Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Loopy Ewe - Spring Fling 2008

Wow. What a great weekend. It was months ago that Sheri, at The Loopy Ewe announced the inaugural Spring Fling. I emailed and said I would like to attend, and then waited to hear if my name was drawn from the hat. It was! I paid my money and signed up for the classes I wanted, and the days grew closer. It was really my birthday present to myself, since it began the day after.

People look at you funny when you say you're going to a knitting retreat. For some reason a lot of people think that the word "retreat" always connotes something religious. It doesn't. Take my word for it. Comments ranged from, "so it's knitting then praying then knitting, huh?" to "Oh yeah, a knitting retreat - let me get the bail money ready, that''s going to be a wild time." (this last from my cousin, the criminal attorney :-D). Well, not so wild - I didn't even get to go to the Blues bar there in the hotel because Missouri is not smoke-free like Illinois and my asthma didn't want to chance a night in a smoky bar. Still, it was a wonderful event and I had a great time. Lot's of knitting time, and a LOTS of spinning time, too!

I didn't take a lot of photos this trip- mostly of Cedric my travel gnome, who was so indignant at my November visit to The Loopy Ewe (the one where he didn't get to go in . . . ) that he insisted on being photographed pretty much everywhere at Loopy Central this time. As you can see, he got quite close to Little Loopy . . . and I had no idea he needed a chaperone, but after finding him the giant bowl of kisses together with Little Loopy . . . 'nuff said I think.

But for posterity, here he is - not digitally inserted this time, next to the sign he likes so much (I'm still not quite clear on the gnome / elf connection, but I'm going with it - it seems to make him happy :-)).

Yes - The Fling was great fun. I got to meet so many people I had only known online through the Ravelry Spring Fling board, and also Claudia, the Wollmeise herself, direct from Germany. I got to take class from Wendy Johnson and Cookie A, and learned that while I'm likely to be quite a competent toe-up sock knitter, the sock designing gene is sadly missing from my makeup. I'm thinking I was behind the door when they were passing that one out. Still, it was great to take Cookie's class and learn about how she does what she does so well. The food was great, there were cupcakes (thank you Leslie), and mass quantities of laughter. April birthdays were celebrated, substantial shopping occurred, and I would go again in a heartbeat!

There was quite an eclectic group of people at the hotel while we were there this weekend. When I arrived on Thursday, there was an Edward Jones training conference going on. By Friday afternoon, the hotel was overrun with hundreds of small children . . . competing in something that must have been akin to Little Miss Sunshine, but without the charming character of Olive nor the ever-entertaining actor, Alan Arkin. Quite frankly I found it disturbing on many levels. Seeing these little girls in wigs, full makeup, and adult (and I do mean adult) clothing just made my heart ache, and doing my best not to judge, I still felt a deep and profound sadness every time I saw them - and they all looked miserable . . . at any rate, I was glad that I had hit the hot tub and pool on Thursday night, when there was just one investment banker and me, rather than any other night when it was full of kids trying to let off some steam. By Saturday the kiddy beauty pageant had morphed into a kiddy model search . . . and there was a miniature bottle convention going on in another room. I'm not kidding: Midwest Miniature Bottle Collectors. Quite a mix.

Where's the loot?! Here's the loot. Clearly, as my friend, Joyce likes to say: I need more supervision. Of course Sheri doesn't think so, since she and her family could probably go to Bermuda on what I spent this weekend alone :-D Still, this was a dispensation in my Stash Challenge . . . which hasn't been going so well, lately. Clearly. And I suppose it's made worse by the fact that I actually bought MORE yarn and some roving from The Loopy Ewe a couple of days before the Fling and picked it up there :-D

In the photo - some Handmaiden Sea Silk, some Claudia Handpaints silk, some Yarn Nerd, an assortment of Fiesta's Baby Boomerang, some more Shibui Knits, and some of the new Noro sock yarn. There was a skein of Wollmeise in our goody bags, but since I didn't buy it, it wasn't in the new stash pile.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What a Day This Has Been . . .

What a rare mood I'm in. . . :-)

Points to whoever tells me what that is and where it's from.
Today is nearly over and I will get in the car early to head to St. Louis for The Loopy Ewe Spring Fling. Seems like forever ago that I got a spot and signed up, and here it is. I'll bring back a full report.

