A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

My Photo
Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Monday, February 28, 2005

Now, how is that for inspiration?! Spring is truly right around the corner. Posted by Hello

What Kind of Yarn Are You?

Ifound this quiz on Melanie's blog, and had to take it; I promise not to forward it to ANYBODY, but feel free to follow the link and see what kind of yarn you turn out to be.

Goddess yarns. I always get the prettiest and
softest yarn I can find, even if it's expensive
or hard to find.

What brand of yarn are you? (Knitting)
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Hay String

Every morning while I am feeding my burros, I look at the growing pile of hay string (the thin rope that binds the bales, three per bale, and probably nylon) and wonder what I could knit up to use this free stuff. So, this morning I brought a few lengths in and used my biggest needles (size 19 circular) and cast on as many stitches as one string would yield. Turned out to be 24. Proceeded to knit a couple rows, and the texture wasn't that bad to work with, but I don't think I'll make a habit of it. Wool, alpaca and plushy chenille are soo much nicer! Now, I need to think of something useful - my original idea had been making a doormat, but the fabric is too thin for that. I am going to try a tote pattern, and maybe come up with a hay net, to carry hay out to the animals further away from the barn... those of you with livestock know that before too long, no matter what you do, there is hay littering around everywhere. Any other ideas out there?

hay string in its natural state Posted by Hello

Knitted up on size 19 needles Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Spring Yarns At A Store Near You

Have you gotten round to your LYS to see what is arriving daily? I feel lucky in that I got to drop by both of them in the past few days, and boxes of spring colors are being unpacked ... of course I also had to hear, "Come back next week and we'll have that unpacked and out on the shelves by then".

Fibers has some of the nifty yarns made from new fiber combinations out already, and I got to see a different sweater knitted up out of the same hemp yarn featured in Interweave's Wear-Everywhere Pullover. This yarn is a little "crunchier" than I would like in a spring or summer sweater, but I could see making it up as a slightly loose tank top for great ventilation in super-hot weather (like our Sierra summers). I also am going to save the Wear-Everywhere Pullover on my list of possible future projects - I like the lines and would probably wear it "everywhere" in my winter climate here in Northern California.

Fibers also had a nice display of Pakucho organic cotton in naturally-grown colors from Cottage Industry. I would love a sleeveless top made up in chocolate or avocado (after growing up with 70's-style avocado decorator schemes pervading the social landscape, I NEVER thought I would hear myself choosing that color for anything!). This yarn is very soft and has a slight sheen, and a color palette that is soothing and a refreshing contrast to the very bright colors offered in most of the spring fashions (and much of the yarns, too). I picked up last summer's issue of Interweave Knits, full of summer tops, to get me dreaming of something to make with this yarn.

I also really liked an interesting variegated yarn from Knit One Crochet Too that featured recycled cotton left over from textile production. Called Second Time Cotton, it was a cross between the hemp yarn and the organic cotton in texture, and had very interesting, subtle blends of mostly cool colors, such as denim and deep red. I was looking for a non-wool to make a spring/summer shrug I found in the 2002 InKnitters' charity knitting booklet, available at their website as a free, downloadable PDF file. This yarn, although appealing, felt like it would have knitted up too stiff for that design.

In an Internet search to look up the recycled yarn, I came upon this interesting site, where you can purchase textile industry wastes in bulk... great sources for fiber artist/experimenters.

The Fibers staff were also making up samples of a cotton/silk ponchette and a stole from another silk blend, but these yarns weren't out on display yet. An excuse for another visit soon, as if I needed one.

