The title is more accurate than the usual San Francisco based song lyric. Not that I didn’t enjoy SF, but my time in Oakland with the Kristine and Adrienne (and CLEO!) of A Verb for Keeping Warm and my friend Karen Templer definitely left me with a case of the warm fuzzies. And an almost pathological avoidance of my inbox.
I left the day before Halloween to teach two days of Brioche Knitting classes at Interweave Knitting Lab in San Mateo, CA. My classes were delightful! Afterward, I stayed in Oakland for a few days of mini-vacation, exploring San Francisco with K&A: visiting The Presidio to see the Andy Goldsworthy installations, shopping in Japantown, and hunting for treasures at the enormous Alameda Flea and Antique market (where I bought a suh-weet vintage CAST IRON SKILLET, which I toted home in my carry-on suitcase like a crazy lady).
On the way home, I managed to miss my connecting flight through Chicago, so I called my bestie Amanda, and zipped over to her place on the Blue Line train. I got to visit her, her husband Derek, and the lovely Lorna’s Laces yarn studio for about 24 hours before hopping back on another plane. And then I slept. And slept. And slept a little more for good measure. And ate restorative Alabama BBQ.
Here’s a visual travelogue of my adventures and treasures.
This sums up my California/Chicago travels. Dogs and yarn.
Spire by Andy Goldsworthy. Epic.
Goldsworthy installation. We hiked up and down the whole thing and met a little dog in a crocheted sweater, so much fun.
Flea market finds.
Shabu shabu dinner with A-day, Kristine, and Mary Jane Mucklestone. Fun dinner!
Spirit tasting room at St. George Spirits, home of Hangar 1 Vodka. We’re VERY happy.
Car ride with Cleo.
Kristine in the Verb dye studio.
A-day scouring and mordanting some California Pioneer yarn!
My beloved skillet.
Sam the dog at the Lorna’s Laces studio.
Treasures from Verb.
These sewing books from Kunokiniya were irresistible.
A few years back, I had the pleasure of teaching at the first Unwind Getaway, a knitting retreat hosted by Nancy Shroyer of Nancy’s Knit Knacks, and her friend Sue Homewood. Unwind is held among a small group of knitters (less than 50!) in a lovely inn nestled in the mountains of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The classes are small, intimate, and relaxed. The scenery, and the small town of Blowing Rock are gorgeous.
I’ll be back next year to teach again, and look forward to seeing new students and familiar faces. I’ll be teaching classes on short rows, intarsia, and knitted-in edgings.
Registration for the event is now open, so if you’d like a chance to escape into a gregarious group of knitters in the beautiful NC mountains, sign up soon!
Unwind Getaway, April 25-28, 2014.
Hey, there! No, I haven’t retired, although you might think so from the radio silence around here.
The manuscript is in, and I am slowly crawling out of my hermit cave to enter the land of the living again. I just got back from California, where I taught two days of brioche knitting classes at Interweave Knitting Lab.
IT WAS AWESOME. I had amazing, clever, inquisitive, adventurous students in all four of my brioche classes. If you get a chance to attend one of these events, DO IT. I also spent a few days in the San Francisco/Oakland area, which I will post about soon.
I released two new brioche knit cowl patterns at the Knitting Lab, Zillah and Rhoda, knit in polworth/silk blend yarns from Knitted Wit and Sincere Sheep. They are now available in my Ravelry shop.
If brioche is unfamiliar to you, you can jump into this technique with my help using my brioche basics DVD or video download from Interweave Press.
Two-color brioche stitch is shaped into a dramatic pattern using basic brioche shaping.
Rhoda looks fabulous in contrasting pairings of hand-dyed semi-solid or solid DK yarns.
Finished size: Approximately 10 1/2” deep, 26” circumference.
Yarn: Knitted Wit Polworth Shimmer (DK weight yarn, 85% wool, 15% silk; 330yds/4 oz); MC- Salted Caramel (tan), 1 skein; CC- Thistle (violet), 1 skein.
