I'm a sucker for elegant organizational systems. No secret here: I've talked about the Tupperware illusion a few times over the years.
Lately I've found myself feeling just a little crushed by the piles of things around me. Not literally--no one visiting would see a hoarder's home or even a clutterer's den. I'm pretty neat by nature. But I have too many partially completed tasks: patterns that are halfway written; projects that are 20%, 50%, 90% done; new designs that captured my attention long enough to get going but then halted soon after; mucking out projects that succeeded in clearing one drawer out of six, leaving a charity box half filled on the windowseat; books that were purchased but linger, unread, in piles beside my chair.
That's why, when I read a blog post about the value of SIMPLIFYING versus the sisyphean task of organizing when the problem is really too much stuff, I had a lightbulb moment. (Unfortunately, I did not bookmark the original blog! Trust me: it was life changing!)
I'm a big one for starting. I'm not so great a completing. And this is very enervating. Many things I start under the influence of magical thinking about the time and effort that will be involved with finishing them. Often I am working on so many things at once that I don't appear to make forward progress--this is especially true about my patterns: six of them are in process and have been for months! I need to pick one and finish it, then pick another and finish IT.
I want to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that project monogamists seem to feel.
I'm commiting to finishing! And by finishing I also mean casting out, if need be. This week I've set some reasonable goals:
What's hanging around in my knitting baskets that needs to get done?
What else is weighing me down? Books and magazines. I love them. I support authors and publishers by purchasing them. But I need to buckle down and READ them.
I commit to reading the stack beside my chair by the end of the month:
As for the mucking out I commit to clearing out two drawers in my chest of drawers. The big projects--the box of costume jewelry and little gewgaws that have emotional value, and the huge box of family letters and photos--will have to wait for later.
I'll post next week's goals on Sunday night to keep myself on track!
I think that, as I explore the things that have piled up, I might come to some understanding of why I start things with such wild abandon and also come to value psychological space over the state of "too much." It's a fine line for a person whose love of colorwork knitting is based on the thrill of "What's next???"!
Leaving you with a teaser photo of a design I finished knitting: Yellow Island.
Venice Beach sunset
I know, I know. I LIVE in California! But we all know that when the notes of California Dreamin' float on the air, it's southern California that we think about.
Garden at the Getty Villa
John and I took a quick vacation in LA last weekend. The Heaven and Earth: The Art of Byzantium exhibit had opened earlier this month--I'd love for you to think that I'm really deep this way, but John's the one who wanted to see this. It made a good excuse for a 6-hour road trip--neither of us had been to LA for some 35 years. Beyond seeing the Byzantine art we had no plans other than taking it easy.
The drive down the Central Valley is flat and generally unremarkable--the effects of the drought are easy to see, sadly, and glimpses of the gigantic culverts moving water from one end of the state to the other made me marvel at human ingenuity, and wonder at the fragility of it all. We stopped in Los Banos for a meal at a Basque restaurant I'd heard of: Wool Growers Restaurant (how could I pass that up?).
This was truly a hotel restaurant: long tables covered with red-and-white checked oilcloth, groups of happy people of all ages gathered over plates of food, farm style presentation. We were seated and immediately a plate of bread, butter, a giant bowl of soup with ladle, and an unlabeled liter of red wine were set on our table. Followed by a bowl of beans and a serving bowl of green salad with an old fashioned cooked sweet-and-sour dressing (surprisingly good!). After a bit the waitress paused to ask us what we wanted for our main dish (the first question we were asked!). The choices were limited: pork chops, lamb chops, lamb shank, or roast chicken. Before the main dish arrived, however, a bowl of lamb stew and a side of french fries appeared. Then the gigantic and straightforward main plates. For dessert: little paper cups of vanilla ice cream. We totally enjoyed the experience and the food--and listening in on the conversations at other tables about delivering farm equipment, and planting, and the day-to-day concerns of a farming community.
The weather was sort of cool (by our standards!), and only rarely did the foggy marine layer fully dissipate--therefore, no photos of the ocean or far vistas!
Santa Monica Pier
We walked to the pier and then on the beach.