While visiting Meadowfarm Yarn Studio, I saw a brighter array of colors, and Ellen, the owner, assured me that they are getting more yarn in daily, with brights ruling this spring. Meadowfarm features lots of Crystal Palace, Rowan, Berroco, and other favorites, which brings me to the exciting news that my Trio Bolero is more than half finished! I completed the back and most of the right front last night. I had decided to eliminate side seams and work the bottom of the jacket all in one piece, and now I have the left front and sleeves to finish, as well as the trim. My version is in the circus/fuschia colorway, using purple Fizz instead of the orange shown in the pattern, which is more subtle, although that is probably not an appropriate adjective for such a flashy piece of apparel. While out shopping today, I contemplated finding a summery skirt to wear with it, but picked up another pair of my favorite jeans instead, and some strappy white platform sandals... that will have to do for its first appearance when I go down to LA in three weeks. Better start scoping out yarn stores to visit.....

Friday, February 25, 2005

Knitting makes the Grocery Store newsstands

You know how you can't help but read all the trashy headlines while waiting in lines at the grocery store? People, The Star, The Enquirer ("Enquiring Minds Want to Know!")? Well, over the past year, my daughter and I both have gotten into the habit of picking up First For Women. Maybe it's the colorful covers, or maybe the latest diet news, or maybe it's the $1.99 price tag. I grabbed the latest issue last night while collecting dinner and beverages on the way to my night class and was surprised today to come across an article titled "Freedom from Chronic Anxiety", touting knitting!

"The popularity of knitting has grown exponentially since September 11 ... After the attacks, people craved the familiarity of knitting, perhaps because it represents a simpler, safer time", Mary Colucci, executive director of the Craft Yarn Council, is quoted.

The other fascinating tidbit from this article was: "Researchers at University College London studying post-traumatic stress disorder found that subjects who performed visouspatial tasks (activities that keep the hands occupied with a sequential pattern) such as knitting were better able to overcome the effects of any trauma they had experienced". I am going to consider that a prescription to carry on...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

My First Order

Yesterday, my friend Suzi saw my purple felted purse and wanted me to make one "just like it" for her. I will have to run by my LYS and see if I can still get the color in Cascade 220, a heathered purple, that she says exactly matches a sweater she brought back from the Andes. My first order of yarn from Elann for purses to sell arrived, so I guess I'm on my way. The plus to this small home business is that the idea has come from outside, in "the market", through requests, rather than yet another one of my wacky ideas that the world wasn't ready for yet.

Last year, I was making braided belts out of the Make Your Own Tack book, but not finding any interest in them, even among my animal-people friends. I donated a few to charity events, but while doing my tax prep spreadsheet last week, realized that I didn't make a dime with this project. Sigh. I just love the feel of mohair, so am still looking forward to weaving a few mohair saddle cinches, but not expecting to achieve fame or fortune through that endeavor. Probably won't with the purses, either, but at least I feel more appreciated already.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Happy Birthday Jesse

Today is my youngest son, Jesse's 19th birthday! How did so much time go by? He is tall and handsome, competent and determined. He is sad that his girlfriend Kristen leaves in less than a month to enter the Marine Corps Reserves, but happy with the fact that I let him buy my 1999 Honda Civic from me last month. He works at Albertsons and is attending Sierra College part-time. I love him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Two Important Books

I am in the middle of reading two books that are seeming very important to me right now. The first one is Knitting Into the Mystery, by Rev. Susan Izard and Susan Joregensen and the second is The Last of the Donkey Pilgrims, by Kevin O'Hara.

Knitting Into the Mystery details the growing Prayer Shawl movement, which is very diverse but deeply rooted in spiritual tradition. The basic premise is that a knitter commits to making a shawl, either for someone they know, or a total stranger, who is in need of comfort. Recipients are often cancer patients, survivors of domestic violence, and the elderly, however, the shawls have also been given to help a person through a time of transition, such as the death of a loved one or divorce.

Individuals try to meditate on the recipient or circumstances throughout the process of creating the gift shawl, and the book contains an array of healing prayers from a variety of traditions. I am moved to participate in this ministry because it is so free-form. I am able to work from my own spiritual beliefs, and still be a part of a greater whole, working together to bring comfort and solace to others.

