My ceramics class finished for the year a few weeks ago. I wanted to share some of the finished pieces with you! I had a good time spending the start of 2013 getting up really early and making the trek across the city to say good morning to the Golden Gate Bridge and to get my hands dirty in clay. I love it because it's so different from knitting and the other fiber arts... 11.5"W x 11.5D x 7.25"H
A key lesson in ceramics is when making something, you make 2 or 3 (or 10!) of the same thing, and with each one, you learn more. Working in multiples also allows for the inevitable problems that happen in ceramics... like firing mistakes, glaze issues, and cracks.
During this class, I focused on making footed pedestal bowls with these "torn" edges. This one is my favorite (and was also the last one finished.
There were (I think) 5 or 6 by the time I finished the course. One was a big failure [lesson?] because there was a glaze problem and it stuck to the kiln shelf. Another turned out wonderfully but there was something in the clay that melted and burned a funny drippy hole in the bowl. (In this program students are provided, and required to use, recycled clay. That means there's often foreign objects in the clay and, from time to time, they make their way into a finished piece.)
As you probably know, I'm drawn to text on art. In paintings. On knitwear. And in ceramics. This quote from Daisy Whitney resonated with me and something about it reminded me that I do the things I do (and surround myself with the things I love) because I love them. It's sort of an artsy twist on "you are what you eat."
We are what we love. We are the things, the people, the ideas we spend our days with. They center us, they drive us, they define us to our very core. Without them, we are empty.
-Daisy Whitney, The Rivals
Another goal in the class was to make proper cereal/ice cream bowls. There's nothing like eating out of a handmade bowl. Among my favorites was this one - blue and rust and organic looking glaze over a simple bowl. I am enamored with the wheel, and if I had time and was able to focus, I could spend weeks making hundreds of bowls. This one has yet to be used!
7"W x 7"D x 4"H
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6.25"W x 6.25"D x 4"H
...and then, there's this bowl. I was in a mood experimenting with pouring glazes and leaving the outside of the bowl raw. I wanted to show that clay that was making me so frustrated. The interior is smoothe and glazed but outside it's full of drips. One side dipped in a different color allowed for interesting contrast.
Mixing glaze on glaze like this makes for unique results. Taking notes and trying combinations over and over gives an idea of what might happen but in the end, the final result is up to the "kiln gods"... I think this bowl might end up living in the studio and holding yarn. It's a nice sturdy bowl with a wide brim and I like how it looks on my old wood table.
I talked about this bowl on Facebook. 3 colors of glaze poured and dipped on this bowl. the one green got super duper green! - outside it's raw clay again (and I know now it's a bit more rough to the hand that I prefer) but I like the bowl still. Another candidate for ice cream or cereal.
6"W x 6.25"D x 4"H
6.5"W x 6.5"D x 4.25"H
Going back to the very start of the class, this was one of the first pieces I made. It's also one of my favorites as far as the way the glazing turned out.
I carved spider webs into some pieces during this course, much like I did a few years ago when I was doing ceramics in Los Angeles. Then, I used my little letter stamps to impress another beautiful quote, this time from Tolstoy. After it was bisque fired, I dipped the entire piece in glaze, then, after it dried, wiped most of the glaze off of the exterior. A final "kiss" of clear glaze on the rim finished this piece. It feel organic and free. This one might also live in the studio - but I suppose not everything can live in the studio, right?! - perhaps some of these should become gifts....
The means to gain happiness is to throw out from oneself like a spider in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes.
So that's some of the ceramic work I did this year. There's lots more, of course... but these were among my favorites. Class is done, so my tools are all packed away, along with my ceramics notebook; waiting for the next adventure in clay.
Today I listed a few more hand dyed tops - I have grand plans to spend a day or two in the dye lab. Here's hoping for a larger update soon! It's so fun to turn on the music, mix up the dye and spend a day creating color. Perhaps this weekend will bring more time for that!
I've spun up one of these 4oz braids made by Lisa Merian of Spinners Hill
that are from Trumpet Hill
in Albany, NY - I split it in half lengthwise, then spun it and finished by Navajo plying it - making a nice 3-ply yarn. Hank #1 has 102 yards and hank #2 has around 120 yards... I have another braid to spin up and can't decide if I want to do it now or save it for another time....
The knitting I've been working on recently isn't very exciting. yet. I'm busy working on a design that's got me unsure of what it should be. It started as one project (which is complete), then I thought the motif would work better as a different kind of project (which is on the needles)... and now, as I work on that design I think it might need to be something different than THAT... so I'm a bit thrown by that project.
