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?
While working in clay while living in Los Angeles, I was introduced to this technique of applying images to clay. There's enough iron in the toner that once it has been bisque fired, it leaves an image! (The following video, found on YouTube, is the one that convinced me to find one of these machines.)
When I moved to San Francisco, I sold my copier because I didn't have space to store it. Now that I'm in a place where I have a studio (even if it's mainly fiber art) and I am able to do work in a ceramics class, the desire to get another of these *very hard to find* machines has become overwhelming. Below, you'll see one of my platters from a few years ago where I used this technique... featuring vintage knitting images. I simply HAD to find another copier!
I searched high and low... and finally located one about 1.5 hours outside of San Francisco. After some negotiating (and the aid of a good friend!) I headed out to pick up my new toy. The drive was beautiful and I took a few photos out the car window while we traveled to lovely Lodi, CA to make the purchase.
On Monday morning, I made my image copies and then considered how to get them from my studio to the classroom where I was going to use them. After some pondering I discovered if I fold the paper in half, then fold the blank side of the paper up (maybe 1/2") to create some space, I can tape the edges together and create a pie-shaped holder that will keep the images from smudging. I put these in a little paper bag and carried them gently on the 1 hour ride on public transit to the ceramics studio.
...and so far, it worked! I made two pedestal bowls that day. The second one received the first transfer from my new machine... it's an assemblage of vintage images from the graphics fairy... and as always, I'm stamping text into my pieces. This piece features one from Daisy Whitney:
“We are what we love. We are the things, the people, the ideas we spend our day with. They center us, they drive us, they define us to our very core.Without them, we are empty.”
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.
We attended the STITCHES market on Friday and Saturday - and had a fantastic time! As usual, booth after booth of glorious fiber goodies overwhelmed us, but this time, knowing that we had 2 days to explore, it was easier to scope the entire event first before consulting our project lists to find what we needed. I know that there will be gads of blog posts detailing every booth and event surrounding STITCHES - here's my "short and sweet" recap!
At the end of the first day as we were talking with Michael Wade of Fiberbeat
, Cookie A
stopped me and John at the A Verb For Keeping Warm
booth... snapped a photo... and tweeted us! We were immediately thrust into fiber fame! (what a treat - we met Cookie A... AND she loved our cardigans!!
The big news of the trip was our friend Kenny Chua
being the designer for the ladies cardigan on the cover of the upcoming issue of Knitter's
Magazine! Immediately upon entering the STITCHES marketplace, we are welcomed by the Knitter's booth... where this giant poster of the magazine cover was featured, along with the actual sweater he knit!
Moving through the venue, we discovered a poster showing the companion vest. Kenny and I posed here and we talked with the folks at Bijou Basin Ranch
who made the Bliss yarn that he used. Both of these patterns are a gorgeous textural slip stitch and are sure to be treasured classics for years to come!
We were lucky enough to see the fashion show on Friday night - and the grand reveal of the vest on the runway! Kenny deserves big kudos for a job well done -- his was one of the 120 items shown in the show... and as if the Knitter's cover wasn't enough, it was also featured on the cover of the fashion show program!
We had a great time at the show... 2 days of yarn and fibery fun. Even though there were thousands upon thousands of inspirational sights, my favorite sight of all of STITCHES was this tattoo that Tammy had - she can be found at http://punkrawkpurl.blogspot.com/
- click on the photo to be directed to her website! It brought new meaning to the word "dedication" as it pertains to the fiber arts! Love the sentiment and it makes me smile every time I see this photo.
On Saturday, I wore the now famous Seahorse Cardigan. (photos of me wearing the cardigan are coming soon, I promise!) I was really pleased with the response that I got from this finished object - I felt famous - with so many attendees commenting on the design! My favorite compliment? One lady stopped me and told me that I "win" for the best sweater of STITCHES! THAT really meant a lot to me...especially since there were masterpieces parading up and down the aisles... gorgeous cabled sweaters, kauni wonders, lace shawls... I am always enamored with all the knit and crochet masterpieces on show when I go to STITCHES - and even though we just got home, I'm excited to start making notes for the things I might want to research, purchase or learn next time!
