Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring Fiber Teaching

Although it is most emphatically still winter here in northwestern lower Michigan, I am preparing for several spring teaching trips. Perhaps by the time I hit the road the snow will start to disappear. Perhaps.

I start my spring travels on the heels of the vernal equinox. To begin, I’ll be teaching at the Michigan Fiber Arts Symposium. This is a new event, sponsored by Michigan Fiber Festival, Inc. It will be held at the Radisson in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, March 22-24, 2013.

I am sorry to say that my workshop, Spinning & Knitting Energized Singles, was cancelled due to low enrollment. But my other two workshops are still on – and there is still room if you’d like to register. I’ll be teaching Creating the Yarn You Want on Saturday, and Blending Colors at the Wheel on Sunday. I look forward to spending some time in K’zoo (Here I come, MacKenzie’s Bakery!); I look forward to the Saturday evening banquet; and I look forward to sharing spinning with workshop participants. A great beginning to spring!

I’ve got two trips in April. First, I’m headed to Neenah, Wisconsin to teach at Midwest Masters 2013. This event is organized by Barb Cattani, owner of the lovely yarn shop, Yarns by Design.    It’s scheduled for the weekend of April 5-7. I’ll be kept busy teaching Variations on Long Draw, Exploring Basic Slip Stitches, Diversity of Wool, Extended and Manipulated Slip Stitches, and Circles and Hexagons: Knitting Petoskey Stone Medallions. I was part of Midwest Masters in 2010, and I do look forward to my second tour! Besides, I get to drive through the Upper Peninsula to get there; always a lovely drive.

My second trip in April is to Los Angeles! I’ve been invited to teach workshops for the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. Workshops (and a lecture) are tentatively scheduled for April 25-28. As of now, they haven’t decided on which workshops. When they do, I’ll be sure to post them on my website Events Schedule. I do look forward to a trip from LA to LA (Lake Ann, MI to Los Angeles, CA)!

Two more trips are scheduled for May. I’ll be returning to Shepherd’s Harvest in Lake Elmo, Minnesota May 10-12. I’ll be teaching Spinning Super Stretchy Wools on Saturday, and Diversity of Wool and Mechanics of Your Wheel on Sunday. I really enjoyed myself last year, and look forward to another wonderful time at this delightful event. By the way, this trip means another drive through the UP.

The following weekend, I’ll be headed back to the UP yet again for the Spring Fiber Fling in Pickford, Michigan. This is a swell weekend get-away that I’ve been lucky to be a part of for a few years now. This year I’ll be teaching two new workshops: Seams to Be (a knitting workshop) and Mohair Locks Rock! (a spinning workshop). You can contact Lois Robbins for more information,

Whew! After spending much of this winter sequestered at home surrounded by snow, I will find the spring travelling to be a welcome change.

You can always find my teaching schedule on my website, Stone Sock Fibers, on the Events Schedule page. 

And you can always find descriptions of my workshops on my website on the Workshop Descriptions page. 

I do look forward to the many fiber folks I’ll meet on my journeys. See you there!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Silent Knitting

My daily knitting is usually accompanied by the radio or, more commonly, the TV. I snuggle up on my sofa – my “knitting nest” – and I knit while watching the tube. I find it soothing to have background sound while I’m knitting. Sometimes, whatever is on TV gets indelibly linked to whatever I’m knitting. It’s not unusual for a knitting project to bring back strong memories of watching a certain show or a compelling movie. In that way, I have knitting memories that are as potent and primal as smell memories.

But lately I’ve had bouts of silent knitting. A few months ago I started volunteering at the Almira Township Library. It’s a tiny enterprise, maybe 600 square feet of space; the books are not even catalogued. Two afternoons a week I sit at the desk and check out books for folks. It can be a long time between book check-outs. And it’s quiet.

Naturally I take my knitting with me, and I usually get quite a bit done. It’s been interesting to knit in silence these past months. I find myself getting mesmerized at multiple levels. Sometimes the feel of the yarn dominates. Or the color. Sometimes it’s the finger movements.

I can also get caught up in the relationship of stitches. What single stitch is in front of or behind or below or above the stitch I’m currently creating. Sometimes my mind is blown by the 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional nature of the fabric that is flowing off my needles. I get dizzy and thrilled by all the relationships that evolve.

Often, though, I’m struck by numbers: the numbers of stitches create rhythms for me.

I’m currently working on a vest. The stitch pattern is a combination of chunks of stockinette stitch, reverse stockinette stitch, and seed stitch. Chunks of 6 stitches. So, rhythms of 6 come into my head. For whatever reason, I often think of a song from West Side Story: I like to be in America

I like to BE in a Me Ri Ca. One-two-three, one-two-three; one-two, one-two, one-two.