In other knitting news, I've created a few swatches and concepts for proposals and that work takes time away from knitting things I can share. It's work I love to do, though, so it's quite worth it. The only thing I don't like about it is the WAITING to talk about it all!
I'm happy to announce that I'm part of an upcoming book - this time it's a Hanukkah hat designed for Universal Yarn and Sixth&Spring Books. The goal with this project was to create an easy to follow pattern using
as a symbol for the holiday of Hanukkah. Judaism is a religion steeped in history. I was drawn to the dreidel not only for its shape, but also because, in addition to it being the centerpiece for a game that
millions of kids have played for generations, it is a reminder of how, during the rule of
Antiochus, Jews who were reading the Torah would hide their studies and quickly pick up (and play with) the dreidel when armies appeared as a way to avoid persecution. Stories of religions are interesting and full of the unexpected. The little dreidel motif repeated around the hat is a bit camouflaged, but for those that know the symbol, it invites inquiry. And as always, if you ask, you'll learn that there's more to the story. I love the slow striping color change of Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted Long Print (color #05 Midnight Blues). This yarn was the perfect background for using the solid worsted yarn (color #12270 Natural) as the motif in the design. Also in the book you'll find so many other fun projects, including
a pattern for a market bag, Christmas tree skirt, gloves, socks, and scarves. This is the kind of book that would be fun to buy and work the patterns as each holiday arrives. I have yet to see the final published book but the issuu link (below) will give you a small taste of some of the projects you'll find in this new book.
Hanukkah Hat by Kyle Kunnecke from 50 Knitted Gifts for Year Round Giving, published by
Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Jack Deutsch and text copyright © 2013 by
Sixth&Spring Books. All images used by permission.
Check with your local yarn shop or bookstore to get your copy of this book - it's scheduled for release in about a month.
My housemates have been talking about the tide pools for years. At low tide, the ocean recedes back and reveals pools of life... and for a little while there's an opportunity to view sea life in its natural habitat.
Low tide was around 11:30am (and it changes every day) on Saturday, and the location was filled with families exploring and having a great time discovering all kinds of things.
We arrived and took our place, moving from pool to pool... and saw little hermit crabs, this incredible anenome (above), a starfish, and even some tiny eels! Out further along the rocks some harbor seals were resting on the rocks and taking naps. They might have been nesting; I'm not sure. A perimeter was marked off at the beach and officials were there to talk with people about the barrier and to give the big creatures their space. (look at photo #23 in the slideshow below... the white blobs out on the rocks are the seals!)
It's the kind of place I wish I could share with everyone... but since the timing of visiting the beach of the Pacific Ocean at low tide might be difficult for some of you, I made a little video so you could see some of the ocean life crawling around in one of the tide pools, and also get a glimpse of the breathtaking view!
And for some more fun, here's a slide show of some of the photos I took during our little mini-excursion:
I *almost* don't want to talk about it. The sweater I've been working on is just a bit too small. I have put it aside for now to contemplate what to do. Do I rip it out and calculate a larger size for the pattern I like? Do I modify the pattern and eliminate the ribbing (which would probably solve the problem) or do I just start over... *think... *think... *think...
I' had a lovely time spinning up some hand dyed top from Black Bunny Fibers
that was part of the thank you gift I received for leading a workshop at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat
. It spun up wonderfully and I decided to make a two-ply yarn out of it. I'm SO happy with the final yarn. THANK YOU, Carol for being so supportive of the Men's Knitting Retreats!!
now.... what should this yarn become?
I love the fair. For me, it's a reminder to get out, enjoy the beautiful weather, have some fun, indulge in deep fried EVERYTHING, and to visit and even learn a bit about animals. Over the weekend I joined my housemates on an adventure to the Sacramento County Fair - a few hours from San Francisco, it was a beautiful drive and arriving at the fair meant encountering the familiar sounds and smells of the fair! As a child the fair meant the midway - rides and games and prizes.
I don't know if I have seen this before - these big bubbles have kids in them.. zipped up for a few minutes of "walking on water" - it looked like so much fun!! We stopped and watched them for a few minutes.. then on to more serious business. There's sheep at the fair, right? That means there's probably shearing.. and where there's shearing there's probably .... say it with me...
