Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Better late than never!

This was supposed to be posted yesterday, February 7, on Charles Dickens' 199th birthday. However, yesterday I was dealing with calls from the assistant principal (the boy spent the afternoon in her office, bless him) while knitting furiously on a replacement Valencia (the original sample got lost in the mail last summer) and watching a Real Houswives of New York rerun marathon. So...in other words, I was busy with Very Important Stuff.

Without further ado, here's my latest project (well, not MY project per se, but one I was very happy to be involved with):

(Click on the image to be taken to the preorder page.)

Here's a little peek at my project, inspired by Wilhelmina, the heroine of Bram Stoker's epic vampire novel Dracula:

This sweet little baby was a welcome break for me from socks, socks and more socks. I love socks and all, but it is nice to branch out every once in awhile! The book includes the work of a bunch of designers, inspired by works of classic literature, and each designer wrote an essay about how their design emerged from their chosen characters. It's great fun, and another experiment in non-traditional publishing spearheaded by Heather Ordover of Craftlit and Shannon Okey of Cooperative Press.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program of learning to spin, losing weight at boot camp and dealing with an overly exhuberant kindergartener and newly knitting 2nd-grader. Yes, I have more to talk about very soon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

So much for more frequent blogging!

I'm really trying to do more tweeting, Facebooking and blogging this year, but I keep forgetting! Forgetfulness runs in my family, and it doesn't get better with age. It's very unhelpful combined with my tendency towards procrastination.

I'm sure you'd like to see a little knitting, so here's what I've been working on. It's all about the CSK these days, and I just turned out one of my favorite patterns so far:

This is Supernova, which I named for the little star-explosion looking motifs up the front and back. It's made in the colorway Ladies That Lunch, dyed by my friend Lorajean of Knitted Wit. I fell in love with this colorway when she introduced it at Deb Accuardi's pre-Sock Summit luncheon in 2009, but it was a toughie to work with. I probably love this sock so much because it was such hard work finding a stitch pattern that actually worked with the crazy variegation!

Besides knitting sock after sock, I've also managed to start really getting myself in shape by going to daily boot camp workouts. Fortunately I was sort of in shape already from all the walking I did to train for the marathon last fall, but my muscles (other than in my legs) were totally soft. I wasn't so sure about my chances for survival after the first week, but I do like the fact that all my pants are too big now. Too bad I don't have any money left for shopping after the Christmas craziness!

I've also grudgingly accepted the fact that I enjoy watching football. From about the 8th grade on, I've spent my life cultivating a studious disdain for football (and golf). Bill has had a lifelong love affair with the Pittsburgh Steelers (even though he's never lived anywhere near Pittsburgh), so I finally sat down and had him explain the game to me a few weeks ago. I watched the entire playoff game yesterday and am now looking forward to watching the Superbowl. There - I said it. The planet can officially explode now. I've been watching golf lately, too, although I can't sit through a whole day of it (or more than 45 minutes or so, to be totally honest).

I will always prefer basketball to any other spectator sport, however. Tennis and running are a close 2nd and 3rd, but basketball I'll take any day of the week. One of the big irritations in my life right now is the fact that Comcast blocks out games in our local market so the only way to watch all the Blazers games is to have Comcast. We've had DirecTV longer than we've had Sydney, so Bill especially is not enthusiastic about changing. His grand plan is to sign up for Comcast during the basketball season just to watch the games but nothing else. I'm not sure why he's so attached to DirecTV, but he is!

Now is my chance to get a bit of work done while the kiddos are at swimming lessons. Sydney finally mastered the back glide last week, so she's pretty excited to be moving up to the next level. She's so skinny she can't actually float on her back without sinking, so it has been a struggle to get her courageous enough to glide on her back on her own.

Hope you all are having a great first month of 2011. I promise my next post will be a little less sports, a little more fiber!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New pattern for the new year!

It has been awhile since I've released a new pattern for Gardiner Yarn Works (the book is taking up almost all of my pattern-writing time and energy, along with a couple other little side projects), but I've finally got one for you.

