Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Shop Hop Haul

We did pretty well for ourselves, didn't we? And most of it is already tagged for specific projects, so it counted as smart purchasing, not blind stash padding. Several of the shops carried a little booklet about smart stash building, which I totally intend to purchase soon: StashBot by Hannah Fettig. It was about $6.00. Right now, though, I'm broke.

The trip itself was a treat, from the company, the bus ride, the lunch (at The Trailhead Restaurant, conveniently located immediately beside the Black Mountain Yarn Shop), to each and every LYS visited. We were excited to start the day on an excellent note by getting to see Crystal, who had worked so hard to make the event possible, up and moving around so soon after her surgery--and smiling! If that happened to make us a little late to the bus (OK, we were the last to scramble aboard), it was worth it. No one seemed too out of joint since we were able to give such a good report. Then we were off!

We hit Enka Middle School first, where Friends & Fiberworks had invited other vendors to a small retreat. Mom and I were delighted to see familiar faces from Sanford's Carolina Fiber Fest, Knitting Notions (from Nashville, TN). We nabbed these skeins of their own hand dyed classic merino lace, one in solid "Dark Rose" and four in "Roses 'n' Thyme":

We loaded back up and headed to Purl's Yarn Emporium, located on Wall Street in Asheville. That is a little magical, unique street in a magical, unique center of the city, but no place for a tour bus. We were dumped near enough and made our way across charming, if inconvenient, cobbles (I told you it was "magical, unique" and I meant it) to the store. This is what was outside:

There sock monkey pirates in the windows:

And sock monkey ninjas in the other window:

We hadn't even made it inside yet. You could say that Purl's is ground zero for this magical, unique little city tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains. For knitters and crocheters, of course. 

I think we technically broke the bank before even getting to lunch. We left Purl's with the following:

That is Universal Yarn's Bamboo Bloom in Zen Garden, which should look familiar. Remember the Stitch n'Pitch? We received 2 free skeins of this! We had already planned to use it for a project, so this completes part of this "thick & thin" dress

Above is a triplet serving of Berroco's Remix in luscious "Merlot". It is soft and wonderful and made of 100% recycled fibers: 30% Nylon, 27% Cotton, 24% Acrylic, 10% Silk, 9% Linen. I plan these for Norah Gaughan's Valdai scarf / wrap (below). The pattern is free from Berroco

Norah Gaughan's Valdai design for Berroco. Copyright Berroco.
I picked out Malabrigo's Arroyo in purply-blue "Plomo," a superwash Merino: make Norah Gaughan's Sturgeon (below). The pattern is in Berroco's Norah Gaughan, Vol. 13

Norah Gaughan's Sturgeon design for Berroco. Copyright Berroco.
Keeping with the Norah Gaughan theme (she is one of my favorite designers), I nabbed the Berroco pamphlet Norah Gaughan, Vol. 7 at Purl's, too. Berroco has produced 15 volumes of Gaughan's designs and I've only got numbers 7 and 13 (my top picks). Volume 15 was just released this year and is now at the top of my pattern wish list, followed by number 8. I love that she lets her own background study of biology and ongoing curiosity in natural shapes to influence her designs. She looks at the world with a rich imagination and then isn't afraid to play. The latest volume is full of chunky aran-like projects with lots of cables, which I especially love. I'll share with you another thing I love that Norah Gaughan does with Berroco: audio slideshows of each pamphlet. That link will also give you Berroco's other shows not designed by Gaughan, but her slideshows are in the list, too. I really like listening to the designer discuss their inspiration, and the surprises that popped up along the creative process, with another member of the Berroco team. 

Back to yesterday's shopping. We're not finished with Purl's! Mom picked out these two skeins of Malabrigo superwash Merino sock yarn in "Pocion," dark variegated blues and browns.

This may (or may not) become part of the "thick & thin" dress mentioned above. That will definitely be an experimental piece. 

Finally, she nabbed these skeins of Fibra Natura Good Earth, a blend of cotton and linen, in "Ivory" and "Gold":

The proprietors of Purl's sometimes drive from Asheville to join us for our monthly Smoky Mountain Kitting Guild membership meetings. They spread out a selection of their wares for sale. This is a great thing because many of us aren't able, or can't afford the cost of gas, to drive to Asheville, which is about 30 or more minutes out of town. Friends & Fiberworks will sometimes do this, too. Mom first purchased some of the Fibra Natura Good Earth from a selection that Purl's brought to a meeting. I don't think she's decided on what it will all become, but I'll let you know as soon as I find out.