John and Kyle with first-ever purchases of raw fleece
Fleece! (HOORAY!!) - John and I ventured into the exhibit hal and looked over the small-ish selection - it's nothing like the CA Wool and Fiber Festival, but still there was a nice variety of fibers represented. In the end, I selected a black medium corriedale ram lamb's fleece. It doesn't have a ton of debris in it, and the tips are a touch sunburned but it's not tender (according to the scorecard). Good uniformity and staple length of 4-1/2 - 5-1/2".
It's also a blue ribbon winner and the reserve champion.
What will it become? Hopefully yarn. I'm not going to give it an exact purpose yet... but my intention is to spin knitting or weaving yarn (2 or 3 ply) that can be worked up into something useful. Weaving would give me more material, I think... but first thing's first.. it's gotta get cleaned.
John bought another blue ribbon winner... a Dorset cross fleece from a ewe that has no sunburned tips. The scorecard on his says it's slightly yellow (and it is but not as much as shows in this photo). The staple length is around 4".
We spent much of this weekend watching videos about spinning and fiber preparation while spinning different fibers. I think we're both excited about cleaning our fleeces and perhaps this coming weekend will bring the time needed to try this for the very first time.
I don't know if he has specific plans for his fleece - my guess is he's like me... hopeful it'll become something beautiful but resigned to the fact that we've never done this before. BUT... the thing that gets me through these starts to new adventures is this: Folks have processed fleeces for thousands of years... and everyone had to start somewhere. So... that's where we are.
What I did notice about this fair that was different from the others I've seen is that it has a tiny showing for fiber arts. A few quilts, a few handspun skeins of yarn... a decent amount of photography.. but overall it was a small representation of the talent in that area. I hope it's a fluke and that the fair will work more to show more pieces in coming years.
OK Back to the animals. We went to the barns and checked out all the different critters... We saw cute bunnies... this little lop eared one was tooo adorable!
...and this guy has a fun hairdo! (and you know me.. I was wondering if I could spin his fur!)
of course we saw sweet sheeps... there was an auction going on in the building while were there.. the selling of sheep for market and butchering always makes me a bit sad but I realize that it's how the business keeps moving... and moving the line along helps to produce more beautiful variations and new stock. It's just the nature of the business. This one happens to be a fleecie sheepie!
I also think it's amazing that we can turn the fibers that grow out of a SHEEP (and other animals and plants too) and work them until they produce string or yarn and then weave, knit, crochet or even just felt them to produce fabric that's soft, beautiful and sturdy.
While checking out all the different animals, we came upon these cute little babies! - I had to take a quick video to show. (the horse to the left never moved... it must be some strange miniature breed that sleeps with its eyes open!)
What else did we see? Chickens... we also saw chickens!! ..and ducks...and a petting zoo... and old tractors... and a beekeeper's exhibit... there's so much to see and learn at the fair... from the exhibits to the shows... it's a great day out and worth the time invested with friends and family.
My Woolee Winder arrived last week and I've been spinning CONSTANTLY. I had one bobbin (2oz) of BFL/Silk 80/20 spun up from the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. Once the winder came, I spun the second 2oz up and navajo plied each of them. I managed to spin and ply the third bobbin as well. I have 2oz left of this amazing fiber "Lunar Dance" (which I bough at A Touch of Twist
) and I'll have fun spinning it up as well the same way. At first I thought I would ply two singles together since the colors were a bit different but then decided that a navajo ply (3ply) would be better. I'm happy with my decision... now. what should I make?
Here's some of it at least. I have unearthed the Craft Yarn Council's Certified Instructors Program
from the depths of the studio - Level 1 is about 2/3 done and I just have swatches to knit and a some paperwork to complete. Over the weekend I was able to complete 3 of the swatches in addition to everything else I did and I will continue to press on.
The swatches aren't difficult... they just take time and some real paying-attention when it comes to execution. These will be blocked, labeled, and included in the entire package. There'll be more about that later.
Justine emailed me over a year ago asking if I might be able to re-size the Corydon sweater (Knitters K106) to fit a child. I explained to her that once a pattern is sold to a magazine or book, the contract dictates what the designer can do. In this case, I contacted Knitter's Magazine to find out how we could answer and Rick suggested we re-size it as a kid's pattern and use it in an upcoming issue. What fun! So... a year later, Knitter's Magazine issue K111
has some classic patterns re-sized and re-styled to fit little ones. The model they used for my "Corydon Jr.
" is adorable! Since it was released I sent an update email to the Justine and she's very excited about the result. She tells me she's going to let her boys choose the colors for their sweaters and commented "should be an interesting result!" - I am looking forward to photos!