A quick trip to the wild world that is Venice Beach. I loved the murals!
And, of course, Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure park! The Grizzly River Run was my favorite thing.....
It was fun to get away!
Did I say "might"? I'm sure you will be interested in these recent items that appeared on the web!
Stephannie Tallent's California Poppy Mitts from the Dreaming of Shetland ebook
First of all, another chapter of the Dreaming of Shetland ebook has been published--this chapter includes four Fair Isle stranded designs! The Dreaming of Shetland ebook project was planned as a fundraiser to support Deb Robson's studies of the Shetland breed--for $20 you get, what, something like 35 patterns. Deb wrote a blog post updating the status of these studies on her Independent Stitch blog. (My contribution will be published in the final chapter in a month or so--I'm SO impatient! I think you will love it--a large Faroese-style shawl with Celtic motifs! Here's a preview--test knit by Sharon and pressed by Shadow.)
While my mind is on lace, I wanted to announce that I have begun to carry Elemental Affects Rustic Lace Shetland yarn in my shop Feral Knitter. This beautiful 2-ply lace yarn (~660 yards/100 grams) blooms when blocked! Jeane de Coster dyes on a naturally dark base, so the colors have a beautiful depth to them. I stock 7 colors and can special order any of the others you'd like (more details in my newsletter--you can sign up at Feral Knitter).
Elemental Affects Rustic Lace and Shetland Fingering yarns are spun from the fleece of Shetland sheep raised in Montana. Deb Robson participated in the sheering last month and shared some great photos of the event. I love seeing where my yarn comes from!
I was very excited to learn that Mary Rowe, author of the out-of-print book Knitted Tams, had designed a clutch of charted tam patterns, published as a booklet by Schoolhouse Press! Knitting Tams: Charted Fair Isle Designs includes 15 tam patterns written for Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift yarn, and 2 for a worsted weight yarn. None of the tams uses more than 6 colors--they would make wonderful first-Fair Isle projects! But of course, the magic of Fair Isle knitting is that even just a few colors look magically complex.
What is authentic Fair Isle knitting anyway? This question pops up frequently. If you have pondered this issue, you might enjoy reading this Knit British blog entry.
If you are less concerned about tradition and more interested in personal expression, you might want to check out Felicity Ford's KNITSONIC Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook Kickstarter campaign. I don't know Felicity--I learned about this project from Deb Robson (that Deb! You might as well just make sure to read her blog regularly....)--but this sounds right up my alley and you can bet I've added my support to this campaign. Only 4 days to go!
Thinking of books, The Old Handknitters of the Dales by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingleby has been reprinted, with a new introduction and re-created pattern by Penelope Hemingway--available as a paperback and/or pdf download. Yay!
I'm sure I'm forgetting something..... Please let me know if you find other interesting tidbits!
Like many spinners I fall in love over and over again with painted rovings. I generally don't have a specific project in mind when I purchase these braids, but the colors draw me in. A while back someone asked me about spinning for Fair Isle, so I thought I'd use this braid that I purchased at Madrona to illustrate a process that would guarantee a pleasing result.
Woolgatherings braid, 4 oz 85% Blue Faced Leicester, 15% Tussah Silk (Stock #BFLMT01191403)
I also used some natural white Corriedale (too fine) and Shetland (perfect) as well as dark brown Finn.
I broke the braid into color segments. There is always some natural blurring between the colors, so I knew that the colors would relate to each other when spun.
Fair Isle design is all about value: value contrast and value movement. I first carded batts of each pure color. Then I divided the batts and added natural white or natural black to them to lighten or darken the colors (there was lots of turquoise, so I was able to make several successively lighter and darker batts). I used my Pat Green Drum Carder, and ran each combination through twice--I wanted the heathery look.
I also made a batt of natural dark brown with little spots of the colors to make a tweed.
Then I spun up the little batts and ended up with this set of miniskeins:
I love those natural sequences! Now, I'll be the first to admit that my spinning isn't the most even, but I still expect that this collection will make a great project--I don't know what, yet. There's more than enough for a hat, or perhaps a cowl.
