Monthly Archives: February 2009

Eye Candy Friday from the Streets of Tacoma

One last look back.


This primrose was actually growing OUTSIDE on the night of February 13th on the streets of downtown Tacoma.  Not even in a container that could be taken inside, or anything.  Right out there in the dirt! 

Can you believe it?

Well, spring will come here eventually too.  At least, that’s what they tell me.  Once the snow that fell yesterday and the ice that’s under it melts, and the single-digit lows warm up, and it gets above freezing again….

Madrona, my Madrona

Or, if you’re from my era, you can sing that “M-M-M-My(uh) MadronAH!”


Epic post.  Read when you have a minute or thirty!

Fun-Filled and Action-Packed last 24 hours at Madrona, now coming at you.

When we left our knitting heroine (that would be me), she had just had her book, “Knitted Lace of Estonia” signed by Nancy Bush (after finishing casting off her mini-shawl just after class ended).

So, I was hanging out in this lobby with my knitting peeps, except the lobby didn’t look like that any more; it was filling with knitters and spinners.


(See the spinning wheel in the bar?  Love it!)

KT was busy finishing her button band.


She got some help from the amazing Mary Scott Huff (about whom, more later) who sewed on buttons while KT finished knitting, so KT could wear it to the banquet that night!

I cast on a baby cardigan for a coworker (but have since frogged it):


More lovely Twisted yarn, but for this project, the Tyrolean baby jacket, I think ‘long repeat’ Duchess is needed, so the striping is slower.  This was happening:


See how on one side, the differently colored garter stripes are pretty and self-contained, and on the other, they’re ‘ticked’, blended?  I actually could deal with the blending, but not with the fact that the blended and non-blended stripes would be opposite each other in the front of the cardigan.  I knit a baby hat instead and am pondering how to use the rest of the yarn effectively (baby of unknown gender, and I don’t want to knit a baby cardigan in a gazillion pieces and sew together, kthxbai).  But here’s the hat, gifted yesterday at her surprise shower at work:


(There!  Snuck in some gratuitous knitting to prove I’d been doing it!  But I really did start this project, in a sense, in that hotel lobby.)

Across from me, Lisa was working on her “Ginger” sweater:  I thought she said its real name was  “Gracie”, but I’m not finding that.  Anyway, she had christened hers “Ginger” because the pattern called for miles of reverse stockinette with a few cables; and she decided to knit hers in stockinette, which however meant knitting the cables inside out and backwards, essentially.  Hence like Ginger Rogers, doing what Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels!

Here’s an impressionistic (read, blurry) Lisa explaining the above to Mary.


So, I told you you’d hear more about Mary.  Mary Scott Huff is the designer of the lovely Faery Ring Sweater.  I was introduced to her earlier in the market, at which point someone wearing the Faery Ring sweater was walking by!  But the sweater MARY was wearing was the showstopper.  Look at my (less than optimal) pictures of the Frog Prince jacket!



You may not be able to see the metallic thread in the crowns, and the little warts on the frogs.  SO freakin’ awesome!

Steph thought so too.  (Picture from the banquet.)


Mary has a book coming out late this year, anticipated in November.  Watch her blog for details, no doubt.  Should be amazing too!

Anyway, back to the future, er, the pre-banquet past.  There we were, KT, me, Lisa, Karen and Mary


hanging out, knitting, sewing on buttons, talking, drinking beverages of various sorts.

When along came a young woman who saw us all knitting and said: “I’ve always wanted to learn to do that.  Would it be hard to make this?”  (indicating a felted purse she was wearing)

Well, that was sort of like waving the red flag in front of the bull.

In short order, she was assured that knitting was easy; she got to try on the Frog Prince jacket


and shortly thereafter she was sitting down with Karen showing her the knit stitch.


Turns out she is one of Gladys Knight’s backup singers, in town for a gig!  Let’s hear it for new knitters!