© 2013 Kyle Kunnecke
I'm happy to share with you my latest hat pattern! This time it's a design inspired by old quilt patterns. Using a number of different colors throughout the hat, it's fun to knit... and the pattern would be a great opportunity to use scrap yarn (perhaps some leftover sock yarn?)
What's involved in this pattern? It starts with a provisional cast on and a lining worked in the round using a main color and smaller needles. Once a turning row is completed, the stranded knitting begins. I worked most of this hat on circular needles, switching to double points for crown shaping. (Some people would use magic loop at this point.)
Once the project was complete, it was time to find a place to do photography. I did a lot of research, looking for an exterior location that would offer the right feeling. I settled on the Palace of Fine Arts
. San Francisco is an amazing city for photography - lots of hills, water everywhere... and even the fog can make things interesting. Anyway, The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Expo. Built out of paper mache, It was only meant to exist for a few years and actually fell into disrepair until the 1960s. After some generous contributions, it was re-created out of concrete and lasted for a good while. The past few years brought a re-furbishing of the monument and visiting it was truly a magical experience. I look forward to discovering more places in my hometown for photoshoots!
© 2013 Kyle Kunnecke
We took photos in a few different spots at this location. The doors in the background of this photo are used in a lot of wedding photography. I thought it was really interesting how the pattern in the door is almost identical to the motif in the hat!
Knitting this pattern went pretty quickly. The chart is easy to follow, and the color changes encouraged me as I worked. I am excited to see the color combinations others come up with!!
I'll leave you with a few images of the architecture around the Palace of Fine Arts. I hope you like the new hat!
© 2013 Kyle Kunnecke
$4.00 (.pdf download)
I'm happy to announce my latest hat pattern! Meet Emeline: a stranded hat that celebrates individuality. It begins with 2-color ribbing, blossoms into a engaging chart, and finishes with striped decreases at the crown. It's a comfy, slouchy, stylish hat and is going with me everywhere I go. After the bind off, a wonderfully lightweight hat like this encourages us to venture out on chilly nights.
Emeline, comfortable and stylish, celebrates the unpredictable and unexpected adventures of working simultaneously with two skeins of Noro Silk Garden Lite. The pattern, inspired by 18th Century ironwork, is interesting to knit and satisfying to wear. As a compliment to the rigid structure of the chart, gentle color changes within the yarn guarantee a unique hat.
This pattern requires intermediate knitting knowledge including: working in the round, two-color ribbing, reading charts, simple stranded color work and decreasing, all on double point needles.
The "Emeline" hat by Kyle Kunnecke
So, Emeline is available on Ravelry
and in the Shop
. I hope you enjoy knitting this one; it really is a rewarding project!
Now that Emeline is completed, I can get to work on some of the other fun things I have in the works. There are so many good things happening right now, and believe me when I say it pains me not to talk about all of them. All I can do is ask you to "stay tuned" - In the meantime, I'll continue to keep you updated on what I can
In website news, I added a link to a page of abbreviations most commonly used in my patterns. It'll be updated as needed, and the current version is included with the Emeline pattern. This seems a good way to make sure people are aware of the abbreviations I use, and could also become a good tool for people as they work on other patterns.
So, here's hoping you fall in love with Emeline - if you're still searching for a gift for a knitter, perhaps this pattern along with a gift certificate to their local yarn shop would be loved?
As promised, here's the second blog post about the 2012 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. We're traveling a bit back in time to before the retreat, where I'll talk about two different outings; Trumpet Hill yarns and Battenkill Fibers.
Immediately after arriving in Albany, NY, Aaron and I headed over to Trumpet Hill Yarns; an adorable shop that is one of his favorite spots for knitting and spinning. We walked in to find Celeste and the gang all sitting in a knit/spin group, happily talking about the events of the day as the weather suddenly turned from cloudy to rainy. It was the only time it really rained during the trip and we all felt safe, knowing that if something happened the yarn shop has plenty of fiber, yarn, patterns and supplies to keep us satisfied until help arrived!
Trumpet Hill uses knitting as art
This shop is a must-see for anyone visiting the area - it's full of friendly, knowledgeable fiber-enablers; full of creative ideas and, if you're not careful, you'll end up with a new project (or a new spinning wheel!)
Kyle & Celeste
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(c) 2011 Celeste Young
While I was there, I picked up "Outlaw"; a fantastic neckerchief / shawl pattern designed by Celeste Young, as well as some beautifully dyed roving from Spinner's Hill. I look forward to spinning up the fiber and making that pattern!