STITCHES rocks. It's the BEST way to get inspired for those of us who love all things fiber. It revitalizes me and reminds me of all the options I have for my fiber art. I am working on projects already - and eager to share them with you when the time is right!
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Next we headed to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I know a lot of people were a bit apprehensive about my traveling to Cambodia - mostly because of the problems they have had (they only recently ended a civil war and with the death of Pol Pot
came freedom) - basically from 1976 - 1997 Cambodia was under the Khmer Rouge rule - and an estimated 1.7 - 2.5 million people were killed.
The people are amazing here. Loving, smiling, and full of energy; working hard to re-capture their traditions. The first night in Cambodia, we went to dinner where a children's troupe performed first a shadow puppet show, then a series of traditional dance. The music is also performed by the children. I made a small video of one of the dances to show everyone what the traditional Khmer dance is like. The costumes were Thai in style, because traditional Khmer costumes would have been topless:
To get prepared for the visit to this country, I read When Broken Glass Floats
and learned the story of one family and their struggle during this time. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the human struggle and real life story of those who lived the horrors. I finished the book while in Siem Reap, and felt quite connected to the culture.
This is the first place I have ever traveled that the people literally thanked us for visiting. They were genuinely grateful for our visit, our faith in their new freedoms and (let's be honest) our spending money there and investing in their economy. I was thanked from every tour guide, shop keeper, hotel attendant, driver... it made me feel really wonderful and welcomed to their country!
While in Siem Reap, we visited around 10 of the thousands of ancient temples - places built around a thousand years ago with no cement or reinforcement; simply stone on top of stone. These temples were by far the most amazing thing I have witnessed - their sheer size - the moats surrounding some of them... the carvings were beyond description. I included a link to a youtube video showcasing the history of one of the temples, and it notes a few of the others as well. The slideshow of the temples is not in any particular order (sorry) - but watching through all of them you might be able to discern one temple from another. The original Hindu temples are multi-level, while the Buddhist temples are one level. It was an honor to get to walk through these true wonders!
To see the rest of the segments of the above video featuring the temples of Cambodia, please visit this LINK. (it's very much worth the time!)
Cambodian Landmine Museum
One day we took a hour-long ride in a tuk-tuk to the Cambodian Landmine Museum
. Created by Aki Ra, his mission has evolved from the de-mining of Cambodia to helping injured and orphaned youth with his school. We watched a video about how he responds to calls by villages to deactivate mines they discover, and saw through the exhibit the terrors of these devastating weapons. Thousands of deactivated mines are on display, and they even have some in a outdoor setting showing how hard it is to spot a mine. Honestly, if I hadn't known to look for mines, and stood for a while to scan the ground, I would have never noticed them and it was at that moment I realized how impossible the efforts to clean up the millions of remaining mines seems. I visited their gift shop and made a donation to the museum's relief fund.
On the road to the landmine museum (and a few of the temples), we saw stand after stand of villagers with these large metal pots boiling something; the steam billowing off and up into the sky. Upon closer inspection, we were educated on the process of creating my favorite Cambodian treat - palm sugar! Basically, village men climb up the palm tree and squeeze the cut buds to massage the nectar out. This drains into bamboo buckets that are then carefully carried down to be boiled in the metal pots. After a long time cooking, the melted sugar is poured into small rings made out of palm fronds and left to cool. The result is something similar to brown sugar, with caramel and butterscotch notes. We bought some of this and I have to say it was one of my favorite guilty pleasures in Cambodia! This sugar was unprocessed, chemical free, and seeing how it was made made it a real treat!
Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village
We took a boat adventure to Tonle Sap Lake's floating village. Chong Kneas is a village at the edge of the lake, and its location changes based on the migration of the lake itself. Around 20-30 minutes from Siem Reap, the trip took us past many houses on stilts, and white sheets that were hung out in the fields. I thought that perhaps they were bleaching the sheets, but a quick answer from the driver corrected my assumption. Crickets. The sheets are lit up at night, and the crickets jump to the white sheet, then fall to a trough full of water below and are trapped. These are a source of food for the villagers, or used as bait to catch fish.
As soon as you enter the village, you’ll see rows of tourist boats docked closely together. You’ll also start smelling that fishy smell that seems to be present with river villages. One look at the water and you realize that it’s muddy muddy muddy. But such is life. People in the village still use it for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing.