These are the Desmondus Socks (named after the vampire bat, if you were wondering):

There is both a men's version (that's Bill's giant foot and hairy leg there on the right side of the photo) and women's version (the women's has a little lace panel on either side of the foot while the men's is just cables).

Men's close-up:

Women's close-up:

It also has two heel options - linen stitch or heel stitch:

This pattern was designed exclusively for Sandra Singh, and can be purchased either as a pdf pattern or in a kit with the yarn (which is also exclusive to her, from our talented friends at Serendipitous Ewe).

Look at that - two posts for January already. I'm on a roll!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, 2010 - Hello, 2011!

Happy New Year!

This has been a year marked by many things, including a horrible lack of blogging. Will 2011 be better? It's always hard to say, but I like to start each year fresh with possibility. Blogging felt a little bit dry in 2010 because it started to feel like I was living the same year over and over. Another trip to New York to visit Bill's grandparents. Another trip to Montana. Another kid birthday party. Another TNNA. Another OFFF. But when I think back on this year, there were a lot of firsts.

Here's what happened in 2010:
* Sydney turned 7 and Owen turned 5 (weren't they newborns just yesterday?)
* Bill & I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a weekend in Vegas
* Our first niece was born, and Bill's grandfather passed away at age 99
* We took family vacations to Los Angeles, New York, Montana, Seattle and road tripped around SW Oregon (I got to see Crater Lake for the first time)

* I finally met my goal of completing a marathon, walking the Portland Marathon in 7 hours and 35 minutes.
* I went on to walk a half marathon in December in 3 hours and 12 minutes, which was a delightful time improvement.
* I got my CSK off the ground and have managed to get one pattern released per month (now to get working on the REST of the book patterns...!).
* Owen started kindergarten, and phone calls from the principal started almost immediately.
* I cut my hair off! And after a few months, decided to let it grow back (this is still a work in progress).
* I bought a spinning wheel, but I'm terrified of it so it's still in its shipping box.
* Sydney took over my office and now has her own fabulous bedroom (as does Owen, who no longer has to share with his sister). My office moved to the basement, which is currently about 20 degrees so I'm working from the dining room table instead.
* I traveled to London to teach at Knit Nation, which was one of the highlights of the summer. European knitters are great fun!

All in all, not a bad year!

I love to make New Year's resolutions. They usually don't get kept, but it's great fun to look over the list at the end of the year. I'm sort of an obsessive personality, in that I get really into things and they take over my life for a few months. Then, I'm on to something else. The resolutions always reflect what I was enamored with on New Year's Day, and often these things are a distant memory by the time the next New Year's comes around (like my resolution from last year to do yoga every day - that didn't work out quite as expected...).

For 2011, my resolutions are:
* Continue to lose weight. I've dropped about 20 lbs since mid-summer and have about 20 more to go to be back to where I was before I got pregnant with Sydney. I figure that my babies are 5 & 7, so it's time to lose that baby weight once and for all!
* Continue to work on my marathon training. I've signed up for the Portland marathon again, and hope to get my time under 7 hours this year. My ultimate goal is to break 6 hours so I can walk/run Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN, one of these summers.
* Get the book out. The CSK has given me a great start, and the CSK members are expecting a book at the end. Time to get knitting!
* Start the next CSK. Once the book is finished, I'd love to do another CSK - perhaps something to do with lace this time, since I'm going to need a break from socks...
* Yell at the kids less and hug them more.
* Take myself a lot less seriously, particularly when it comes to work and parenting. I lead a pretty charmed life - there's no need to be so crabby about it!
* Make more of an effort to connect with others. It's so easy to get wrapped up in family, family, kids, kids and forget about anyone outside of our little bubble. I will focus on not getting overwhelmed at the thought of leaving the house for an hour to have coffee with a friend, or spending 1/2 an hour reading tweets and/or Facebook posts. I've got the time, if I'm really honest with myself.
* Ignore politics as much as possible, for the sake of my blood pressure.
* Give people the benefit of a doubt.
* Make a conscious effort to have fun! I have an amazing ability to resist fun in favor of inertia, especially when the kids are involved. I'm sure nobody on their death bed wishes they'd spent more time on the sofa (or surfing the internet).