Get your very own copy of the pattern by visiting the pattern page HERE
Thursday morning we ventured off to Battenkill Fibers
; a custom carding and spinning mill in Greenwich, NY. They welcomed about 30 guys from the retreat in our pre-retreat outing, and took time to show us some of the processes involved in transforming fleece and fiber into yarn. They had a number of projects in the works and we were all in awe as we went from step to step learning how much work goes into making yarn. Here are a few random photos from the visit to the mill.
I made some short videos to share with you some of the steps for turning fiber into yarn. First, we learned a bit about how a fleece gets skirted (this video). Then, we watched how they clean the fibers, and many different steps (and machines!) it takes to turn fleece into yarn.
This machine takes the fiber and "flicks" it open. I apologize; I didn't take notes on the different machine names or their "technical" responsibilities... but if you ever visit Battenkill Fiber Mill, they'll certainly explain it all to you!
The next video shows the fiber flying through that little hole in the wall into a room that's exclusively to catch the fiber as it floats to the ground. The operator of this machine sweeps the fibers up from that room and they go into a carding machine from there. (Yes, a few of us thought of just sitting in that room to experience the "rain of fiber!")
Once the fiber is cleaned, carded, and drafted out, it goes into the pin drafting machine. This machine makes the roving even and prepares it for spinning. (I am SO glad I don't have to clean these machines!)
From there, the fiber is spun into singles on a GIANT machine, and then plied on ANOTHER machine... then, the plied yarn is skeined into hanks. There's so much work that goes into creating yarn that many of us don't think about. Even commercial yarn has been hand worked by many talented people. Here's one last video showing the process of making hanks of yarns, talking about the plying machine and then the skeining machine:
The tour was a bit overwhelming. So many machines, and questions that could be asked. By the time I had asked one question, 5 more had popped into my head. I have a new appreciation for fiber and the artists who make it for us at the mills after visiting Battenkill! Of course, I knew it was an involved process before but WOW. This was a real treat to get to tour a mill and learn and share more about the processes.
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We were all ecstatic when we discovered the "scrap bins"! (we were like "pigs in mud!") We had the chance to get some random scraps and so a few of us dug through the bins and picked up bags of fiber. I am not really sure what the fiber content of my purchase ended up being, but the majority of it seemed like alpaca, along with some (itchy!) wool.
These scraps are left over from the processing of the fiber... bits and pieces that are hiding in the machines and come out only when coaxed by cleaning. Since someone else grabbed the ENTIRE bin of colored fibers, I decided to experiment with browns and greys. I dug through the fibers and based my decisions on color and texture, doing my best to keep my color selections limited to a few shades.
All of this was done hoping that back at the retreat center Joe had brought his drum carder. (He had!) - and so enters the next big adventure from the MSKR12; drum carding! I had never worked a drum carder so this was the perfect opportunity to learn.
That evening, I worked with some of the guys to turn the scraps of brown and grey processed fiber into roving that could be spun into yarn. I knew that some of the fibers were alpaca (soft!), and some were different types of wool (hearty!). They are all naturally colored (undyed) and range in quantity, softness, and staple length. My goal was to create a 2-ply yarn with distinct different colors but hopefully when it is knitted up (or woven) it would show minimal pooling. Here's how we did it:
First, we divided the scraps into color families including light brown, dark brown, light grey and dark grey. Those piles of fiber were put through the drum carder to blend them together, align the fibers and get them ready for further processing. Once that was complete, I was able to see how much of each color I had.
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Drum carding takes a bit of patience, and one lesson I learned is to be sure not to overload the drum carder. Make smaller batts if necessary so that you're not working harder than necessary and stressing the machine.
Here are all the batts all laid out and stacked on each other, showing off the 6 different colors I ended up having from my "harvest" of the scrap bin.
Then, we separated the fiber into sections and created striped "groups" that would then be re-carded. We tried to make each group somewhat distinct, knowing in the end they would all be similar.
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Those groups were put through the drum carder, most of them like a sandwich (working across the layer, carding each color of fiber on top of the previous one, creating layers). Each batt was then removed from the carder and rolled from side to side lengthwise creating a "jellyroll". That roll of fiber was stretched a number of times, lengthening it and making it thinner, then rolled up into a ball.
I didn't take a photo of the fiber when it was in the ball ("Bump") stage... sorry.