The floating village is rather small. After about 20 minutes of going slowly on the boat, you’ll reach the large Tonle Sap lake. On the way there, however, you’ll see many interesting sights. As we were being informed about the village and the residents, one of the many boats approached the side of our boat, and a small (maybe 3 year old) boy popped his head up over the edge of our craft. His mother begged for money while he smiled, then jumped back into his boat to get his pet. Wrapping it around his neck, he assumed his position at the edge of our boat again. All this time, my friend Chuck was sitting with his back to the experience - so I calmly told him...
"I don't want to alarm you but behind you is a baby with a snake!"
It was quite the surreal experience to say the least. The villagers are poor, but seem pretty happy. We saw a crocodile farm while there, and I got a few gifts for friends back in the states.
We were lucky enough to spend an afternoon at the Angkor Pottery Center, managed by Hann Paruth - I tried my hand (foot) at a Khmer kick wheel and (thanks to Melody Cooper, my Woodland Hills, CA ceramics instructor) made a respectable bowl. We heard her story and some of the history of the Khmer artists who were all but obliterated during the previous years. I'd provide a website for her but alas, there is no website.
I did take a lot of photos... what I didn't do was make any video during the visit to the pottery center. I found this wonderful youtube video from another visitor earlier in 2010 and wanted to share it... Hann Paruth was a wonderful host - she goes into some detail about where the clay is from and through this video you'll see some of the in process works she is doing. Pay attention to the Khmer kick wheel - it's not as difficult as you'd think.... If you ever find yourself in Siem Reap, it is imperative that you visit her pottery studio!
The silk farm was a wonderful educational experience that taught us the process of how silk is made. From the life cycle of the silk worm to the reeling of silk, to the dyeing, and weaving, the process is labor intensive. The most amazing style is ikat, where the weft (the fibers that go from right to left on the loom) are dyed in an intricate process. Here is a video from youtube (not from the place we visited; note it's in Thailand!) that explains ikat silk weaving. Spend the 5 minutes watching this video to have an idea of what the process is like:
OK, back to the silk farm! We took a short ride to this place, part of the Artisans d'Angkor NGO - they are working to preserve and restore the arts and crafts of the Khmer people. At the end of the tour, we were able to purchase items made by these artisans. HERE
you can see some of the items for sale - they were quite reasonable and every item was beautifully crafted.
I didn't do any filming at the silk factory - I was too enamored with the process and so busy taking photos I forgot! Here's a video from youtube showing the actual farm we visited - witnesing the artistry and steps involves made me have a new appreciation for handwoven silk!!
The same NGO that trains the weavers also trains sculpters, metalsmiths and painters. The women who are taught silk painting are deaf and mute, and all the artist students come from villages where they would otherwise have no training (or future). They are brought to the school where they apprentice and learn their specific craft. After months of study, they eventually return to their village with materials to continue their work. These items are sold by the NGO and the artist makes money... it's a wonderful arrangement saving a culture that would have otherwise disappeared.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Resort / Island Life
The island is a true paradise. There are only a handful of resorts in the area we stayed. There are NO roads (OK, there are pathways) and no cars - no trucks. The only real transportation is boat, tractor or golf cart. People smile here, the air is soft and light and salty, and it's one of the few places in the world where I don't see a huge pidgeon infestation!
We slept pretty well, although the beds at each hotel were pretty darn firm - and each day it was a wonderful feeling to think the only thing I had to do was get up, brush my teeth, put on my swim trunks and go sit by the pool. I have said before I loved this trip - but really - really - hear me when I say - I LOVED this trip!
OK. Truth be told, I was very excited about snorkling. The ocean was warm and clear, and despite my fear of stepping on glass or something else that would rip a crater in my foot, it was an adventure I was ready to experience. We went on our first snorkling adventure one day near bamboo island and mosquito island; about 20 minutes by longtail boat away from Koh Phi Phi. We climbed into the ocean carefully after putting on our snorkel goggles and fins. For a few moments I was OK - looking around at the ocean floor, and immediately I saw schools of yellow fish! Beautiful tropical fish that made me smile!