Not so silent knitting after all.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Gladys Strong, 1923-2013

My friend, Gladys Strong, passed away on February 13, 2013. She was an extraordinary fiber artist: master weaver, dyer, spinner, knitter. I met her about 7 years ago when I started attending gatherings of the Benzie area spinning group. She had spent much of her adult life in Virginia, but had moved north to Lake Leelanau to live with her daughter and son-in-law. We in northern Michigan gained so much from her presence.

She was especially knowledgeable about natural dyes, and she was so very generous with that knowledge. I remember a few days at her studio over pots of brewing fibers. Rose petals, logwood, cochineal, cutch, henna.

Despite a number of chronic health issues, she was always cheery. I do believe her enthusiasm for the fiber arts was most responsible for her upbeat attitude.

Here are some pictures of Gladys.

Gladys and Midge O., 2006:

Modelling my "Atlantis" shawl, 2007:

Modelling her own lovely woven vest, 2007:

Another view of the vest, 2007:

Spinning some silk, 2007:

More spinning. Gladys in the foreground, Carol S. and Sally C. in the background, 2009:

Spinning, 2009:

Gladys in her beautiful hand spun, hand knitted sweater and hat (her design), 2010:

Gladys, I will think of you often.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Worthy Knits

It was a crisp -4degF when I took my dog out first thing this morning. But with the sun now above the horizon it’s a balmly +4degF. A perfect winter day for the 7th Annual Lake Ann Snow Pine Fest.

Lake Ann is a small village. This annual fest is charmingly village appropriate. Here are the activities listed on the flyer: “Lumberjack Breakfast, Chili Lunch, Snow Mountain, Quilt Show, Broomball, Animals of the World, Board Games, Sledding, Kids Crafts, Story Time, Antique Snowmiblie Display, Live Music, Hot Coco & Cookies, and So Much More!”

Life is good.

I’ve been especially happy with my dog walks not only today but all this winter because I had made myself a new scarf and new mittens. And both have held up quite well to daily use in November, December, January, and now February.

Here’s a picture of the scarf:

I knitted this scarf last summer. At the time, I wasn’t expecting to keep it for myself, but I was so totally charmed by the colors that I couldn’t give it up. I knitted it from some yarn that I’d spun a few years back. This was yarn left over from 2 other projects knitted from the same yarn: a pair of socks (which I still have), and a petite pocho (which I sold).

I’d made the yarn from two differently dyed combed top. I’d spun three 2-ply yarns: one yarn from one top, another yarn from the other top, and the third yarn was one ply from each top.

The body of the scarf is worked in stitch pattern #16 from Knitting Lace, by Susanna E. Lewis. For the edge, I actually crocheted! I used a variation of a crocheted “Simple Lace” edge from the book Interweave’s Compendium of Finishing Techniques by Naomi McEneely.

I’d started the mittens on my way home from the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival last September.  It was awhile before I finished them because I kept ripping out to revise. Here’s a picture:

I’d spun the yarn from Lizzy’s fleece. Lizzy is half Ile de France and she produces super elastic wool. Then I dyed the yarn with the help of my friend, Carol S . I called the colorway, “Fruit Heaven”.

I used a delightful slip stitch pattern, “Nubbly Tweed” from the Harmony Guide, vol 3 (1998 reissue). The structure of the mitten was loosely based on the instructions in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd.

Oh, wait. Here’s a better picture of the mittens…..

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Creative Confluence

I am in the midst of a creative knitting storm. The January workshop for which I swatched so compulsively is spilling over into my preparations for a workshop I’m teaching in March.

The Michigan Fiber Arts Symposium  is a new event, sponsored by Michigan Fiber Festival, Inc. It will be held March 22-24, 2013 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

I am scheduled to teach three days of workshops. On Friday, I’m teaching “Spinning & Knitting Energized Singles”; on Saturday, “Creating the Yarn You Want”; and on Sunday, “Blending Colors at the Wheel”. The latter two workshops I’ve taught numerous times. The first workshop on energized singles I haven’t taught for a number of years.

So, to get into the mood for that workshop, I thought I’d prepare some new knitted samples. As I knitted a few swatches, I got an idea for a vest. In my fiber stash I found just the right fiber: some lovely Wensleydale rovings dyed by Chris Roosien of Briar Rose Fibers. I gathered together colors in the blue, green, purple direction and started spinning. Then I started knitting.  Here’s a picture of the knitting in progress. What lovely colors! What intriguing texture!

As I’ve prepared other swatches for this workshop, I’ve played with a number of the stitch patterns that I’d explored in January. I’ve found that many knit-purl stitch patterns will do interesting things when worked with an “unbalanced” or energized singles yarn. Not all knit-purl patterns yield cool results, but some are really surprising.

Look at this swatch, for example:

Can you tell what the stitch pattern is? It’s “Pennant Pleating”! Such an interesting result is compelling me to knit more swatches with energized singles and to re-organize my workshop. I’m falling in love again with energized singles. I can hardly wait to share some of my new explorations in the March workshop!