Needles: US size 3 (3.25 mm) 16” circular needle. Ad- just needle size as needed to obtain gauge.
Gauge: 22 sts and 28 rows = 4” in brioche mirrored wing stitch, worked in the round.
Notions: locking stitch markers, tapestry needle.
Skills needed: Knitting, purling, basic brioche stitches, brioche shaping, 2-color brioche rib stitch.
Rhoda PDF download, $7.00 (via Ravelry)
Zillah is a flat-knit brioche stitch cowl uses brioche shaping stitches and cable twists to create a gorgeous, warm, insulating fabric that looks fabulous in hand-dyed semi-solid or solid DK yarns.
Finished size: Approximately 24” long and 9” wide, un-buttoned.
Yarn: Sincere Sheep Luminous (DK weight yarn, 85% wool, 15% silk; 330 yds/4 oz); Kung Hey Fat Choy, 1 skein.
Needles: US size 3 (3.25 mm) straight or circular needle. Adjust needle size as needed to obtain gauge.
Gauge: 22 sts and 28 rows = 4” in brioche twisted lozenge stitch, worked flat.
Notions: Cable needle, tapestry needle, 7- 5/8” buttons, sewing needle and thread.
Skills needed: Knitting, purling, k2tog decreases, basic brioche stitches, brioche shaping, brioche cable twists, yarnovers.
Zillah PDF download, $7.00 (via Ravelry)
Both cowls are modeled by the glamorous, ever patient Leelu. Leelu is a boxer-pit mix who loves lounging, hugs, hunting varmints, and enjoying a nice soup bone now and then.
I’m back from TNNA! I’m still gathering my thoughts for a real review of the show, but in the meantime, you should visit my (new!) friend Karen’s blog, Fringe Association, to read all about the fun weekend from her perspective. Karen and I were thrown together by fate to become roommates for the weekend event, and it was a great match. She is a perfect roommate; a creative problem solving mind; and a great conversationalist/breakfast-sharing buddy.
I’m still up to my eyeballs in book projects! This is what my sofa looks like on most days while I knit like crazy. Happy yarn messes.
Coming up next week, THE LAST YARN I LOVED is back, with my new go-to yarn, Nature Spun Worsted by Brown Sheep company. This USA-made yarn is a classic.
I used Nature Spun Worsted in my new design for Knitscene magazine, Emmanuelle. The reception for this pullover has been overwhelming! Look for it in the new issue, due out in print next month.
Head over to the Knitting Daily blog to read my interview by new Interweave Knits editor Lisa Shroyer about the parallels of knitting and yoga, and about how I learned to loosen up and enjoy the moment in both practices! We also talk about brioche knitting, including my upcoming classes at Knitting Lab in San Mateo, CA!
Approximately 1485 (1560, 1740, 1900, 2120) yards of fingering weight wool yarn
6 (6, 7, 7, 8) skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% American Targhee-Columbia wool; 275 yards/50g)
Photographed in color Tent
24 stitches & 36 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch using Size A needle, before blocking
23 stitches & 34 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch using Size A needle, after blocking
18-stitch repeat of Cable Panel measures approximately 2¼” wide
Size A (for Body):
One 32″ circular needle in size needed to obtain gauge listed
Suggested Size: 4 mm (US 6)
Size B (for Edgings):
One each 16″ and 32″ long circular needles two sizes smaller than Size A needle
Suggested Size: 3½ mm (US 4)
38 (39¾, 43½, 47½, 52)” finished (blocked) garment at bust
Intended Ease: +4-5″
Sample shown is size 38″ with +4″ of ease on model
3 of 5
From Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed:
Hitch…has a great casual elegance about it. The dolman shape means that the garment is made with two pieces (front and back, with sleeves integrated). If you look closely at the direction of the garter stitch on the cuffs, you’ll see that the sleeves are worked sideways as a result.