The book is not really a knitting book, but more about knitting as a source for meditation, and about how helping others can help heal oneself. Most of the knitters use a multiple of threes (a number sacred in many religions) and a K3, P3 pattern with size 13 needles and bulky yarn to make a warm, cuddly shawl. Lion Brand Homespun is often the yarn of choice because of its washability and soft hand. I was deeply moved by the stories of people coming together to share making shawls and how the process has affected their own lives.

The second book is not so much about donkeys as it is an odyssey. Kevin O'Hara decided in 1979, while on a visit to his relatives in Ireland, that he would circumnavigate the coastline of Ireland with a donkey and cart. He is considered daft, but apparently that was not an uncommon trait in the Ireland of the time, and several knowledgeable people come forward to help him commence this endeavor. He acquires Missy the donkey and a suitable cart, and even takes driving lessons, but decides it would be more egalitarian to walk with Missy and have the cart carry their food and gear. The book is wonderfully written, describing the people and land that he meets in the prose of a true storyteller. I am only about a third of the way through, but am recommending to others that they add this book to their vacation reading stash this year. I know that I have always wanted the chance to make a year-long (or even summer-long) odyssey, or pilgrimage as O'Hara dubs it. It was a life-changing event for him, and has been great reading for me.

Monday, February 21, 2005

What I'm Working On

Here is a current list of my Works in Progress:

Mia's striped baby blanket - in lilac and peach Bernat Berella, this project is close to halfway!

Trio Bolero - I just cast on this morning, because I couldn't stand to wait any longer. I think it is the weeks' worth of rain, making me long for the chance to wear spring clothing.

Eros Scarf - this project has moved in and out of my carry-around pouch, yielding throughout the month of February to one pair of slippers, one baby jacket, two earflap hats and three charity scarves I have already finished and displayed in previous posts. I still plan to finish it up this month.

Brown Shetland wool socks - I decided last week that I am going to re-do this sock pattern using Marguerite's Old Shale sock pattern and make a rainbow cuff with the yarn left over from the baby jacket. I just loved the pastel rainbows and the feel of the merino, and think this will work. Even though the Shetland looks loftier, the gauge is the same.

Yarn piles waiting in the wings include enough to make a prayer shawl, some cotton/rayon on order to knit up a spring version of Clapotis, denim Brown Sheep worsted for a pair of felted clogs, and of course there's still the vest, coffee cup sweater and men's jacket that have been languishing in unfinished states for a few years now. I also started ordering yarn for a few felted purses to sell to fill requests.

I am looking forward to spending the first weekend in March with my quilt guild, and completing the Hawaiian quilt top I started more than a year ago for my daughter, Nikki, who made the comment as I was showing off yet another completed knitting project: "So, have you given up quilting entirely, now?"

And here's a little personal info, courtesy of yet another meme (a fast one though)...
bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Knit for Her Cure

I just finished the knitting on my Knit for Her Cure project, and now need to add the fringes later this weekend. The yarns are GGH Travertino, a mostly wool blend from Italy that is chunky and very soft, paired with Muench Touch Me, a ribbon to be added to the fringe. They were paired in colors I wouldn't normally select or wear, which is another aspect of charity knitting that I like; I am doing this not for myself but as a vessel for something other than myself. The results are often revealing and stretch my own world view.

I wanted to share some information about this very nice and very worthy project that I stumbled upon when I visited a new LYS last week (Fibers in Grass Valley).

From the instruction brochure included in my scarf kit:

"Knit For Her Cure has partnered with Muench Yarns & Buttons to form a new initiative. The objective of this partnership is to serve as a catalyst and rallying point for encouraging knitters to join in the fight against women's cancers. The Program is a multifaceted promotional effort that gives those with a passion for knitting and a heart for helping an opportunity to lift the spirits of women in their community who are coping with cancer. This initiative also strives to inspire hope by contributing a portion of every kit's proceeds to women's cancer research".

