental car, island, dodgy cell service, narrow dirt road).  I got out of the car and surveyed the puddle.  The ground on either side of the road was hugely boggy (the sort of boggy that involves an inch or two of standing water on top of a nice stinky layer of mud).  Going around wasn’t an option.  I grabbed a reed and did a bit of puddle poking to see if I could determine the depth of the puddle.  It didn’t seem to be more than about three or four inches deep, but the bottom of the puddle was made of an astonishingly gluey muck.  Turning back would have meant both admitting defeat and backing down a twisty gravel road for three quarters of a mile, neither of which appealed at all.  I decided to press forward.  Better to try and get stuck than to slink home untested.  If you’re going to fail, do it in a way that makes for a good story.

I called The Boy to discuss puddle fording techniques (the question being whether it was best to back up, develop some momentum, and attempt to outrun the puddle’s grasping tentacles, or to creep by slowly and hope it doesn’t notice your approach).  We agreed on a middle ground that, while rendering the car truly and utterly filthy, did get me across the boggy bits unhindered.

Then I found myself at the park.  Now there seem to be two sorts of state parks.  The kind that come with visitor centers and tea rooms and toilets and gift shops, and the kind that come with a rustic sign and a large notice board covered in stern warnings detailing all the ways you might die and a host of questionably-marked, slippery trails leading you along precarious routes that you need to be part mountain goat to navigate with any grace.  This was the latter.

I picked the trail that said it led to the beach.  Somewhere along the way I also picked up a walking stick, because it was that or wear half the park home on my britches (pro tip, rocks covered in moldering leaves are slippery).  I made it though, and it was indeed quite lovely.  Menacing, but lovely.  Alas, I can offer you only low-quality photographic proof of my success.  I realized early on that this was not the sort of path I wanted to traverse while holding expensive electronic equipment in my hands (I needed those to catch myself as I stumbled and flailed) and so I left the camera in the car and tucked my cell phone in my pocket.  You’ll have to make do with a pic from that.  If you want better pictures, I cordially invite you to lug your own camera down there.  It really was that green though.  I have no idea how that part of the world does it, but they seem to manage to get both water and plants to exist in a whole different color scheme than they do around here.  I must say, I’m a fan.

After basking a bit in the pretty, I headed back up the path (key word here being up, there was a bit of a hill) and off for lunch.  And, as this has gotten shamefully long, that is where I will pick up tomorrow (hint, there will be teeny tiny baby lambs).

Tidings

Two quick bits of news, with more substantive stuff to follow along shortly. First, and quite thrilling, I got a spot in the Silk Retreat just announced by Madam Harlot and Tina of BMFA fame.  I predict it will be splendid.  There really is no room for doubt.  Second, I will be releasing Diluvian a bit earlier than expected.  I had planned to bring them out in early June, but I want to enter them in the sock design contest over at Exercise Before Knitting, and the deadline is approaching.  They’ll be going up as soon as I can get pictures, likely tomorrow or Friday.