It only took 2 minutes or less before I saw a jellyfish. These things scare me because they sting (and some kinds can really injure a person, even kill them)! I panicked because I couldn't get turned around and to the boat - and I was afraid that I was going to swim into another one... After taking a few breaths and talking myself out of the nervous breakdown I was having, I found my way to the boat, climbed in and realized that the temple on the left side of my head was STINGING. I guess in my swim at some point, I had actually encountered a jellyfish - (the spot stung for a few days!)
John and Chuck spent a while snorkling and I watched from the boat. We ended up snorkling one more time during our trip - in a small cove where I could stand on the reef if I needed to, and where it didn't feel like I was going to float away from the boat. We spent an hour or so in this quiet little spot, feeding the fish, and marveling in the awesome beauty of the life in the water. It was a real treat to get to snorkel and not be terrified.
Who knows if I'l ever be over my small fear of the ocean and snorkeling - but the second snorkel adventure on this trip definately gave me some good memories of the sport, and might even be enough to talk me into trying it again sometime!
Christmas on Koh Phi Phi
There was a Christmas tree farm on Koh Phi Phi! (OK, it wasn't a tree farm - it was more like the landscape area for the resort we were staying in, but Chuck and I decided to make the best of it - and found a plant there and brought it to our room). We decorated the tree and surrounding area with shells and flowers, cut a paper snowflake for the top of the tree out of the coasters in the room, and wrapped up some small gifts we had gotten for each other using whatever we could find. It was a "figure it out" kind of holiday, and it made me think of those who get creative using what they have to be festive instead of buying all the decorations and other things that make the holiday commercial.
It was one of the best holidays I have ever had - spending time with my wonderful friends, and being allowed the opportunity to sit back and really spend time to think of how very very lucky I am to have amazing people in my life. I have been fortunate (even though sometimes it didn't feel like it) and never went a day without eating, have always had a soft place to sleep, and have been brought up in a country where for the most part I can be whatever I want...
Christmas was different than usual for me this year, for many reasons. It was a different season than I expect for the holiday, I was in Southeast Asia, and I had recently made some big changes in my life. The trip allowed me to reflect on what I had been doing and where I was going... and what I realized is that we are alive for a relatively short time - the days are numbered, and if you are interested in doing something, you should just dive in and do it. That being said, since our return, I have designed 3 hat patterns, I have completed a number of knit items, and I am working on a few writing projects as well. I have registered for classes at the local city college, discovered (and signed up for) a free tapestry class, and even been accepted into the HIV counselor training program by AIDS Health Project! Things are moving along these first few weeks of 2011 - and I am certain that the year will be full of good things!
To get off the island, we chartered a speedboat to take us the 45km to Phuket, where we were to take a taxi to the airport. John did the arrangements, and had us leave the island 30 minutes or so earlier than the hotel recommended, so that we would have plenty of time at the airport before our flight to Bangkok later that day. We boarded our boat 45 minutes or so before the hotel suggested time, and bid farewell to our island home.
Or so we thought.
The driver brought us to the other side of the island (the more commercial side that reminded me a lot of what it might be like if it were spring break) and parked the boat... they told us that they needed to get something and they'd only be a moment. About 20 minutes later we were trying to figure out what the captain of the boat needed (he had brought a jug from the boat with him) - and it turns out that he RAN OUT OF GAS! - lucky for us we weren't in the middle of the ocean, right?! About 30 minutes later the other escort who was accompanying us to our destination finally reached another boat and we changed from one boat to another and started our trip to Phuket. This should be the end of the frustrations, right?
As we are speeding along, we hear some sputtering and choking of the engine - we have been boating right along at a good pace - and we are within site of Phuket and the bay where we are to dock and get our taxi when the engine shuts off. The captain and the escort talk to each other, hop back and forth and fiddle with the engine - guess what?
We are out of gas. Again. (Seriously? twice in one day? On the way to the airport? Is this really how our amazing vacation is going to end?!) -
Anyway, the captain nurses the boat to a dock (not the right dock) and we do get to a taxi who tells us we are about 40 minutes away from the airport. We are also exactly 40 minutes from the cutoff time to check our bags for the flight to Bangkok! The driver does his best to get us to the airport (slowing down the 3 times he answers his cell phone while driving) - and in the end, we arrived at the ticket counter to find out our flight had been delayed. We made it just fine to Bangkok, where we stayed the night at an airport hotel. The next morning, we got up WAY too early, trodded through the security and found our way to our flight home to Tokyo then San Francisco. The flights were uneventful and long.