Breast cancer research is one of the initiatives closest to my heart; my mother and both of her sisters all were breast cancer survivors and died of other causes, but one of their cousins died at the tender age of 38 from the disease. My others cousins and I are all very vigilant to attempt to protect our health. I have also watched two very dear colleagues fight breast cancer in the past few years. One survived her treatment while the other did not and passed on last September. I was heartbroken. I don't know if or when there will be a cure, but I have found it heartening to see so much effort mobilized for a cure in recent years. There is a certain measure of commercialization that has come with this, but I make sure I am buying something I would have purchased anyway, such as socks that donate $1 to breast cancer research vs. ones that don't. In this case, I buy yarn pretty regularly and was able to quickly create a donation to add to the effort.

I like the narrow, lengthwise-knit scarf, and will package it up in the cute little plastic zip case that came with the kit and return the finished product to my LYS for them to distribute as they see fit.

Knitting in Class

Nikki and I have been attending an Early Childhood class at the local community college every Thursday night, titled "Supervision of Programs for Young Children" and bringing knitting to work on while I listen to the instructor, discussions and several guest speakers. This class is a summary of the various pieces of running an early childhood education program, and I haven't met much new knowledge from the meetings or the text yet, but will be able to list it in my course roster (I hold a high school credential and a Child Development Site Supervisor permit, and Nikki has completed her AA in Child Development as well as qualified for a Child Development Master Teacher permit).

In my younger days, I worried about offending instructors by knitting during classes, and that is probably one reason I have a habit of sitting in the back! This instructor has been intrigued as I worked my way through a hat, one of my Red Scarf Projects, and now the striped baby blanket. We all bring our dinners and eat them during the first half hour, and we were a bit early this week, unpacking food and drink and me my knitting, when she asked "What are you working on this time?" Nikki had to brag about my felted purse and show it off to those already at class, and the instructor asked if I make them to sell... since this is the third request in as many days, I said "Yes, I'm going to put some in the craft cooperative in Downieville this summer", and actually ordered the first batch of yarn from Elann yesterday. Does this mean I'm in business?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Felted purse is a hit!

I took my newly felted purple purse with me to work and about yesterday and got so many compliments! I was a little surprised, thinking just us crafty types would like such a thing, but one of my quilt guild buddies, Lynn, suggested that I make some up to put in their crafts cooperative for sale this summer. Now, to get hot water plumbed to a washer at my own home... or maybe that solar water heater on the top of the wash house can be made functional and do the trick.

 Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Baby Jacket for Mia

The rainbow-colored jacket for baby Mia is finished, and will be getting it off in the mail tomorrow. It turned out very pretty and even though she is now five weeks old, should still fit for a few months.

 Posted by Hello

Monday, February 14, 2005

.... as I love you! I found this very cute Valentine for my husband at Fibers, one of our two LYSs. Posted by Hello

We also shared the best chocolate ever, Dagoba's Xocolatl

 Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Stitch and Bitch meeting today

We were planning to have our second Stitch and Bitch meeting this afternoon at Casey's Place in Alleghany, and I was trying to get a few chores done first when Cheryl called to tell me that there was a sign on Casey's door saying "Closed for vacation". She graciously offered to host us all at her house, where we had a peaceful and productive afternoon. Charlene was crocheting a panel for her afghan, Cheryl and Claudia were both making the most beautiful hand-crafted Valentines ever (Claudia's were from hand-painted paper and Cheryl's were bright pink felts), and Claudia had brought her friend Stephanie, who was darning a sock! Actually, turns out several of us knew how... Stephanie also went on to knit on a deep green sweater and shared the cool catalog from Knitpicks.

Cheryl let me use her washer to felt my purses (two I made in October and one several years ago, but decided it would look better felted). I hadn't gotten around to this step because I don't have hot water plumbed in to our wash house and have used only cold water for years, something I may need to change soon, since I am so taken with the felting process. I am just delighted with how they turned out, and my son Jesse thought I should make and sell the little red model. I stuffed plastic shopping bags into them to keep them in shape while drying, and then need to brush off the excess lint and tidy them up.