SUCH a good feeling! When I'm done knitting, the garment looks so pitiful, really. As I darn in ends I begin to have some hope. But it is only when the sweater comes out of its final rinse and gets patted into shape that I start to believe that I've done something that I will want to wear!
The question that remains? How long will it take me to sew the buttons on....
The party last Sunday was quietly fun! We sat on the patio in our first truly spring day, knitting and eating and chatting for a few hours.
After the party we went to the Off the Grid food trucks that gather at our nearby BART station on Sunday evenings! I've had my ups and downs in life, just like everyone--but I can't help but feel just fine on days that include knitting, friends, family, and food trucks!
One of the things I love about stranded colorwork and Fair Isle knitting is that you can be learning something new constantly! It's exciting on an intellectual as well as emotional level.
Last weekend I taught the 3-day Design Your Own Fair Isle class to a group of four women. They usually meet up each year at some fiber event--and for 2014 they chose to set up a private workshop with me. I felt so flattered! (I've arranged private workshops with teachers myself--I was amazed to discover that most teachers are quite happy to set up private workshops because the class is smaller, there is no overhead, and they don't have to travel.)
At any rate, the photo (above) shows Suzanne Bryan's inspiration photo, speed swatch for color, and her motif swatch. Aren't they beautiful? And even lovelier in person.
The majority of knitters don't have the opportunity to take classes, though, so we are extremely lucky these days to have so many alternatives. Here are a few that are of use to stranded knitters:
REMINDER: PARTY THIS SUNDAY!
A knitters' gathering on April 6th at my home in Berkeley, from noon til 4:00. Bring your knitting, perhaps some finger food to share, and come on down! My yarn playpen will be set up for those who want to play with some Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift, and I'll be happy to answer Fair Isle questions--but you don't have to be a stranded knitter to come! Drop me a line and I'll send you my address.
Mason says he'll move his blankets off the sofa in your honor.
When we went to Muttville to adopt a dog a few months after the death of our well-loved cockapoo Shadow we had no intention of adopting a dachsund.
But Mason came right over to us and sat on John's lap. We were goners.
I've been sorting through a huge box of letters and photos that I inherited when my mother passed away 2 years ago, and I was struck by the inevitability of our adopting Mason.
You see, Mason is just the most recent dachsund in our family.
Here is my grandmother Louise in La Conner, Washington, with her dachsund puppy, Pupchen, in 1935 or so:
And a couple of years later:
Morris Graves, a well-known northwest artist, lived nearby at this time. He would come to visit regularly with his dachsund; he and Granny Louise would have a drink (or many) and talk about art and the deficiencies of culture in a small town, but the dogs were the glue of the relationship.
Here is Pupchen in a posed Christmas card photo with my mother when she was in high school:
Pupchen was so important that my great-grandfather, a blacksmith, made special andirons in her honor:
He really captured the dachsund facial expression!
So when I was about 6 and my sister was 5 it was no surprise that the puppy we were given for Christmas was a dachsund!
1958 My mother is holding the dog, my grandmother Louise is on the far right on the sofa, and I am sitting on the floor in my favorite middy dress.
Important member of the family to be included in the formal portrait!
Our dog with my mother, around 1967.
Is it any surprise that there is now a dachsund in the house?
Yes, there has been knitting going on around here!
Don't you think sweaters look sort of sad at this point? I always doubt that they will turn out--and then, as if by magic, the bands get knit on, and the underarms grafted, and the stray ends darned in, and then a good blocking does it's work: voilá! A garment you can be proud of. I'm hoping to get this done by the end of March.... And the best part of my next project begins: dreaming.
I always feel so energetic once the days begin to lengthen. To celebrate the changing of the seasons I am having a knitting party!
Sunday, April 6th, from noon til 4:00, at my home in Berkeley.
Bring your knitting and perhaps some nibblie to share while we sit in the garden and chat. I'll have the yarn playpen set out for those who want to play with colors, and I'll also be happy to answer knitting questions--but you don't have to be a Fair Isle knitter to come!
Please let me know if you think you'll be able to make it and I'll tell you my address. I hope you can come!