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Stitches West and a Gentle Return to Knitting

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A weekend ago or so was Stitches West, the giant yarn, fiber and notions conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center. For quite a few years I have been attending with E___, my friend and knitting mentor (and also my fellow baseball buddy), and lately with my artist and crochet sisterfriend L____ and A____ have been joining us for shopping and ramen afterwards.

This was my first real weekend post flu and post ankle surgery where I felt almost like a normal person. Walking and standing is still cranky but we scheduled lots of tea breaks and the gals brought lots of snacks to keep our energy from flagging.
20130302-080226.jpg(tiny chocolate mushroom cookies!)

This year the convention center seemed rather quiet, we went on a Sunday, which is the last day of the conference and perhaps people were done for it but the crowd was thin and the shopping was even thinner. It might be a sign of the tightened economy, or perhaps because it was nice weather out but there wasn’t much going on that day. We all were on tight budgets and that never helps with shopping, but we enjoyed being able to visit every booth and have time for breaks.

E____ and I both found some great sock yarn for the San Francisco Giants games, a cutely dyed sock yarn from Miss Babs in a colorway called Pumpkin Apocalypse. E___ might be making a shawlette but I am going to make socks.

There was a very pretty pattern for a Cedar Leaf Shawlette in a green silk and wool blend but sadly there was no yarn anywhere within the convention center that was right weight with a little silk in it and in the right verdant green. I will need about two to three skeins to make the shawl and will save this pattern for when the budget allows more yarn shopping.

We spotted a simple sweater by Olga Jazzy, the Sakasama Jacket. I would like to try this pattern since I have boatloads of kid mohair but the booth was out of the pattern. I can get it online however.
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At another stall was selling mink yarn in jewel-toned colors at mink-like prices, but ooh, so very soft and lovely. All animal fiber yarn is from animals where they are either shorn or combed for their hair/fur, how does one shear a squirmy mink? It doesn’t bear thinking about overmuch.

This stall also had a sample scarf by Alchemy using their paper yarn which is surprisingly soft after washing. The scarf is combined with Alchemy kid mohair yarn that I’m obsessed about but the scarf is felted or washed vigorously after knitting to shrink the mohair part. I’ve seen it before at the Interweave Knitlab marketplace. I am still tempted to try this someday. The coir palate is pretty on me and they have a longish bolero which would be very nice to wear over all my inevitable black wardrobe pieces.
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(the ubiquitous Feather and Fan pattern again!)

It was always great fun to see Tina Whitmore of KnitWhits and I snatched up a ball of her Freia ombré yarn that changes from a deep grey-black to an Aegean teal. Tina explained it was a new color direction for her ombré yarns. She had only made a little for the New York show she attended and they were snapped up, I wish I could have seen all the colors she had made! Hopefully, in future, she will make more. The winking green-blue eye for this yarn really called to me and I couldn’t wait to make something with it.

20130301-203106.jpg(the hue of the grey truly is much darker than captured here)

We putzed around for a little while longer and then went out for dinner at Ramen Club. This is the second best ramen I’ve found in the Bay Area.
20130301-204400.jpg(tonkotsu ramen, a bowl of heaven

It was a lovely, full day!

The moment I got home I pulled out my two purchases plus the pretty pattern and I did not resist the incredible urge to start knitting.

Happily a quick search on Ravelry led me to the adorable Elk Tooth pattern by Caitlin ffrench. The talented knittingnurse on Ravelry had made up this pattern in Freia yarn in the same weight and a slight modification to use up one ball of yarn. I am about halfway done now and simply love the look and feel of this yarn. I can’t wait to wear this scarf.

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If I Only Had a Brain and Other Mindful Knitting

Last week I saw a fun tweet from a friend who found a hat pattern on Ravelry and wished he knew someone to make it for him.

After my shock of seeing that a non knitter and a dude at that knows about Ravelry naturally I had to check out the pattern.

It is a knitted brain hat.

It’s such a cool pattern so of course I offered to make it. A brain hat! The best part is that it’s designed by a med student and the small pattern cost is helping her pay for med school. The nerd in me was touched. Being a medical student she provided clear examples of the brain folds in each hemisphere for realism in the hat design.

My friend wanted it in grey – grey matter – of course! I hopped off to the local yarn store, Imagiknit. Surprisingly, light grey yarn the color of brain matter is not easy to find in fingering weight, but I did find 2 yarns. Sadly the best colored yarn only had 3 skeins in stock and I would have needed about 6 so that was out, but the other option had more yardage per skein and they had 2 skeins left. Whew, what a relief.

I also had an ulterior motive to shopping.  A Twitter friend mentioned another nerdy project where you knit a scarf for a full year, a row a day, based upon the colors of the sky. The project is supposed to help bring mindfulness and conceptualization of our surroundings to knitting.  Each participant is registered with the project and the collected images would represent the world’s weather as viewed by knitters. You can watch the project’s photo group and see how the weather changes.  How fabulous is that?

The Sky Scarf Project has a big following on the net and most people started January 1st and this was just the 11th so why not, I thought, what are a few days?

Back at the yarn store a few days later, I again had a hard time finding yarn with the right colors, in lace weight this time, but then my eyes landed on a display of Malabrigo lace.

Ah, Malabrigo, how I love this yarn. It is so soft, like a puppy’s ears and although I have knitted projects with it I’ve never kept one for myself. I certainly don’t need another scarf but this would be a special treat with this velvety soft stuff.

Given our weather patterns I deliberated for a day about what weather I would choose to represent in the scarf. I knew I would have to weight my palate more towards the greys to represent our fog.