That's it for the Purl's visit. We waited patiently through another leg of the bus tour, waited not so patiently through lunch--after all, the yarn shop was one brick wall away as we sat and placed our orders--enjoyed a fabulous lunch, and then descended upon the Black Mountain Yarn Shop for dessert.    It was mine and mom's first visit to the shop. They stocked Cascade along at least one wall and organized other yarns so that one whole half of the store gave the illusion of walking into a paint or crayon box, from one end of the color spectrum to the other. Interestingly, we left with only one color: grey. Not just any grey, though. This silvery grey color (#003) of Tahki Yarns Rosa:

We made up for color with quantity, obviously. It is a soft, blooming 100% cotton. Mom plans on making a sleeveless top with it. 

Last, but not least, we headed back west, and found The Knitting Diva at its new location in a new complex off of north Merrimon Avenue, Asheville. We were weary travelers welcomed with open arms by the staff, sunny open layout, and comfy seats of the shop. I was sad to fall in love with a very lonely ball of Berroco Boboli Lace in a color (#4395) which I just discovered is called "Tree Swing" (awwwww, how sweet). I immediately wanted to use it for the Bermuda Shawl as a gift for mom. When I first saw that shawl, a member of the guild had made it in lovely bright colors, but I immediately envisioned it as sand dunes and drift wood in earthy shades. This yarn fit the bill perfectly. But there was no way near enough of it. I brought it home with me anyway. It was lonely, you know. What else could I do? Oh. I did find it a friend. A little ball of Berroco Folio in #4505 ("Peak"). They were friendly with one another so they may become a joint project.

I also picked up a skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine in turquoise. It is going to be born into a second knitting of the Wedgewood scarf as a gift. 

Are you worn out yet? 

We're not done. Mom discovered this treat:

That is Queensland Collection's Uluru in #08. It has a barely-there core of silver and is a blend of cotton, acrylic, and polyester. It just is. There are no plans for it yet. So we bask in its beauty. 

After traveling all over western NC, fondling yarn, whispering and listening to fiber, chatting with fellow knitters, and standing (who knew there'd be so much standing when you spent hours in shops?) for 8 hours yesterday, I've now sat here and wrote, linked, and photographed my way through six hours today. I'm worn out. Knit and peace out.   

Friday, June 20, 2014

Planning for a Shop Hop

My eyes are barely open. But I am so excited about tomorrow. It has been a tough week, especially for Mom. I kept my two feet firmly on the ground when I helped with the roofing project. Otherwise, I worked on household chores. Mom, on the other hand, climbed up on the roof each morning and brought her own hammer and grabbed the power drill when it was available. She's worked on roofs before. She didn't wait for instructions. When the men got to where she'd been working, they stopped and just stared. Plywood secured. Ready for tar paper. Next? My uncle finally told the one man paid to help to stop calling her "ma'am". Mom suspected he wanted to avoid hurting her feelings after it was obvious she was holding her own. Me? I was on the ground running from the ants. Which, it turns out, I had due reason to fear. We think they are fire ants.

But tomorrow is our reward. Mom and I reserved seats on a bus that will take us to four different yarn shops in the area, aka a "shop hop". This was the brain child of Crystal Plemmons, our current programs director for the Guild. Crystal worked on getting this event off the ground through every possible kink and presented the Guild with not only a chauffeured ride to four LYSs, but also 15% discounts at each of them, a chance to win a raffle for a basket of knitting goodies worth $25 donated by each of the LYSs (so really 4 chances to win), and a reserved luncheon at a restaurant in Black Mountain, NC, right beside one of the shops! We each paid about $30 for a seat, but I think it is well worth the price. It will be a mini-vacation, lots of time to knit and chat, and just catch up with members who Mom and I haven't had a chance to get to know yet.

I promise lots and lots of details after tomorrow, but now I'm going to share the patterns that I've been dreaming about in preparation for the shopping. I made a list. Then I edited that list. Then I made another list. Finally, Mom and I worked on the day's budget. And I edited the list again.

So I'm going to be looking for yarn to make these patterns:

Sturgeon,below, is a wrap designed by Norah Gaughan and featured in the Berreco: Norah Gaughan Vol. 13 booklet. I love this whole booklet (which I now own. Celebrate, celebrate!). The pattern calls for Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, but who knows what colors may call my name.

Copyright Berroco:
Wedgewood (Rav link), or one of the other scarves from Jen Lucas's Sock-Yarn Shawls book (2014). I've already made two (my first Wedgewood, for Mom, and Timpani, for a good friend). There are at least two other good people who need gifts from me. I'll need 400 to 800 yards of sock weight to make most of the patterns. I already own this book, too.