I also re-worked the Hoover Blanket a bit at SnB, but now that I have the technique right, am not sure it is giving me the desired results and am thinking about designing a different baby blanket that I will like better, sigh.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Saturday Knitting Scramble

We spent the day yesterday going to Sacramento and attending my step-son Rex's graduation from the Wildland Fire Academy (this is only one step in over 4000 hours of training, but the major academic work is behind him).

Rex waits in line to enter the auditorium for his graduation ceremony; note the bowling shoes Posted by Hello
We got home after dark and hung around relaxing; I finished the second slipper
 Posted by Hello(here's my feet shining in the morning sun),
and then decided to put in a few rows on Mia's baby blanket. I went to bed in a dazed funk; can you find the mistake?

 Posted by Hello
As I have been doing the double knitting, the rows have gone along swimmingly, but failed to connect with the border on the contrast color side! How could I have missed such a major problem?! The double knitting is also tighter than the garter stitch border, causing it to pucker. I went back over the instructions, and found that the one place in this project where you WANT to be twisting the two yarns together is where the CC meets the border.

So, facing the prospect of frogging, I have decided two things: 1) I am going to finish up a pretty, colorful baby jacket I put aside awhile back, because I hate working with straight needles in small sizes (size 1) and was too cheap to buy a size 1 circular ("Next time I'll pick a different yarn so I can use a larger needle", I had told myself), and 2) I am going to re-do the baby blanket in stripes of the two colors for a softer effect.

The lace stitch in the baby jacket is called "Gull", and is an easy 4 row repeat. The pattern is one of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swanson's from an old issue of Vogue Knitting Posted by Hello

My two contributions for the Red Scarf Project are ready to send off! Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 10, 2005

What I've been Knitting

Yeaah! I finished the heart scarf for the Red Scarf Project, got the two pieces grafted together and am almost done with the other red scarf, so photos will be following, before I ship them off to Lisa. I am very happy with the drape of the hearts, and actually decided that the scarf only needs some light steaming rather than full-on blocking, as the hang and drape accentuate the hearts and the edges keep it flat. The other scarf uses the same deep red wool boucle, but with a strand of Dazzlelash to add bright red sparkle. The pattern is K1, K2T, so the fabric is drapey yet firm, and I am going to make myself a spring scarf out of Eros using this stitch/needle combo.

I also started the Hoover Baby Blanket last week, but haven't gotten a photo of it yet; need better light than late evening at my house provides. This blanket will be a present for baby Mia (parents are Amy and Eliot and Amy is Glenn's lost-for-several-years daughter, so we are very happy for them). Amy just sent us the DVD birth announcement that Eliot constructed following Mia's arrival on January 7th, and she is truly very cute and pretty and baby pink cuddly (of course there's no bias here).

Here's Mia Posted by Hello

Being somewhat non-traditional, I picked lilac as the main color and peach for the second, so it would be reversible and will make a nice blanket when it's time to set the baby down on the floor on something (totally washable acrylic, but Berella which has a very soft hand).

I also had a skein of bright pink Lamb's Pride worsted that I picked up about a week ago, planning to make a pair of pocket slippers for myself (so named because they are small enough to tuck into your backpack or carry-on when traveling, and stretchy enough to expand into cute little mary-jane type slippers. I loved the color and WANTED those slippers on my feet during the cold evenings while I was working on these other projects, so broke down and knitted up the first one night before last while watching Mosaic: World News from the Middle East on Link TV with my husband (this program shows news stories as reported from TV networks throughout the various countries in the Middle East, giving greater insight into how media is manipulated and how it helps form public thought, as well as how the cultures differ). I then stitched it together and modeled it for him last night while we were watching a documentary on filmmaking in Iran (very artistic and cinematically stylistic films are developing as the artists try to work within their government's censorship).
 Posted by Hello
Now, on to the other foot!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

That Danged Music Meme

So, Jae tagged me with the music meme going around like a bad cold, but what the heck! I love music and listen to a wide variety, but my strongest leanings are towards bluegrass, so you will see that in my answers below.