(I told you lots of work goes into preparing fiber!) -- OK. now that the fiber is all ready to go, remember I wanted to create a 2-ply yarn that would have sections of color. I didn't want to make yarn with long color changes (like Noro) - but more mottled looking "barber poled" yarn. To accomplish this, I decided to tear off a bit of each ball of fiber and use them in a random order as I spun. I'd work bits 1-7, then stop and tear a piece off of each ball again, put the pieces in the bag and randomly select them. As I got one bobbin nearly full, I began the second, repeating the process. As I got close to the end of the balls, I unwound the remaining fiber, and looking at the longest remaining length of fiber decided I could do about 5 more repeats. I broke that piece into 5 sections, then evenly divided the other pieces and added them to the last repeats. If a ball only had enough fiber for 2 or 3 more repeats, I only added it to 2 of the remaining repeats. Once those final rounds were divided, I kept them separate and then randomly spun them onto the bobbin. At the very end, I went back to the first bobbin to try to evenly distribute the singles.
The two bobbins of singles turned out really good! I am happy with the varied colors, and they were pretty much the same weight.
From there, I needed to ply. I brought a special wood bobbin just for the event. I asked Joe Wilcox, Ted Myatt and Aaron Bush to all sign this bobbin (using a Sharpie permanent marker) so that I could carry the memory of learning with them during the weekend along with me whenever I spin. They all obliged, and so begins my new tradition of having instructors, mentors, and icons sign my wheel bobbins. As the years go by, I imagine having many bobbins filled with the names of many different inspiring fiber artists.
Here's that bobbin showing the first 3 autographs:
...and that's the bobbin I used to ply the yarn. I don't have a lazy kate, so I made one. I took a box, used a hole punch to pop holes in it, and slid US 10 straight needles through the holes to hold the bobbins. I added a rubber band around the box to create a bit of tension on the bobbins to keep them from flying around while I plied. It worked like a dream and, when it's all done, the box stores my bobbins, the needles, and other tools I use when spinning!
As I ply the two singles together, inevitably there will be one bobbin that has more on it than the other. When I asked Ted Myatt what to do when this happens, he taught me a trick to use all your singles. With the singles still attached to the plied yarn, secure the shorter single.
Using a distaff, create a center-pull ball with the remaining fiber. Once that's completed, join the end of the longer single with the end of the shorter single (either by spit splicing or tying a knot).
Remove the wound fiber from the distaff and (this part works best with a friend!) continue to slowly ply the yarn while attempting to keep the ball of fiber from tangling up.
After you are done plying, you'll end up with a loop at the end, connecting the two plies. Tie a small knot here and you're done! Look: no wasted singles!
After all of this is done, The yarn is wound off of the bobbin (did you know you should stand about 10 feet from the wheel when hanking up the yarn? It's another tip I learned during the retreat - standing a bit away from the bobbin allows for some room for the twist energy to distribute itself along the length; it's the same reasoning for putting your lazy kate far away from the wheel when plying). Tie the yarn up, give it a good soak and let it hang dry. I ended up with 2 HUGE hanks of hand spun yarn from my 6oz of fiber! I haven't decided what this yarn will be yet. For now, I'm going to let it be a reminder of the retreat.
That's about it for Part 2 of the MSKR12 retreat review. I love writing blog posts about the event because it gives me time to relive the experience. One note on my packing: I had to check my bag because of my wheel but I wanted to share with you how cute and snuggly my Sidekick fit into the luggage! The fiber I got during the retreat acted as extra padding and there was enough room for my clothes, knitting, etc. as well. I'm looking forward to the next time I am able to take my wheel on an adventure!
The 2012 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is over and it's difficult (as it is always difficult!) to put into words how amazing the experience was. This year, 41 attendees made up the group, and we reconnected at the amazing Easton Mountain Retreat Center. It's a calm space where everyone is encouraged to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature while being surrounded by creative people. Recaps of these retreats end up being L-O-N-G and photo-heavy posts so I decided to attempt to divide it into 2 parts. Welcome to part one: a retreat review and ramblings about the "official" parts of the weekend.
Are we there yet??
The hammock at Easton
This year, I flew from San Francisco, CA to Albany, NY and met up with Aaron Bush. The retreat actually began Thursday afternoon, so we're going to fast forward past the "pre-show" and begin there.
Driving to Easton Mountain is refreshing. It's back roads that go from striped and paved to simply paved... to gravel... to narrow and what a city-person might think should be only one-way. Returning to Easton for the retreat is a bit like coming "home". It's walking into the large gathering room and hearing people call my name. It's not having a chance to put my bag down before there's a group of guys waiting to give me a hug; excited and happy that we are about to share this experience. Returning to a Men's Knitting Retreat is seeing familiar faces, recognizing people that I may have never met, but recognize through their blogs, twitter feeds, and facebook posts, and they feel like old friends. It's re-uniting with people who, through fiber, have become a big part of my life.