I am now happy to be home, settled into the start of my new life here in San Francisco, and looking forward to the adventures I will have here in this amazing city!
Thank you for taking time to read about the trip - I hope that it was as fun for you as it was for me to share!
Happy New Year everyone!
I apologize for the big lapse between posts - but the latest delay comes with good reason. Before I begin I want to note that I do have some knitting content to share but needs its own posts. Those will come shortly after the trip recap is published. I was out of town from December 9 - 30, 2010 traveling Southeast Asia with 2 of my good friends! We visited Thailand and Cambodia over the almost 3 week trip and I came back with literally thousands of photographs, more inspiration than I can explain, and a refreshed outlook on life, seeing how others live firsthand in other parts of the world. Because of the sheer volume of photos from this trip I decided instead of showing each individual photos from the trip that I would just speak in general about some highlights. This will also be a two-part post because it's just so much information to read and share, I think giving you a break in reading might make it easier to digest. (I also want to get part 1 out ASAP so that people can relish in the warm heat of Southeast Asia while it's chilly and wintery at home!) Enjoy the trip!
Wats in Bangkok
Before I went to Bangkok, all I knew about it was the sont "One Night In Bangkok" - I thought it was seedy, racy, and full of bars with back rooms that featured strippers or worse... When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful bustling city full of culture and history! We stayed on the river in a beautiful hotel, and took a water taxi almost everywhere we went! I have lots of favorite things to mention about Bangkok, but one of my favorites would be the wats - or Buddhist temples. We went to a lot of them, including Wat Pho, the home of the huge reclining Buddha. We saw the Emerald Buddha as well (it's one of the most important Buddhas in the history of the religion). I also really appreciated that the wats were almost all being renovated or restored... go through a doorway and there's an artist lacquering a giant centuries old Buddha image - through another doorway or around a corner in a different wat and someone is restoring a mural... the preservation efforts made me smile. I like when people do their best to preserve amazing spaces such as these! Enjoy a few of the photos I took while visiting these amazing spaces:
Jim Thompson's House
We had a wonderful adventure at Jim Thompson's
House - after the adventure trying to find it, we were led on a tour of what was his home (he took a number of traditional Thai houses and reassembled them to make one large home with two outbuildings - one for his gardener and the other was for his housekeeper.
Jim went on an excursion in the Cameron highlandsin Malaysia in 1967 and never returned - his house is now a museum showcasing this brilliant businessman and his passion for the silk industry. He's the guy who revitalized the Thai silk world, and his name still hangs on shops around the world. I thought about buying a bag from the Jim Thompson shop, but decided that I have many bags as it is, and that the photographs and experience of being in this place were enough souveniers. There was also a small museum at the property, and theyon exhibit some of the silk items from one of Jim's collections. I really liked some of the fashions, but have no idea where I'd wear a fancy silk long coat like the one in the show... We were not allowed to photograph inside the home (except in certain areas) so I can only offer you these peeks into the world of Jim Thompson:
Markets, Waterways and Streets of Bangkok
Bangkok is a land full of sights and smells - there are markets everywhere you turn (but no yarn shops that we could find!) and commodities are divided into areas... if you want car parts, you head to that area of town. Need a new rubber stamp or embosser for your business? There's probably a street for that as well...