1. Total amount of music files on your computer:
None; well, actually my husband has a bunch on the home computer, but I flit from machine to machine throughout the day at the two schools where I teach, and don't want to spend my free time downloading at home.

2. The last CD you bought was:
Alison Krauss and Union Station - Lonely Runs Both Ways

3. What is the song that you last listened to before reading this:
Dixie Chicks -White Trash Wedding

4. What are your five favorite songs and why they mean the most to you:
Landslide - I prefer the Dixie Chicks' version to Stevie Nicks'; like the imagery and am at a time in my life where I have re-examined my choices a few times and re-written the script

Picture - Sheryl Crow and

Sis Draper - Ricky Skaggs; I love old-timey instrumentals, including this one, but Ricky Skaggs put in the traditional lyrics as well, adding a whole new dimension. I can listen to this song over and over.

Doesn't Have to Be This Way - Alison Krauss; her voice is so awesome and unique and the song reminds me of a dear friend

Lowlands - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; nostalgia

5. What 3 people would you pass this baton on to and why?
I cheated and gave this as an assignment to my high school students working on building their own blogs - tired of hearing "I don't know what to write about". I also tagged my son, Cody, since he hasn't posted lately.

Public Knitting

I got to drop by one of my favorite local used book stores yesterday and picked up Knitting Ganseys and The Mitten Book. Want to share this great quote:

"How would it look, do you think, if everyone, old and young, would sit down together to knit for a while? Laughter and merriment and riddles and questions and folktales and anecdotes from each person's life would blend together in the stitches. Then later, when you recalled these events that have gone through your own fingers stitch by stitch, they would speak their own quiet language: Do you remember? Do you remember?" --Hermanna Stengard

Hermanna was the inspiration for The Mitten Book, as her book, Gotlandsk Sticksom (The Knitting of Gotland), originally published in 1925 to record traditional patterns had gone out of print. Her words of truth about the value of gathering together in public to knit could still serve as a motto today.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Am I brave enough to learn something new?

I had a terrific day snowboarding today, and spent almost all of my time on the "bunny run", working to learn something I didn't get five years ago when I first started. I also spent a lot of time thinking about why we get to plateaus in life, and what we have to do to get off of them.

In snowboarding, it is quite common to spend your first few days falling on your butt, or flipping upside down. There are lots of bruises and bangs, and you can land quite hard on an icy day...or worse, maybe get a concussion or broken wrist. As a person progresses, it is not unusual to learn to turn in one direction (heel-side or toe-side) much quicker than in the other. Then, the person tends to favor what they are good at, and you have to work to learn the other way. I watched this tendency in action today, observing three of the students we brought; they were at exactly the same point my daughter Nikki and I reached at the end of our first season: content to finally be able to go down a hill upright, and staying with the familiar. Unfortunately, that is exactly where I stayed for the next three seasons.

This is true in lots of areas: people would rather stay with the known, the comfortable. Why? Maybe because it is scary or dangerous to go out on a limb and do something you have never done before. Often, it is more a fear of "looking bad" or disappointing ourselves. Disappointment happens easily enough without seeking it out. Susan Lydon, author of The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice, describes how her mother would use the same needles and type of yarn and make endless variations of basically the same sweater, without ever consulting a pattern. She had mastered this one corner of the knitting world and was happy to bask in her successes. I had felt that way about my progress on Mother's Day a year and a half ago, when my oldest son, Cody and my daughter had taken me to Alpine Meadows to celebrate this common bond in the snow we have. Here I was, 48 years old, out on a grand and glorious spring day, when there traditionally isn't any snow left, gliding down the mountain under the capable instruction of these two wonderful persons I had created, given birth to, and raised - what more in life could I ask for?! It is so easy to sit back and bask in one's glory ....