While swatching at the beginning of the design process, Mercedes fell hard for this cable – which she said reminded her of thick links of chain (our inspiration for naming the design) – and built the rest of the sweater as a suitable “frame” for it.
I think the proportions are great – the deep garter hem, the front-only panel of chain cables, three-quarter sleeves and a wide boat neck. The fabric is lightweight – worked in Loft at a relaxed gauge – which means it has that “easy to throw on” thing going for it, too.
I am so proud of this design! I love it as a layering piece, and want (at least!) one in my wardrobe, and hope that you will, too!
Photo by TheBoth/Ian Bothwell, used with Creative Commons Attribution license.
I am cranking away on the book. Lots of knitting, lots of project juggling, lots of notes and writing. I’ve also been trying to be more determined and focused on taking very good care of myself during the process, as big projects tend to lead me on a path of freaking out about THE VERY BIG GOAL, to a loss of exercise, eating right, and taking time to rest (and then I wonder why I collapse in a feverish heap of illness once I meet the deadline, right?).
So for April, I’ve planned a 30-day yoga challenge for myself. A minimum of 15 minutes of practice per day, every day. If I need a rest day, I do gentle, restorative practice with reclining poses, forward bends, and simple stretches. Other days I may come out of an hour long vinyasa class dripping with sweat. The variety is pleasing, and my body and my mind feels better after just the first week. Ideas are less cluttered, I’m less tired.
I’m also put back into the role of student, as I place myself in the hands of different teachers at my gym, at studios, and from the bounty of the internet. I think as someone who at this point is used to leading classes, giving advice, and being at the front of the classroom, being a student is priceless. My perspective shifts in ways that give me empathy for what it’s like to be new, unsure, and eager for clear direction and a reasonable challenge.
Earlier this week, in a very sweaty vinyasa yoga class, our teacher directed us up into various options for shoulder stand. I felt like trying to push my boundaries a little more, so instead of my usual practice of carefully lifting my butt off the mat and placing a folded blanket or a yoga block underneath it to raise my legs up toward the ceiling, I went all in and pushed up to try to support my legs vertically without a prop. I succeeded…for a few seconds.
Then my legs made a not-so-graceful arc backward, and landed on the floor over my head. Plop. “You’re in plow pose!”, said my instructor, encouragingly. Later she introduced plow pose as another option for students to move into from shoulder stand. “I was just early,” I laughed. I repeated my teetering shoulder stand efforts, falling into plow pose again and again. So awkward, and yet, laughing the whole time.
It reminded me of teaching new knitters, and explaining that their accidental yarnovers were a real stitch, they had just discovered it early. The same with slipped stitches, knitting into a stitch twice, and other “mistakes” that were all part of their future knitting skill set. Why tell them anything is wrong, when it’s all part of our knitting vocabulary. There would still be some tendency toward perfectionism, we’d rip out and work rows again here and there where students wanted to, but it was all leading down a road toward expanding their options. I wanted to make them feel enthusiastic and capable, not reined in and rigid.
In another yoga adventure, last week I had a learning experience in a kundalini yoga class. My breakthrough wasn’t about yoga though, it was about teaching. The instructor was late to class, unclear, rigid to the format, and yet hesitant in his instructions. He kept checking a book, and telling us, “it says to…” I didn’t feel like he was taking in his students varied abilities or backgrounds. I didn’t feel like I was in capable hands. By the time I left class, I was frustrated and unhappy, in spite of trying to step outside of my expectations and just flow with a new situation. It left me understanding how not to teach, which gave me a better sense of how important it is for students to receive clear directions, and how as a teacher, be willing to change how to explain something for individual students. One size doesn’t fit all. When I relayed the misadventure to my husband, he said, “Well, maybe you’ve just had really good teachers until now.” Bing! A lightbulb went off. So by the end of the experience, the universe sent some important lessons, although not what I may have been expecting.