Everywhere you go in Thailand (and Cambodia) in the big cities, the way to get around quickly is by a little two stroke engine motorcycle with a cart behind it - they call this a Tuk-Tuk. They are cheap and they are everywhere! On one of the days, Chuck and I took a field trip to try to find a certain area of town, and while searching came across the flower market - this is where they make the floral adornments for the temples and Buddha's. Here are some of my favorite photos showing daily life in Bangkok, Thailand:
Monk Bowl Village, Bangkok
After our long walking journey through the city, we were starting to get a little frustrated. When visiting a country, it's good to have a guide or someone who can read the language. I'm not ashamed to say that Thai (and other languages like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) when written, make absolutely no sense to me! This can be problematic when you're looking for a place and the only way to find it is to follow Thai street signs. Chuck and I were really at the end of our rope, and stopped at a corner to examine our tourist map to see if we could figure out which direction was which... when a lady approached Chuck and asked where we were trying to go... (most people there are eager to help you find your way, which is nice) - we explained we were looking for a certain Wat that sells Monk Bowls. Monk bowls are used by Thai monks to collect alms in town each morning--being pounded into shape out of eight strips of steel, one for each stage of the Buddhists' eightfold path. She told us that the village was just down the street we had stopped at - and pointed the way to where we really wanted to go; monk bowl village!
As we got closer, we were greeted by the ambassador of Monk Bowl Village - one of the residents who speaks great English - he showed us to the "store" (it was no more than a pile of bowls and a glass case) - We pondered the bowls, but I wanted to see where they were made. He obliged, and took us on a tour of their village - and eveywhere we went, we heard "tap tap tap"... That metallic tap you hear is the sound of the bowls being smashed into shape by the artists. The village was cute, and everyone seemed happy there... they are very poor people, but they do good work making something that they love - we were impressed by their work - it would take an artist one full day to make a bowl. Chuck and I each bought one bowl (about U.S. $30) and they are proudly displayed on a shelf at home in San Francisco now. When I brought my bowl back to the hotel, one of the hotel porters warned me that it was more than a souvenier. The bowls are sacred, and should never be put on the ground. I promised him I'd safeguard this bowl, and I'm honored to have it as a momento from this amazing adventure. Here are photos from Monk Bowl Village:
Are you hanging in there with me? I told you - it's a long trip! I hope you're enjoying the 5 day adventure in Bangkok, Thailand. Stay tuned; I will be posting a part 2 to this trip, featuring 7 days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and 7 more on the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand!
November has been a month full of changes. I made many life altering choices, including the one to say farewell to my home in Los Angeles and head north to San Francisco! Change is not always easy, but often these differences in location and change of scenery offer more good than we can imagine! On Sunday November 20, 2010 I headed north with a friend after loading my (cute) little 10' Uhaul truck. As we drove it rained softly and we were presented with rainbow after rainbow after rainbow...
We drove about halfway and stopped near Fresno for the night, and woke up the next morning to a clear, crisp day... clean roads and postcard-perfect views all the way into the bay area...
We kept getting closer and closer to HOME - and I finally decided to post on Facebook that I was making the move - messages from all over poured in congratulating me on the decision - it wasn't easy - we often face crossroads in our lives (insert violin music here) and the opportunities we have should be seized! I am moving to this wonderful new city, leaving my previous job (and career) with the goal of entering into the non profit sector. Initially I will be seeking work as a voulenteer as an HIV counselor - administering tests and offering information to clients. In time I will find the right job for me... one that makes a difference in the lives of those in my community.
I thought for a while if I might want to work in a fiber-related field, and I am still undecided about that - I think that I prefer doing something else that I love, and leaving the knitting and fiber fun as a passion - I may change my mind at some point, but for now, that's the road I chose.
We arrived safe and sound around lunchtime - John parked the Uhaul carefully and it only took around 10 minutes to unload into the lobby of the condo. As the Uhaul was returned I hauled as much as I could up the stairs. a few days have passed now and almost everything is put away, and the kitties are acclimating to their new home. They have discovered the wall heaters, and the pidgeons outside the windows. I think they like both.
Here's Willow sharing Dewey's bed in front of the wall heater - they love the heaters early in the morning, but really prefer the sunbeams... San Francisco is a gorgeous town full of character and interesting people. I look forward to the adventure here and learning as much as I can about this glorious city!
p.s. Winky is safe in SF too but didn't want to be photographed :)
Our wonderful friend Chuck turned 40 in January, 2010 - and to commemorate the event, he arranged for 21 of his friends and family to meet and spend a week in a 17,000 square foot villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! (I know, I know; we're LUCKY!) - the weather was AMAZING, views spectacular, and the experience will stay with me the rest of my life as one of the best trips EVER!