Today, Kayla was with me all day pushing me to step out of my comfort zone. Now, Kayla came with us for her first time snowboarding three years ago. It was cold and icy, and she barely made it down the easy slopes. My youngest son, Jesse, even though an experienced rider, broke his collar bone on that trip, and has seldom ridden since. We rode together several times a season the past few years, and we had gotten much better than her. However, at Christmas, she spent four days riding with her older sister in Colorado. Jennifer is an expert rider, and it appears she is also a very good teacher. She saw where Kayla was lacking in her development as a rider so far, and kept her working in that area only until she got her weak spots caught up with her strengths. Jennifer made Kayla ride down hills on her toes time after time until she gained the same confidence she had acquired on her heels.

Kayla had me going down the hill on my toes "backwards" run after run. I had to confront all the things that had been difficult for me about riding on my toes: I didn't like looking backwards over my shoulders. I didn't like the feeling of being up on my toes, as if I was coming out of my boots. I didn't want to take a hard spill or hurt myself. I didn't want to look like an inept beginner all over again. I wasn't sure I would find the same balance point I was so comfortable with in riding on my heels.

It ended up that I only took one spill all day. Trying to avoid a mom training/towing her tiny tot on skis, I decided to take a fast fall rather than risk getting any closer to them in my less than adequate stop on toes (I wouldn't have even gotten close to them on my heels, I found myself arguing to myself). Mostly, I was sliding a bit here and there and getting right back to my balance point.

I had to remind myself that I am a really brave person. I have worked on ropes courses over a dozen times in the past several years at my summer job in our outdoor program. I have jumped from 40 and 50 foot cliffs while canyoneering, and rappeled over a 100 feet. I have moved out of my comfort zone in other ways as well, teaching myself to knit continental-style after over 20 years of perfectly good English-style knitting, and finishing my BA and MA within the same year in my early 40s.

Did I want to remain complacent, settling for a mediocraty that would eventually lead to diminishing my riding when I hurt one of my knees from the strain of an unbalanced stance? Or did I want to keep trying to reach new heights? I think this is the key question when we decide to take on learning something new: can I stretch myself to include one more thing if it means I have to leave my warm, fuzzy comfort zone. I am really glad that Kayla was there pushing me. The day ended with me seeing a lot of progress, and with a greater awareness of the attitudes that had been impeding me.

Not only am I going to master these turns, but I'm going to break out of my "easy project" rut of this winter and add a few challenging projects to the mix... after all, my longest-lasting piece of knitted clothing is my Tomten Jacket that grew out of an aran poncho I decided I didn't want to finish, and my best-fitting sweaters are the ones I have designed myself! Time to stop being complacent and stretch the brain with a few squares from the Great American Aran Afghan.

[interesting side note: I will be submitting a variation of this post worked up into a longer article to Take Back the Knit magazine for their next issue; you can learn more this magazine and Jae's other zines at her blog.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Weekend Knitting

It was a terrific sunny day in which I got to stay home, but also had chores, laundry and tax prep to tend to...so what's my weekend knitting? I worked a little bit on the two red scarves (yes, I started a second one, on larger needles in a simple eyelet pattern, as I was finding I was messing up too much on the hearts when I was knitting during a meeting and wanted an easier pattern to carry around). Both are more than half finished and I work on the one that suits the surroundings best at the time. Hoping to send them both off next week.

Some people have pictures of their dogs on their blogs, others of their cats... here are some photos of my five burros, who all enjoyed a rare February day of sunshine, warm temperatures and even some green (though weak) grass. I love sharing my life with these animals, who are smart, who think things through and learn from their choices, and who are affectionate and funny. I can't knit anything for them, but I am an outdoor person, outside every day in every kind of weather, and they are boon companions. We hike with them, and will take a pack trip with Rose and Rita in late spring. Hope you enjoy getting a glimpse of them.

Asteroid with his mama, April, standing behind him Posted by Hello

This is Louise, who is 26 years old, grazing next to the bird bath.
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Rose in front, with Rita in back, grazing in the inner yard - a special treat on what usually would be a wintry day here.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What's the Point of a Shrug? Is it Stylish or Frumpy?