Think I can stick to 'em? It's nothing overly difficult - remembering to do things I'm not in the habit of will be the hardest part.

Welcome to 2011, everyone! Here's to approaching the new year with a fresh attitude and renewed hope.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Here it is!

The post you've been waiting for all summer! Yes, I'm back. For awhile I wasn't posting because I didn't feel like I had anything interesting to say. Then the tables turned, and I started getting intimidated by how MUCH I had to say. I figured that the situation isn't getting any better, so I may as well suck it up and just post.

Is anyone still reading this? Mom? I'm still alive, really!

So much has happened since last we visited. I launched a little pattern club, which now has over 200 members. (I know, I can hardly comprehend it myself!) I've just sent the September pattern off to the test knitters. The August pattern, Tulip Socks, is being knitted up by many happy CSK members and I'm loving seeing all the different results. Here's my original version:

I'm finding the CSK to be highly motivational - I've even got a non-CSK book sock on the needles, something that desperately needed to happen if I have any chance of finishing the book on schedule!

I also spent a fabulous week (well, 5 jet-lagged days) in London, teaching at the inaugural Knit Nation conference alongside such knitting powerhouses as Clara Parkes, Cookie A, Judith Mackenzie McCuin and Nancy Bush (among others). I managed to teach a number of folks from the far side of the pond (including several expats and one intrepid French student who spoke very little English) despite my extreme fatigue.

Knit Nation was held at Imperial College, which is in the heart of London, right next door to the Victoria & Albert museum. I didn't get a chance to visit the museum, but I walked by it daily and was particularly fascinated by this engraving:

The extent of the damage to the walls is quite incredible.

We got to stay in the dorms, which brought back some memories (except these were swanky dorms compared to the ones I lived in - all the rooms were singles, and they had their own bathrooms!). I taught my classes in the Physics building, which was a nondescript 70s building but almost directly across the street from this:

This being the famous Royal Albert Concert Hall. Pretty, isn't it? I also learned that "fanny" is a dirty word in Britain, and when I visited Buckingham Palace, the guards were NOT wearing their fancy red uniforms (how disappointing).

You can see one of the guards in a dark-colored police-looking uniform, standing near his little hut. It was a long walk, so I only had my iPhone with me and not my regular camera - apologies for the poor photo quality!

My classroom building was also next door to the Royal Academy of Music, and while exploring one of the little side streets, I found this building. Mom, this one's for you!

(Mom's an organist, in case anyone is wondering why this would get her all excited...)

For those of you who are into unicorns, I spotted this on the gates in front of Buckingham Palace:

For those of you who only care about yarn, I spotted these in the Marketplace, and they immediately demanded to come home with me. I'm seriously regretting not letting them bring a few more friends with them...

Yes, folks, that's the elusive Wollmeise (my always hilarious friend and colleague Janel Laidman, who was also in London, compares a Wollmeise sighting with spotting a unicorn - I just couldn't resist bringing a few skeins home, even though I have no idea when, if ever, I'll knit with it!). Claudia, the dyer, had the most amazing booth set up, with many samples of the yarn knit up, little birdhouses and almost every Wollmeise colorway under the rainbow. I didn't get a photo of the booth because it was a little scary in there (I didn't want to interfere with any shoppers, because oh, my goodness, Wollmeise is Serious Business). My cruddy photo doesn't begin to due the skeins I have in my hot little hands justice.

The green is going to go as a raffle prize to my lucky CSK members. The orange and purple are MINE!!!

My favorite memory of my London experience, besides hanging out with my fab students, of course, is of the morning I ran into Nancy Bush, Marjan Hammink and Judith Mackenzie McCuin on the street on my way to Starbucks and instead joined them for breakfast at the most lovely little French cafe. I had an almond croissant and a giant mocha served in a porcelain bowl while basking in the presence of these amazing women. Seriously, how lucky am I? How I managed to swing that one, I'll never know, but I will always count my blessings that I was invited to teach at the first Knit Nation (because I know there will be more, if Alice and Cookie haven't died of latent exhaustion).