Arriving at Easton, we are greeted with Easton Mountain (in the background of the video below). The Center used to be a ski lodge and now it's just a beautiful space to retreat and relax. The sounds of nature are so different from those I hear waking up in San Francisco! I thought making a short video of walking down the driveway to the lake might help you understand how amazing and magical this place is.
...and here's a listen at the birds singing one morning during the retreat. It really was a "change of pace" that allowed us to all decompress, relax and recharge.
During the retreat, we usually go on one field trip. This time, it was to Ewetopia Farm in Whitehall, NY. The drive through the beautiful country could have been outing enough, but turning into the driveway of Chris and Max Crossman was a true treat. Chris had set up a small shop with a selection of fibers and yarns for us to peruse, featuring her Cotswold sheep
locks! It wasn't long before I started to explore the immediate area, taking photo after photo of this idyllic place! Here are a few of my favorites:
We met one of the Rams and he was in LOVE with us because we all took turns scratching him on his back where he can't reach. (That's Farmer Max holding the lead to this sweet animal.) His fleece is beautiful and from what Chris said she is going to continue breeding him to hopefully get some more of his coat characteristics in the flock. I remember last time I was at the MSKR we visited Alpacas of Easton,
and the owner was talking about phenotype and genotype and it made me smile since that was what had just been discussed in my Biology course. Years later, it wasn't a fluke. That same talk was being given at this sheep farm! Lesson here: If you want to be a success at raising fiber flocks, chances are you'll need to have a good understanding of these topics.
In addition to the sheep, the Crossman's have a few horses and some adorable dogs! These two were beyond sweet. Leddie (on the left) is a bit of a guard dog and a BIG dog at that. She's standing on the road that leads to the farm's sugar shack! The other doggie was a fat old sweetie and just wanted its belly rubbed! (Click any of the smaller photos to enlarge them).
See? I haven't even begun to talk about spinning or the workshops.... trying to explain what the retreat is like is a difficult process. It's seriously something that simply must be experienced. There were a number of workshops, and I was able to participate in two: learning how to spin (with Aaron Bush), and knitting and purling backwards (with Matthew Hesson-McInnis
). The spinning workshop helped me continue to hone my skills as I learn more and more about my Sidekick wheel. Aaron was a gentle teacher, helping the guys wrangle fiber and spin it into yarn. I was able to offer a little guidance to my neighbors, and I think that at least one participant decided to purchase a wheel by the time he had returned home! Knitting and purling backwards with Matthew was more of a focused exercise. His instructional style is suprisingly gentle; asking the students to follow a few simple steps to really understand what happens when a stitch is made. With a little practice, we were all doing it! (Slowly, but we WERE doing it!) The technique will come in handy for ribbing or stockinette almost immediately. All it'll take is a bit of work to get faster at it but will be well worth it.
Probably the biggest treat to attending these retreats is sitting outside, knitting, spinning, crocheting, and talking with new (and old) friends about ideas, experiences, techniques and, life in general. The world often gets in the way and we don't find time to take care of ourselves; these few recharging days allows for just that. It's rewarding, relaxing and inspirational to be at a Men's Knitting Retreat.
We have a tag sale during the retreat where we offer special fibers, books, magazines and finished objects for sale to the other attendees. It's a chance for us to donate a percentage of the sale to a scholarship fund which helps some guys attend who otherwise couldn't. This year, Bill Jones from San Francisco hand-knit this AMAZING teddy bear and we put it out for silent auction. John Wise was the high bidder and the envied one who got to take this sweet bear home! (If you enlarge the photo, you can see the intarsia around the eyes and inside the ears where Bill used subtle color changes to highlight these spots.) Bill said that he plans to make one of these bears for each of the retreats.
A visit to this part of the country would simply not be complete without a visit to the Ice Cream Man
! They have been in business for nearly two decades and I can't imagine a trip to this area without visiting and getting a couple scoops of their amazing hand-crafted ice cream. We also got ice cream from the Ice Cream Man for movie night - where we all gather and knit/spin/weave/crochet our way through a movie (or two!)
...I swear I only ordered 2 scoops!