Valdai (Rav link), another wrap designed by Norah Gaughan for Berreco. This one is available free via Berroco. This one calls for a far chunkier weight or for a double-strand.

Finally, there's this beaut: Vitamin D (Rav link), designed by Heidi Kirrmaier. It is a simple, elegant, swinging cardigan that I plan to make for gifts and for myself. I haven't yet actually purchased the pattern...but I know I will and I want to go ahead and get yarn, but that's just silly talk because it shouldn't be budgeted for if there's no real pattern in hand...right? There's no doubt in my mind that I will have that pattern soon. Lovely. (And did you see the number of projects on this one? 2884 is a whopper!)

There are three more Berreco: Norah Gaughan booklets that I really, really need: numbers 7, 8, and 15 (the most recent). But I've decided that tomorrow's budget must be reserved for yarn only. Unless, of course, the later booklets happen to be on deep discount.

Discipline. I have discipline.

(You'll have already guessed that earlier versions of this list must have been far longer. And included pullovers and heavy, cabled cardigans. All axed. Slashed by the vicious red pen. I am an editor, after all. That is red ink in those veins. I wonder if I'm too much of an editor? Could this be why I don't finish many manuscripts?)

Who am I kidding? The only thing that will keep us from going broke before lunch (and leaving us hungry), is if Mom spends it first. I get pretty good at talking myself out of purchases once I think that someone else is really pining for something. Then I feel really good about doing my part to help them attain whatever that is. Please, Mom, don't read this bit. It could so easily be used against me in the future...

World Wide Knit in Public Day / Week

I'm not quite too late to cover this event. Saturday June 14 was the official World Wide Knit in Public Day, which kicked off this week as World Wide Knit in Public Week. I celebrated by helping to set up and manage the tent and display table for the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild at the Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration on Main Street in Waynesville last Saturday.

This picture doesn't do justice to the number of interested people who came by with questions or offers to purchase our samples. The samples were decidedly not for sale. Many had been gifts to one another or we simply couldn't consider selling our work! What price for hours of stitching and a garment that we liked to wear ourselves? Our goals were demonstration and education. We had a simple garter stitch scarf on stubby size #13 (US) bamboo needles to hand over to anyone who said they knew how to knit. It was the "community" scarf and will eventually find its way around the entire Guild, then be given as a charity item. (OK. I just jumped up to grab said community scarf and take a picture of it for you. It is apparently out and about in said community. I'm sure it will come back for a photo op...hopefully.) In the picture above, on the left, you can see the giant, blue ball of yarn which will become the rest of the scarf.

We advertised our upcoming adult learn-to-knit (free) classes and welcomed all knitters and crocheters to join us for any of our weekly get-togethers or monthly Guild meetings, with or without joining. It is good to simply begin by building community and connections based on our shared craft. So much can grow from it. Many people have seasonal homes here in the mountains, but we have many seasonal members of the Guild, so we encouraged everyone to stop a moment and talk. Maybe just to encourage them to pick up their needles again. Some had questions about sources of yarn and patterns, or were curious about the patterns for the samples that we hung around the tent edges. Some had just been waiting for an invitation to join a group. We jumped at any chance to give our flyers to crafters, and not-yet-crafters, with scribbled notes of great websites, like, that they should check out. Or we pointed out our email and invited them to send any knitting or crochet questions our way, regardless of their membership in the group.

And in all that talking and sharing...not many of us got more than a couple of rows knitted in 7 hours. At the end of the day, though, I felt it was a grand success. Plus, we have many ideas on how to make it even better next year!

Mom and I took advantage of our lunch hour to walk through the festival. Michael Reno Harrell, one of my favorite storyteller / singers, performed.

I didn't get to listen to him for very long, but we decided that Dad would definitely enjoy hearing him perform. When we got back home, I jumped online to see his full upcoming schedule and discovered that he'll be at the Pickin' on the Square in Franklin, NC in August. We'll load up as many family members as we can in the Suburban and head that way when the time comes.

We found Julie Wilson of the Jehovah Raah Farm demonstrating spinning (lusciously curly and brightly dyed mohair) on a Lendrum wheel.

Mom fell in love with this 100% mohair (70 yards of it!). We didn't purchase it, but we know Julie and there will be time to get some of her wares later.

Julie had also brought some of the animals from the farm, including this might-as-well-be-newborn gorgeous, Angora kid:

This is his mama:

And these two, freshly sheared alpacas in their finest white:

(I just love animals.)