In the mean time, here's the tree - it's far more impressive than this photo would have you believe, so I'll give you a close up, too. And it smells heavenly.

My cousin came over here tonight because today is my birthday. She brought Thai food and a bottle of wine, and it was a lovely ending to this 23rd day of April. All day long, people at work and on Ravelry (some people I don't even KNOW on Ravelry) have been wishing me happy wishes, and at work it was "staff appreciation day." Well, I qualify as staff, so it was like celebrating all day long - a breakfast, a new backpack, ice cream in the afternoon, and then the department I work in had cake for me! Cake, I say!! My favorite thing!! With lots of icing!! :-D All day long people wished me happy birthday, and for some reason, this just made me feel like a million bucks.

Here are my birthday flowers from my Aunt. She's pretty old school, so it's an orchid corsage, but they are lovely and I wore them all evening, and then I sent them home with my cousin :-)

Here's a look at the Lorna's Laces Somerset that I mentioned last post. It spins up quite nicely in worsted weight - it's not soft though. I don't actually know what type of wool it is - it just said 100% wool top, so I think it's probably a blend. It's definitely for outerwear. My main error here was tying my quarter ties too tight - this yarn bloomed substantially when I finished it. There's a little under 200 yards here.

And here is the Gypsy Girl Creations yarn. I'm not as happy with this - although I think it will knit up better than it looks in this photo. It's a little muddy looking to me.

That's the update from The Third Coast tonight - I'm off to pack the suitcase and hit the hay :-)

What a day this has been, what a rare mood I'm in . . . :-)

Thank you to everyone who made this a fabulous, happy day for me!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April Showers

Another rainy Saturday in Chicagoland. I had planned to spend today out in my yarn, doing some spring cleanup, but it's raining. So I'm not. Spring, however, is finally here! I'm finally starting to see sprouts of bulbs, and the shrubs around my house are starting to leaf out. My magnolia tree went from this late in the afternoon on Tuesday:

to this early Thursday morning - that morning light was amazing. I would take one of it for you today, because it's really starting to bloom, but my camera battery just croaked, and besides, it's raining. So, you'll have to wait to see the tree in all its glory - and it is glorious :-)

You'll also have to wait to see my latest spinning - 545 yards of sport weight (approx. 16 wpi for you spinners out there), merino/Tencel blend from Gypsy Girl Creations. I have started on the Somerset roving I got at the Lorna's Laces Mill End Sale, and I'm spinning it thicker. PatsyZ, my teacher, suggested that I always have two projects going at the same time - of different weights - thus avoiding what happens to some spinners: They work so hard to spin a fine thread, that they can never go back to thicker and/or lumpy/bumpy novelty yarns. Makes sense to me, and it's going WAY faster than the Gypsy Girl stuff did.

I'm almost two weeks caffeine-free, and I actually can say that I feel better than I have in quite awhile. I never felt any different the last time I gave up pop, but I definitely do this time. I was sleepy and fuzzy for about a week - and it was 10 days before I actually could say I felt pretty good. But I do feel good, and I'm really really sleeping again, which for some women of a certain age becomes a problem. You might want to keep that in mind ;-)

April is just zooming by - on Thursday I will be heading back to Missouri for The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling knitting retreat. I am really looking forward to it, and wish we had more things going on in Illinois like it. Speaking of Illinois, I encourage you to check out the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair website. This will be the second year for the fair and they are offering memberships, which are very reasonable - it's easy peasy to sign up! As my late mom used to say: "If you don't patronize your your local merchants, pretty soon you won't have any." So go and take a look, and if you can, support this local event :-)

My spinning wheel is calling me!

p.s. I slept through the earthquake, unlike in California where they terrified me. I must have thought it was a train passing by :-D

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So Much for the Stash Challenge :-D

Lorna's Laces factory tour and mill end sale. Need I say more?

Prolly not, but I will anyway. Being a member of the Windy City Knitting Guild afforded me the opportunity to attend this event yesterday. I got up at my normal 5 a.m., and did my normal morning stuff, and headed up to Linda, the Chicken Lady's house to go to Lorna's Laces. You can't get in until 10 in the morning - but you have to get there early to get a number, because they only let 20 people in at one time. We were numbers 8 and 9!