My adventures this week in yoga have brought me some important lessons as both a student and a teacher. I’m happy to see things from both sides.
What are you doing as a beginner, or as a seasoned instructor?
What lessons are you working through?
Share your adventures, lessons, and thoughts!
So I know I’ve mentioned how I wanted to come up with something to write about here on the blog while I’m sworn to secrecy about THE BOOK. It’s harder than it sounds. It seems like everything is revolving around book projects right now.
But while taking some time to read posts over at my favorite writing blog, The Rumpus, I had an idea. They have a series of posts called “The Last Book I Loved,” reviewing an assortment of books, as written by Rumpus readers. New books, old books, usually fiction, but not always. Written with love.
Welcome to the new Mercedes Knits blog series, The Last Yarn I Loved.
I’ll be reviewing yarns as they pass through my hands and needles. Some new arrivals, some classic standards. All will be yarns I love. In full disclosure, most of these are provided to me, just because I don’t have a lot of time for personal knitting lately, but no one is paying me for my review. These write-ups are all me, and if I don’t dig the yarn, it doesn’t make the blog.
The Last Yarn I Loved is a skein I picked up at TNNA in Long Beach last month, at the Skacel booth. Kenzie, is a New Zealand merino blend (Ke-NZ-ie. I see what you did there). It’s a soft tweed, with nups of contrasting colors and a few thick spots here and there, but an overall smooth texture. I tested it out on some textured brioche rib, some cables, some plainer stitches. I ripped and reknit a few times, and it held up well. It actually improved with wear, getting a soft halo from the angora and alpaca content in the yarn, but not so much that it obscured the texture of the stitch patterns. The skein I received, an earthy avocado color, made me happy. Bright, but not crazy bright. Currently, Skacel is offering the yarn in a palette of 10 harmonious colors.
Kenzie is a light worsted, knitting up at about 5 sts to the inch. The details:
• 50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils
• 160 yards per 50 gram skein
• US 6 – 8 needles
• 4.0 – 5.0 mm needles
If this yarn were a person: A librarian who plays bass and rides a vintage motorcycle.
If this yarn were a food: Asparagus topped with a perfectly poached egg.
Skacel Collection product page
Add to your Ravelry yarn queue
I haven’t picked out a project to use with this yarn, but I know it will make it into a future design. The wheels are spinning, and it was a pleasure to knit with. No snagged strands, great stitch definition, lovely texture. ‘Til we meet again, Kenzie!
Here’s this week’s playlist, an eclectic mix of modern and classic tunes to stitch by.
Remember when I said I want to go to Costa Rica and visit the sloths? They have sloths on their money!!
Thanks for following along as we had the Artemisia blog tour! Extra-special thanks to all of our lovely hostesses.
In case you missed it, here is where we traveled in the last two weeks:
2.11.13 Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts
2.12.13 Rock and Purl
2.13.13 Polka Dot Cottage
2.14.13 Cascade Yarns
2.15.13 Kim Werker
2.18.13 Stolen Stitches
2.19.13 Tara Swiger
2.21.13 Miriam Felton
In other news, I’ve been sick all week. Bleh. But, being glued to the sofa has meant I got a bunch of knitting done, both swatches for the book and a magazine project. I’ve been watching the West Wing, and it’s my first time seeing it (I KNOW). The dialogue is SO good! And I can mostly listen and don’t have to look up often, so that’s a plus.
I’ve still been writing for the Magic City Post, a local community news blog. While the Birmingham, AL, event news won’t help you if you live in say, Tennessee (Hi, Maryville, TN, knitters!), the DIY posts are pretty fun, I think. This weeks was all about DIY tassel crafts to add some colorful accents to your wardrobe.
Next week I’m going to roll out a couple of new features on the blog, ideas I had about having fun posting cool stuff for y’all that’s both knitting and non-knitting related, while I’m under the gag order about the book. Stay tuned!