...speaking of eating, the food at Easton is certainly worth mentioning. It's healthy, thoughtfully prepared, and, quite frankly, delicious. They are considerate of dietary needs and I never went without a full tummy while visiting. There's no soft drinks, so it was also a great opportunity to stop drinking so much Diet Coke!
Gosh. There's so much to talk about - and even if I wrote 100 pages about the few days we were together, I'd still be leaving a lot out. Once more: It's impossible to express what this retreat means. It is an amazing experience and for those men who might want to find out what it's like to attend one of these retreats, there are a few coming up! Visit the Men's Knitting Retreat website
to learn more.
I'll be writing more in a few days; sharing about the excursions before the retreat including our visit to one of Aaron's favorite yarn shops and a fantastic local mill.
I had the opportunity to do a commission project for a New York based video producer. The project essentially was to create a knitted cozy to go over this piece of electronic equipment. He thought it was ironic to use something as traditional as hand knitting to create a cover for something so high tech.
I started the project by doing some research. I wanted to learn what exactly this thing was... how big was it? What is it used for. That search brought me to YouTube where I discovered a few videos explaining the product. After a while, I realized that it was something to do color correction for video post production... I learned that it's a very expensive piece of equipment, and finally, I realized I am thankful that I don't have to learn how to use it! My job was simple: create a knitted version of the station.
It took quite a whie to make this piece - using US2 circular needles and playing with charting software to come up with the proper layout for the piece. In the end, I decided to be somewhat realistic with the cozy while keeping it whimsical. The end result was a fun cover that will do its duty for years; covering this expensive piece of post production equipment.
The face of the cover was knitted flat, from side to side, and then I picked up the stitches around the face and knit ribbing to create the sides. The design was duplicate stitched onto the background and, in the end, I'm pretty proud of this cover. If you'd like to view or "like" the project on Ravelry, here's a LINK
to it's project page. I'm looking forward to the next fiber-related challenge!
...OK maybe it's not a superpower but what else should I call the ability to turn fluff into YARN?! I'm intrigued at the process and it's like watching magic!! Still very much a beginner, but I LOVE my new wheel! As some may have read, I bought a Schacht Sidekick
and I have been working on it a little each day. The wheel just hums along and I am pretty proud of my first hank of yarn! It's some mystery wool that Purlescence Yarns gave me to practice with... and while it's a bit thick and thin, I think it's respectable as a first attempt.
I have been wondering why I want to learn to spin. When I first tried a few years ago, I decided I wasn't ready... after all, I can buy good yarn already made commercially (or even other people's handspun!) so why would I spend my time making yarn when I could spend it knittng. Then, it hit me... this is the SAME argument people make about knitting. "Why would you knit something by hand when the yarn is expensive, it takes a long time, and you can buy something commercially made that also looks nice?"
So... I get it. Spinning is like knitting. It's meditative, creative, inspiring, and putting time into making yarn adds to the beauty of a hand knit (or crocheted or woven) project. As I get better, I'll have more opinions, I'm sure. I spin because I love to spin. it feels good to have produced the yarn and I am sure that when I knit with my own handspun, it'll make my project even more special.
This photo is of the 4th attempt (skein?) of yarn I'm working on... my singles are more even and it's moving along nicely. This fiber is produced by a woman in Bainbridge, NY and I'm really intrigued by the way the colors are shifting. It arrived as a dyed braid and I split it up and am happily working my way through it now.
In other knitting news, I made a pair of felted slippers for my friend Chuck for his birthday. He loved his last pair so much that one of them wore a hole in the sole - and while I could have felted a patch onto the bottom, it seemed like he deserved a new pair. So, he gets a new pair! These were made with stash yarn from Elann.com (the green) and 2 hanks of cascade 220 - one brown and one grey. The yarn is held doubled for this pattern and they're a pretty quick knit. The rows are long, with lots of wrapping and turning to do the shaping but I love the pattern. I felted these in the front loader washing machine too - just stick them on "hot" and put some dryer balls in the machine for agitation and let it do it's thing... I check them every few minutes and when they're about the right size, I put them on the rinse and spin cycle, then toss them in the dryer on tumble for a while until they're almost dry. A bit of shaping and a final air dry and they're ready!
My other work in progress is a vintage vest that I'm feverishly working on, hoping to complete it in time for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat coming up in May! I have *almost* completed the front (it's done with the exception of weaving in ends, and the final details) and I am almost to the armholes on the back. It's coming along nicely but if I want to get it completed I have to get to work on it! There's just so much to do!
Which means, I guess, that I should get to it! Have a fantastic week!