We met Jamie and Rachel there (#s 6 and 7!), and with numbers and umbrellas in hand, we headed over to Beans & Bagels (it could be Bagels & Beans . . . one or the other) and had some breakfast and hung out for a couple of hours until it was time to go back over and get in line.

Mad rush for the first 20 people who get to get in first. I got some Helen's Lace, and also some roving, and a skein of the new Green Line yarn. Then I headed back into the main room to look over the Shepherd sock, worsted and sport yarns. It's not quite as bad as it looks, because the bag on the left has mostly roving in it, and that takes up more space :-)

After all the shopping was over, we got to see a demonstration of how the yarn is dyed. It was very interesting to see how it went from the plain base yarn at the top to the "Lakeview" colorway, at the bottom!

By the time we were done there, we were all hungry. We walked down a few blocks to Cafe 28, a Cuban restaurant that was just wonderful!! Yum! I'm reasonably sure that we saw Harold Ramis (or someone who looked a really lot like him) there, enjoying lunch with his family, so that was a fun celebrity siting :-)

Back up to Linda's for a while, but we were both really tired, so I didn't stay long.

This last week was a week of recovery from the work event I participated in last weekend - in addition, I picked this week to give up drinking Diet Pepsi. Now, if you know me at all, you know I am rarely seen without a Diet Pepsi attached to my hand. Giving up pop for me is akin to quitting smoking . . . and it did them both the same way. Cold turkey. Eleventy million years ago when I quit smoking, that's what I did. I quit. Tuesday, I quit drinking pop - actually, I suppose it's more accurate to say that I'm going caffeine-free. One caffeine headache on Wednesday morning, and a general fuzziness for a couple of days, and other than being a little sleepy, that's it. Pretty amazing, actually.

Are you asking yourself why? It's because I finally heard something that actually made sense to me about all that caffeine in my system and how constant jolts of caffeine trigger constant releases of the stress hormone cortisol into one's system. Made sense to me :-)

Today was a ride up to Elk Grove Village to enjoy my Christmas present from my friend, Connie (she's blogless :-) ). She got me a 2-hour lesson with my spinning teacher, PatsyZ. My homework was approved and marks given for my worsted - my woolen still has a ways to go, but since I prefer spinning worsted anyway, I'm feeling pretty good about it. I had a lesson in using my 4-pitch combs, and a refresher on carding. And probably the most exciting, Patsy helped me work with the Iona wool that started this entire spinning adventure. She sorted it out - the non-usable bits are gone, but there is still some good wool there, and I've changed my plan from a pullover to a cardigan.

I'll be getting the fleece this August with Patsy's guidance, probably Corriedale, and hopefully at the Michigan Fiber Festival. It will likely be cleaned, blended and processed in Ohio. I should be spinning my Iona sweater wool in Autumn 2008. I'm pretty excited about this!!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pieces of the Past . . .

This path to myself is a rocky one at times, and it continues to be about letting go of the past, which is, at times, difficult, and at other times, a complete and utter relief.

It's amazing to me how much I am learning about my spirit - my heart - on this journey. I don't know how much of this has been spurred by The Artist's Way, and how much by my own longing for wholeness, but however it's arriving, arriving it is. In fits and starts, but things are becoming more clear in many areas, and for that I am grateful. Certainly the work entailed in The Artist's Way has been enlightening, if difficult at times - and it has helped me uncover things long buried that are beneficial to my journey now.

I learned some hard lessons over this past week. It was brought home to me in a number of ways that if I do not pay attention to myself and what my body and spirit are telling me, the consequences can be dire. I think about how often in the past I have ignored clear, blazing bright signs. Sometimes for me the message has to be loud to be heard, but - I get it now. I'm listening.

I did some mental house-cleaning during the days of enforced reading deprivation, and then today, some actual divesting of things that no longer serve me - mostly clothes that don't fit - some that won't ever fit since it's unlikely I'll ever be a size 6 on the top and an 8 on the bottom again at any time soon, at least not in this particular life time. Some that were my mom's and don't really suit me - I was keeping them for other reasons, and it's time now to let them go.