Now, in this season of snow and cold across much of the United States, I know some of you will be envious of the 80 degree weather with clear skies... take a gander at some of the photos and just try to remember that winter doesn't last forever; soon it will be spring again and you too will have the sunshine and gorgeous days!
While on the trip we also went on a forest canopy tour, using ziplines hundreds of feet above the forest floor to travel from one mountain to the next, we played with tiny cute monkeys, and even went on a day cruise to a remote beach where we were served a gourmet meal... we snorkled, frolicked in waves, shopped and had more fun than we deserved! It was a memorable birthday celebration and the best vacation EVER.
During the visit the majority of our time was spent lounging at the pool or sitting on the gorgeous patio and visiting with friends. I, of course, was knitting... along with our friend Kenny
from Houston and John from San Francisco. I brought my fair isle vest to work on and got a lot accomplished during the flight down, but while at the villa, it seemed difficult to concentrate... maybe it was the friends and fun conversation, or perhaps it was a result of the amazing hand made frozen strawberry margueritas that our bar staff (yes, we had STAFF!) made -
The food was incredible - all made fresh from local fare brought to the villa by Vinny (the house manager) and the cook prepared everything to order - we had an incredible birthday cake on Chuck's birthday and I could have probably eaten the entire thing myself...In knitting news, I am working on the fair isle vest, and a few other goodies... including knitted boxer shorts which were designed by Brian Kohler of Skacel. I'm quite into the knitting groove as of late; just in time for school to start back up.
This semester offers only two courses for me: Abnormal Psychology and Ceramics (which I guess would be considered an intermediate course this time; I'll be required to make a plate, a pedestal bowl, and 4 pieces of tableware (cups, bowls, butter dishes, whatever) - all themed around the inspiration of an artist which I must still come up with - any ideas?
I decided not to take a 3rd course this semester and instead will dedicate THAT time to my circular sock knitting machine. I must make that thing work! I am hoping to get proficient at it so that I will be able to make socks for others quickly and beautifully... and the only reason I don't do it is because I "don't have time" -- so, I'll make time! - that way, I can spend a few hours a week dedicated to the machine and with any luck that'll get me on my way!
Of course, I'm still running - last week, we ran 20 miles (yes, 20 miles!) - we were up and running at 6AM and I can not begin to tell you how amazing it feels to have accomplished this! Next week I'll be running the Pasadena Half-Marathon - and then on March 21st I'll be running the Los Angeles Marathon!
I am hosting dinner at Marie Callender's on March 3, 2010 in Toluca Lake, CA - if you are in the area, please print out this flyer and present it to the cashier when paying your bill - 15% of the total will be donated to my efforts and in turn to AIDS Project Los Angeles!
There will also be a WONDERFUL raffle held the same evening - raffle tickets are $1 each, and there's a coupon for 2 free tickets when you buy 20 on the flier. Winners need not be present to win, so if you want to buy tickets and place them on an item, feel free to email me and let me know - I will have you donate through my online donation page - once I see the donation there I can mark and place your raffle tickets. The only stipulation is that if you can not pick up your item, I will ask you to cover the cost of shipping.
Please cross post and share this event with your Los Angeles family and friends - the more people who bring these flyers on March 3rd, the more money we can raise to help improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles!
What have I been doing? I have been running... working on knitting projects... preparing for a vacation... getting ready for the Spring 2010 semester at school - How exciting it is to announce 12 more cast aluminum yarn bowls for sale - they're showcased on my etsy
site - more yummy gold colored bowls, more delicious violet colored bowls... and introducing gorgeous blue bowls! Click on the link or visit my SHOP
to take a gander!
In other news - we are about to go on vacation - for a wonderful week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with just under 20 amazing friends - I can't wait to share stories and photos from our trip - but that'll be in a few weeks. Now... what do we bring with us on vacations? KNITTING! - I have started a new project - the Latvian Vest
from Knitty - size 4 circular needles - and alternating an oatmeal yarn with some fantastic Kauni Effektgarn which slowly changes colors from maroon to pumpkin to chocolate brown! - yes, 272 stitches, fair isle chart patterns... this is how I relax. (I promise not to drink and knit) - LOL - it's on its way - started... and the color is starting to change! I'm so excited about this project!
Talk with you in a few weeks!!!