Here's a video of Julie spinning. She was answering some question I asked about tailspun yarn and demonstrating what she was actually doing with the mohair, which was not tailspun. I'm really very ignorant about spinning and barely know the vocabulary enough to stay afloat during a demonstration, but Mom and I are interested in learning. Eventually.

If you want a spinning wheel like the one Julie uses here, you can actually get them direct from her. She is a distributor (I believe that's correct) for the Lendrum spinning wheels. They are actually designed and manufactured in Canada (by Gordon Lendrum). Click here to go directly to her Farm's Lendrum online store. (That link is not the same as the one above it, which gives background on the wheel's maker and its design.)

Among the instructions for demonstrators was a plea for us to dress in "period" or "old-timey" Appalachian clothing. I was born in San Antonio, TX while my father was still active duty Army. But within the first few months of my life, he left active duty and joined the Reserve Army, then we all moved straight back Home. Home being right here in western North Carolina. Mom and Dad were both raised here. Their families have deep roots here. I left after high school to go to college and lived for 10 years (those impressionable years, age 18 to 28) in the middle, flat part of the state. Then, when common sense finally caught up with me, I high-tailed it right back Home to these mountains and my family. After a short stint working in Louisiana a couple of years ago, I decided that will never leave these mountains again, if I can help it. Back to the point of the "old-timey" Appalachian clothing. We don't have any. My mother's people were, and my living grandmother and her husband still are, farmers. It was always denim overalls and button-up shirts rolled to the elbow, worn both by Papaw and Mamaw. Before that, Mamaw handmade the clothing for all the children. But those clothes were worn until they either had too many holes that couldn't be darned or they no longer fit, in which case, they found new homes with new children who needed them. Clothing didn't stick around. If it did, it made its way into a new life as a wash rag, a piece on a crazy quilt, or a dress on a doll.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I got the bright idea to wear denim overalls, and the only pair in the family that would fit this fat-bottom girl was a new-ish pair belonging to my step-grandfather. Did you know that denim overalls are hot as Hades? Even without a full-on sunny day in mid-June to accentuate that fact? The only reason I see for folks to wear them is to avoid the inconvenience of normal pants falling down during a day's work, which was pointed out to me by Cindy Rickey, who personally discovered this great feature since she moved down here and began landscaping and farming. She lost 30 pounds due to the strenuous work and gained new respect for the overall. On the other hand, I think I'll stick to elastic waisted cotton skirts, unless I'm working in something that will eat up my legs (like the fiberglass in those old roofing shingles I worked with all week).

Those shingles kept me from knitting in public during this World Wide Knit in Public week. My aunt and uncle needed a new roof and I don't climb that high. So my job was to pick up the old shingles and load them into truck beds, then unload them at the dump. No one told me about the evil, flesh-eating, human-hating ants that have swarmed over the yard since my aunt and uncle moved away to Sanford (for a job) for the last year. Who knew ants love shingles? Who knew ants hate me? Who knew there was something worse than spiders to enter my nightmares? Spiders don't come in such great numbers...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stitch n' Pitch

Do you know about the annual Stitch n' Pitch event sponsored across the country by The National Needlearts Association (TNNA)!?? I had not until this year.  Last Monday I noticed a reminder that tickets were still available through Purl's Yarn Emporium, which appeared in their monthly email newsletter. The event took place last Friday (June 6, my birthday and the 70th anniversary of D-Day) at the Asheville Tourists game against the Kannapolis Intimidators at McCormick Field in Asheville. Our Tourists, a Class A team in the South Atlantic League, are a farm team for the Colorado Rockies team. We won that night, 6-4. 

Basically, once a year, the TNNA helps sponsor and organize LYSs to gather local knitters at their local baseball field to support both craft and sport. This year we were able to get discounted tickets (only $5, instead of $8). They offered the first 100 stitchers that arrived with Stitch n' Pitch tickets (only available through LYSs, I think) gift bags full of yarnish goodness! 

There may have been more than 100 bags given out at our event. It was also $1.00 hot dog night, so I was in hog heaven. Pun intended. There were fireworks, too, but Mom and I left early during the 8th inning. We had great seats:

Knitting the colorful cowl during the game.
This was basically my birthday party from Mom. I love eating outdoors, sipping sweet tea, watching a live ball game, and it was even better surrounded by over a hundred fellow knitters! The stadium was packed. (Not just with knitters, but we were pretty loud and happy.) One of our own was even allowed to make one of the special pre-game first pitches. She pitched a big ball of yarn to the catcher! It didn't matter who I found myself next to, in lines, in our seats. I ended up striking up conversations about knitting with total strangers and we talked like old friends. 