When I first modeled my finished shrug for my husband, he joked "Aren't your friends going to give you a bad time about making only half a sweater?" Actually, a shrug is a pretty useful garment, providing warmth over the upper torso without much extra bulk, and allowing considerable freedom of movement. But is it a STYLISH garment? As I look at this photo, I wonder how well it really looks on someone like me, short and somewhat stocky... yep, I used Photoshop to crop because my butt looks too big!
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I probably should have had a front view photo taken as well, if we are going to discuss fashion. A shrug actually has a nice line down the front of the arms and accents a long, narrow type of dress. It could also make a glamorous evening wrap over a LBB or strapless number, and then you could get quite glitzy with the yarn choices. I wanted a practical, wear-with-jeans one, since I live in a cold, drafty 150-year old Gothic house, and lead an outdoors-based lifestyle (my burros will be less likely to take a nibble of a corner, since there are none).

I am intriqued about knitting flattering garments, since much of the personal writing I have read by other knitters indicates that the projects they are most dissatisfied with involve bad fit or bad style choice for their individual body. Bonnie Marie Burns has written a great article on Knitty about achieving the perfect fit, titled "LaBonne's Tips for RealityKnits©". I particularly like the reference to working from a well-loved and flattering garment you already have; this technique has worked well for me in the past when I have sewed clothes, and should prove helpful for knitters, too.

There is the dimension of getting the right yarn, too, though. Some failures are the result of bad combinations of yarn and needle choice, resulting in fabrics that were too stiff or too loose. I remember making a crocheted jacket with dolman sleeves back in the early 1970s that was just too stiff to wear comfortably but at the same time succeeding with a tight knitted sweater, that actually had a side seam zipper in order to keep that snug sweater girl fit. I give the professional designers a lot of credit in coming up with winning combinations, since substitution doesn't always provide the same original intention, and can add another failure to the "fix-it" pile.

Speaking of "fix-its", there is a Knitalong group committed to making February their "fix-it" month, supporting each other in ripping out, re-doing, or re-using any old projects that got completed but didn't make it into the "must wear as much as possible" pile. My contribution will be an olive-green colored mohair Mobius ring shawl made several years back - what was I thinking with that color? Probably the one color besides bright yellow that makes my skin look its absolute worst! And the bulky weight just didn't drape softly and gently around my face like I envisioned, but actually bulked up the scarf so much that it impaired my vision wearing it! Heartstrings has a good Mobius calculator, to get you started. Everyone is different in what they are looking for in a scarf; maybe if I lived where the mornings were routinely 30 below, I would want that thick Mobius, instead of the romantic, drapey one I am yearning for. Check out Alison's blog for more details and some good links to help you with your February Fix-It.

Happy knitting AND fixing!

Knitting hearts

Detail of heart pattern I am using for Red Scarf Project; I am excited that I finally have the first half on a stitch holder and the second half started. This design from the Knitty special Breast Cancer issue (Fall 04) is worked in two halves, then joined together at the back of the neck so the hearts will all be "right-side-up"... I was impressed. The fine yarn doubled is still taking a bit longer than the quickie scarves I have been making but the pattern is delightful.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Desert Island yarns

Margene had a post this morning about choosing yarns to take with you to a desert island, and I couldn't stop spinning this around in my mind all day. I realized that I don't try very hard to keep up with the most current yarn brands, and would have a hard time narrowing down further than general categories into very specific brand/types, so thought instead about all the things I would need to make for myself on a desert island as well as the ones I want to make in the future. I actually thrive on a balance between fantasy and practicality, and even enjoyed thinking about making such items to beautify every day life on a desert isle as seating, floor covering, utensils, etc. Would it be possible to knit everything I needed? I thought about other materials besides the luxury yarns (just couldn't stop myself, I guess) and ruled out copper wire, but thought there might be a place for recycled colorful and pliant telephone wire and computer networking cabling... I am sure I went way off on a tangent from the original intention devised by her friend Julia, but it kept me entertained through about two hours of driving! Thanks, Margene and Julia.