In other news, summer is passing ridiculously quickly. I'm spending lots of time shuffling the kids to and from camps and lessons (they've both jumped a level in swimming lessons after FINALLY getting over their fear of putting their faces in the water), and also walking a lot. In fact, I'm walking so much that I decided to do something crazy and signed up to walk the Portland Marathon on 10/10.

Yes, folks, you heard it here. Because I don't have enough to do with running a pattern club, a wholesale pattern business and writing a book (along with trying to raise two reasonably well-behaved small people), I've decided to also train for a marathon. I'm going to be pushing it with a fairly compressed training schedule, but at least with walking I won't have to fight my horrible shin splints, which are the reason I've never successfully trained to *run* a marathon.

Wish me luck! I'm gonna need it!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Time for my monthly update...

Even though I'm sure it has been more than a month since my last post. Such is life these days!

I have been busily working behind the scenes on my latest project, which I introduce to you now:

(Click on the graphic to go to the new website...)

This is the first public step towards publication of my next book, which is aiming for next summer. It's ever so handy that there will be a Sock Summit 2011 to prod me along (thanks, Tina & Stephanie!).

The book will have little profiles on around 25 hand dyers who make fabulous sock yarn. Yes, it was incredibly hard to narrow it down to 25. We tried to find a wide variety of styles and business size ranges from teeny tiny to relatively large (although even the "big" dyers still only have a few people working to produce ALL. THAT. YARN.). Each dyer sent me a yarn that they feels represents them well, and I'm designing a sock specifically for each yarn. I'll also sprinkle in some tidbits on my own creative process.

The CSK (Community Supported Knitting - many thanks to Bill for coming up with that one!) idea is a way for people to get involved in the actual production of the book, sort of how a CSA member helps a farmer to harvest by purchasing the veggies before they're harvested (often before they're even planted!). With the CSK, as with the CSA, members will get patterns as they're developed instead of having to wait until the book is actually on the market. CSK members will truly be partners in the publishing of Indie Socks, and I find that idea to be so very exciting!

Just to tantalize you a little more, here are some of the luscious yarn photos that my intrepid photographer Gail (you'll remember her work from Toe-Up! and her fabulous blog) has taken of the yarns so far. Aren't they good enough to eat?

My biggest regret is that I can't send a skein of each yarn out with each copy of the book. Now wouldn't THAT be sweet. Donna and I briefly considered a yarn club to go along with the CSK, but I decided that I'd end up dead or institutionalized if I tried to take that on. I will happily be telling you how you can get your hands on each yarn for yourself, though.

Exclusive goodie bags for the first 150 people! Free stuff! Whoo!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Knit Nation 2010!

The post isn't up yet, but today is my day to be featured on the Knit Nation 2010 blog (in the meantime, you can read a great post about Clara Parkes). Somehow I managed to get myself invited to teach at this guaranteed-to-be-a-good-time new knitting festival happening in London this summer. Here's the official promotional blurb:

"Knit Nation is a knitting and spinning expo that will take place in London, England July 29-31. There will be yarn, classes, fiber, and festivities including a Ravelry talk and party. Centrally located at the Royal College next door to the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum, you can absorb the sites of London between classes, yarn shopping, and searching for the perfect skein of Wollmeise. Please come join us!"

Sounds like the perfect excuse to get your passport updated, eh?

I'll be teaching my basic toe-up sock class (which I've started to refer to as "boot camp for toe-up socks"), designed to get you on the path to knitting toe-up without fear. I'll also be teaching an intro to neck-down triangular lace shawls and two-at-once toe-up socks. You can view a complete list of classes from all the teachers (it's quite the line-up) here.

Come join us for loads of fibery (and touristy) fun! "Look, kids! Big Ben, Parliament." (Extra credit if you can tell me where that quote comes from...)