If you are not from the Bay Area then perhaps you aren’t aware of our standard weatherman’s forecast: “cool and partly cloudy in the morning clearing to midday sun and wind, fog and cool temperatures in the evening.”. Repeat for 350 days. The remainder of the year is either rain or our few precious days of Indian summer.

So what should I do, knit the morning sky, the afternoon clearing skies or the fog and sunsets? I cogitated and realized the weather that most affects me is in the morning. What I see out the window as I get ready for work sets the tone for the day, and my wardrobe and to a large part my mood.

So here is my morning sky palette:

  • A soft grey with a touch of pink for those fog streaked rosy mornings
  • White for clouds
  • Blue for those rare clear skies
  • A mixed black/dark grey/light grey for rain and those dark foggy mornings
  • Lastly, a shimmering taupe for those mornings when the fog glows with an powerful diffuse light like an illuminated marshmallow.

Sky Scarf - foggy SF sky palette

Instead of doing a garter stitch as the pattern suggests I chose seed stitch and cast on stitches to represent my age this year – it is the perfect width!

Sky Scarf

I’m looking forward to watching it grow. And I’m looking forward to making my friend his brain. It might even be Abby Normal.

Knitter and Spinner Tweet-up

One of the joys of Twitter is the ability to reach people who have interests in common with your own.  It is fascinating  to chat with people from all across the nation, and planet, on everything under the sun – politics, religion, food, knitting – you name it, we talk about it.

This Saturday we arranged a tweet-up (a meeting of Twitter users) to say hello to Chris aka @VTknitboy who is visiting for the weekend.

Looking for a place that would accommodate 8 – 10 people with good food and tea and that wouldn’t mind if we lingered to chat and knit for a few hours in San Francisco is quite an impossible feat, but we managed to land at ‘wichcraft off  Union Square.  It was so great to meet people in real life for the first time, we all hit it off instantly and it was like being with a group of old friends.
Hanging w @vtknitboy

Chris brought treats for everyone – some of his gorgeous handspun and dyed angora rabbit yarn from his pretty bunnies.  He has a great Etsy shop so you can treat yourself too!  I finally got to show him my Tequila Sunrise hat made out of his gorgeous yarn that I bought from him last winter.  My little gift to him was the amazing jam from Frog Hollow’s famous peaches and some bay leaves from McEvoy Ranch for a little taste of California when he gets home.

Anne – @rrarelyrabbits –  brought treats for everyone to take home, some beautiful undyed llama and alpaca fiber from a friend of hers that is ready to be spun.  It is so interesting to feel the softness of the roving and to see which ones were crimped and which ones had straight hair, and just how truly fluffy these animal’s fiber really can be.  Anne’s dear husband Ron is a non-knitter and still kindly  joined us.  Ron was so gracious and patient to not be terribly bored as we chattered away about all things fiber.

I got to meet Maia – @MaiaSpins – she is an incredible dyer who uses only natural sources for the color,  it was so lovely to meet her!  I saw her shop,  Tactile Fiber Arts, at the Interweave Knits Lab Knitter’s Market but I did not get a chance to chat with her that night, sadly.  Maia  brought spindles for us to play with, gorgeous creations handmade by Spindlewood.  It was fascinating to watch Chris’s expert hands create tiny, perfectly even yarn out of wool pencil batting with these spindles.   We all got to play a bit and learn a few tricks.  Maia brought some lovely yarn and the utterly fascinating silk hankies as a gift for Chris, we all are coveting them.  As a novice/uneducated spinner I totally want to try them!

My dear pal Luna – @LunaRaven13 – our lone hooker of the day (meaning she crochets, *what* were you thinking??) showed off her gorgeous crocheted jewelry and made a pretty lavender and cream ring on the spot just for me.  Thank you!!  It is amazing to see how delicate and intricate her work is, and her rings with beads and crystals were also fantastic.

 Nathan – @knit1eat1 – and his partner Christian arrived a bit later and we welcomed them heartily.  Nathan is such an expert knitter and photographer (look here) and Christian is a fantastic knitwear model and lucky recipient.  We drooled over the grey-flecked sweater Nathan was working on and the gorgeous cabled scarf Christian was wearing.  It was hard to let go of it!

We had a rather disappointing lunch, for those of us who ordered sandwiches that is.  Who knew – if you go to ‘wichcraft be sure to order a salad, they looked amazing.  Afterwards we sat around and did a show and tell of our current projects and the knitted loveliness we were wearing, and worked on our various projects and chatted some more.   It really was such an enjoyable afternoon.

 

 

After crossing Market Street and getting an eyeful of a very peaceful march by the OccupySF group, we strolled over to Fiona’s Sweetshop on Sutter and Kearny for wonderful samples and purchases to enjoy later.  My favorites this time were the Cognac cordials and the dark chocolate covered candied ginger balls.

Sated and buzzing from sugar we visited the amazing Artfibers to check out their gorgeous, unique yarns.  My pick of the day is the Starring yarn, that knits up with droplets of glitter that look like rain on a tropical flower petal, color #4.  It was great fun to sit there and make swatches and watch the sky darken even further over the buildings of Union Square.

Sadly it was time to part and say our farewells.  Luna and I walked Chris back to his hotel and later remarked about what an incredible, vital and creative group of people we just met and now can call them all true friends.

I look forward to seeing everyone again, and especially thank Chris for visiting from Vermont and giving us an excuse to spend time with some local fiber artists that we otherwise might have not met.

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