We delved into our goodie bags and found so many treasures:

This generous bounty (yarn, coupons, coasters, LYS maps, patterns, bumper stickers, needles, cards, and more) was bagged by volunteers and provided by Purl's Yarn Emporium, Friends & Fiberworks, The Knitting Diva, Black Mountain Yarn Shop, Asheville NC Home Crafts, Earth Guild, and Echoview Fiber Mill.  

I know you're wanting to know about the yarn! The two little rolls of black and blue yarn in the upper right corner of the bigger picture of bag contents are Grundl Four Seasons' Flamenco Uni in #20 (the blue) and #17 (the black). 

I don't have very good close-ups of the others, but below is Universal Yarn's Bamboo Bloom in Zen Garden (mostly rayon from bamboo and wool). Mom and I had almost purchased some of this recently at Purl's for a specific project. So glad we didn't, but we still need one more skein... We traded at the game to get two of this color. They're different dye lots, but beggars can't be choosers. 

The rest of the close-ups are terribly blurry. 

This is Freza Yarns' Alp Royale in #909, which is a beautiful mix of mossy greens and browns in wool, cashmere, and a little Merino and Mulberry silk.

This bright orange is Freza Yarns' 100% bamboo Nirvana. (It may be discontinued because I couldn't find it on their site.)

These are Viking of Norway's Odin Superwash wool in #869.

We also got two of Mondial's Malizia in #850 (a mix of greys and silver). 

Now that I know this happens once a year around my birthday, I will be prepared next year. If we still have our giant Chevy Suburban (it has been acting its age lately), I'll be able to offer rides to members of my Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild. Lots of other knitters came to the event as groups in vans. We are blessed in western North Carolina with a good number of LYSs, but distances can be intimidating with current gas prices. Needless to say, I'll be cheerleading this event next year. 

Oh! But this wasn't my only birthday gift this year. My parents gave me a pretty cool, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. They took me to see Dolly Parton at her benefit concert in Knoxville, TN at the Thompson-Boling Arena on May 28th. Proceeds went to her Imagination Library and a medical fund that she started to benefit poor Appalachian areas. I say "once-in-a-lifetime" because access to tickets isn't always easy (she came to the local casino in Cherokee, NC, but tickets were swept up by a third-party vendor and re-sold at extortionist prices), and she's not young. I just love her. We all really enjoyed it. Thank you, Mom and Dad! 

P.S. If you have children younger than 5, check out Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and see if your area is served. The purpose of the charity is to give (free) books on a regular basis to pre-school children who may otherwise have no means of getting books into their homes. Statistics suggest that children who come from homes that have books become readers. Dolly began her charity give-aways in the poor areas of Appalachia, but now the charity serves areas all over the globe.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Colour Me

...Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, anyway!*

Finally, an end is in sight. My color starved days of knitting neutrals are numbered.

I am deep enough into my brother's Spruce Cove Pullover that I feel a sense of accomplishment already. I've progressed a bit further than this picture shows and the mock rib of the body knits up pretty quickly. (I apologize for the blurry photography.)

I've swatched for Dad's Henley sweater in a darker, tweedy brown (Vanna's Choice in Barley). I'll actually be custom designing his sweater based on his measurements and a combination of reference sources (much more on that later).

But the real fun is this: 

This is going to be the sweetest little cowl (for me!) and it is a pleasure to knit. It is the simplest pattern (just enough YOs and K2togs to keep it interesting) and the colors just spin onto the needle like magic. This is a wee kit that came in the cutest packaging (which had a ridiculously large part in my deciding to purchase it) from Friends & Fiberworks, a LYS in Candler, NC. They sometimes bring samples of yarn and kits to sell at the monthly meeting I attend for the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild. (I'm the guild secretary this year, which is pretty cool, if I say so myself.)

See? Cute as a button! The yarn is Adriafil KnitCol color no. 61. According to Adriafil's UK web site, it is also known as "Chopin Fancy." As WEBS points out, it features teal, wine, lilacs, and browns. The sample cowl matched the shirt I was wearing at the meeting and I just loved the mix of colors. I was lucky to find one of the kits that actually had the same colors as the sample. You can see from the links that this yarn comes in the complete rainbow! Even after looking at all the others, I think this one is still my favorite. Two little buns of color, a neatly folded pattern, and perfectly sized plastic box zips around the top and, get this, has its own handle. You can just take your knitting kit with the rainbow all tucked inside for a stroll!

*Props to Blondie's "Call Me".