And then, as I was going through the closet, I found the outfit I got married in the last time. (Yes, I've done that more than once . . . ) It was an unseasonably warm day at the end of March in 1999 - I was wearing this beautiful outfit. I was beautiful in it. It's only about a size too small, so there's a significant possibility that it would fit again - I could dye it, I could certainly wear it again (oh come on - does anyone ever wear this stuff again?). But I won't dye it, and the memories it holds now are bittersweet at best. I don't want to wear it again - it's a piece of the past that still has some hidden jagged edges for me - best to let it go. Someone will find it at the Second Chance shop and be thrilled to have it - and it will bring joy into another's life, much as it did to mine at the time. It served its purpose and now it's another just a piece of the past.

I'm finding the more I let go, the better it is for me.

There was knitting accomplished during the last week - believe it or not. I had to stop the Raj Shawl, because I couldn't read the chart ;-D So, I started a pair of basic socks out of some Opal self-striping yarn, and that was my train knitting. Not quite done yet, but soon. I finished up a prayer shawl that had been on the needles for awhile - no reading required there, and I started another one because we're getting low on the stash of them at church.

And today, while I'm home, I finished off my Yukon Leaves socks. These will count for my April socks on the SAM5 KAL. I discovered this pattern through the Knitted Squirrel. Wendi keeps finding these great free sock patterns, so I keep copying off of her :-D I don't think she minds. I like this pattern very much. It is similar to the Fawkes Socks, but I prefer this one. I used my own standard heel - that was the only mod.

The yarn is ShibuiKnits in the Midnight (2955) colorway. This yarn is a dream to work with, but it definitely a fine yarn. The extra repeat in the calf section caused me to be, literally, down to the last few yards of each skein. I knit these up on 1 1/2's and if I were to make this pattern with this yarn again, I would do one less repeat on the calves and add an extra purl stitch between the pattern repeats as this doesn't have quite as much stretch as I might like. Still in all, I'm very pleased with how they came out. Here is a closeup so you can see the stitch definition.

Now that I can read the pattern, I'm ready to start the Country Girl socks, which are the next in my DIY Sock Club, but first I have some homework for The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling so I'm ready for my classes there!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reading Deprivation

I made it until today.

I had to open my email this morning. JesusMaryandJoseph. 53 and 47 emails in my two accounts. How can that be??? I only read TWO and answered them - I deleted the crap, and without realizing it, 30 minutes was sucked out of my life. TWO emails. 30 minutes.

I just cannot believe how hard not reading is. All I have wanted to do, ever since Sunday is READ. I had to laugh at myself, because I haven't even been reading for pleasure all that much lately, but as soon as I couldn't, I was a woman possessed. There was no ban on writing, so technically I guess I could have posted here, but it was just easier to not turn the computer on at all . . . I confess to having to go into my email on Monday to get two phone numbers - you have NO earthly idea how hard it was to not open anything else, and that was only the second day :-S

Yesterday I went in to Borders and I bought THREE books. This was insane. I'm insane. Clearly. I mean, I have a "to read" shelf that is full (really full), but I was desperate for books. DESPERATE. I was reduced to judging them BY THEIR COVERS because I couldn't read the back because that would be reading for pleasure.

I realized early on that if I was to make it through the week at all, I would have to qualify this somehow - it was the week before the biggest event of the year at work, and so I decided that reading that was related to work would have to be allowed. I wrote a HUGE research report early in the week which entailed constant Web searches . . . again, it was torture to not just click a few times and be into Ravelry or read the news on cnn.com

Knitterary - I spend most of my days at work writing, and in the past I never saw the benefit of this deprivation either - in fact, this is where I quit multiple times - but I learned something valuable this morning. The computer is a time suck. It's my worst time suck. I cannot believe how easy it is to fritter away an hour or two without even thinking. I'm not surprised I've often felt like I never had enough time to accomplish things.

So now - and from now on - there is a timer on my desk here at home. I'm going to limit myself on the computer. I did a lot of knitting (easy knitting without patterns), and even some mid-week spinning in the midst of working a LOT of hours this week. I think that's the point - time to do my art, whatever it is, and however it is, and in whatever form it asks to be done :-)

I've wanted more time to do other stuff - I have a better idea now of how to get it.

I'm going to do the best I can for the next couple days - I'm heading into this huge work event (I even bought new black tie clothes (so not me)) so that will help. I'll be too busy to miss reading. I'm really looking forward to Sunday and being home - I'm blocking out some time with the egg timer now :-D

p.s. sorry about no links in this post, but it's too dangerous to Web surf until Sunday when I won't feel like I'm breaking curfew or something ;-)