Sometime thereafter, we assembled for the banquet.  The usual suspects above and a couple more were at our table (plus a gentleman who was showing off his colorful knitted boxers — not being worn at the moment, granted).

Here is an entire banquet hall full of knitters.


Cat Bordhi has her back to us in the foreground, with the blue cowl; Tina Newton across the table just to the right.  I took some bad pictures of KT and Debbi and Lisa; all my pictures were unflattering to somebody, so I am leaving them out.

Aren’t the glass lights lovely?


I was a little surprised at the food, the hotel being so nice otherwise, I must admit.  Banquet food is always difficult.  But the menu choices were salmon or vegetarian.  I have the questionable taste not to care for salmon, though I like most other fish, so I chose vegetarian, since I love vegetables and never mind eating vegetarian (I just like meat, too!).  Well, the vegetarian dinner was a huge heap of polenta, and about four spears of asparagus.  Hmm.  I do think of polenta as a side dish.  It would be like getting a plateful of mashed potatoes and calling it dinner.  (Actually, I’d rather have the mashed potatoes.  But either way, it’s carb city, and very light on the vegetables….)

Anyway, we had a good time regardless, and then settled down to hear Elsebeth Lavold speak about her inspirations for her Viking Knits.


(Look how everyone is looking down at their knitting while listening.  Good think knitter-speakers don’t take it personally.)  Her talk was related to her current exhibition touring US Museums, “Knitting Along the Viking Trail“, currently in Seattle at the Nordic Heritage Museum through April 5, 2009; then coming to my neck of the woods to Vesterheim, Decorah, Iowa, in July of this year.


She talked about how she draws inspiration from a wide variety of archeological Nordic and Viking artifacts.  (She is truly Nordic, by the way:  OK, I might possibly have this wrong, but what I recall her telling us (perhaps in the talk, perhaps in class the next day) was that she is Norwegian by ancestry, was raised in Denmark, and lives in Sweden.)  I also (re)learned the distinction between Celtic art as a whole and ‘insular’ art, the term applied to the knotwork and interlacing art that we sometimes think of as Celtic, but which was not typical of Celts outside the British Isles.

The below is a sweater she made for her husband, a musician.  The runes spell out “Brage”, whom I believe is the Norse god of poetry.  The dragon is just incredible (seen better here, scroll down to the fifth picture.)


And lest you thought that the life of a knitting designer was all glamour, here’s Elsebeth Lavold at a photo shoot during the short Northern summer, the only time available for her approximately three pattern books a year to be photographed:


(holding a light reflector)

I enjoyed her talk very much.

Afterwards, we repaired back to the lobby for some more knitting and beverages.  (Simple projects were necessary for some of us.)  The bar at this point was stuffed full of knitters.  Here’s Tina talking to the horse in the bar, and photographic proof that new knitters can be converted regardless of the deduced state of their undergarments (ask Debbi if you want to know more).


So, after staying up rather late-ish downstairs, then repairing to my room and deciding to do a little more spinning to settle myself down (ha!) — I then stayed up WAY too late.

OK, here’s a picture of my new Greensleeves spindle, tulipwood/birdseye maple,  26 g/0.8 oz (yes, Laurie, I got a little Cascade spindle at Carolina Homespun too, after you bought one!) — complete with bad pictures of some Navajo-plied yarn just for Deb.  But it is indubitably yarn of a sort!  It’s maybe sport weight-ish. Haven’t done wpi.  Haven’t done that much (there’s still a lot of fiber left….)


This isn’t my absolute most favorite of the colorways I have in roving, so I chose to spin it first so mess-ups wouldn’t cause me as many heart pangs.  It’s merino Twisted roving, in the Firefly colorway (looks rather different from the yarn, in this particular roving, as the green came out more chartreuse).


The kitten continues to be fascinated by spinning, spinning-session-is-about-o so I have a feeling further progress will be slow….


After staying up way, WAY too late, I woke  up at ten to nine on


for my 9:00 class with Elsebeth Lavold, Viking Knits and Mitered Cables.

WAHHHH!  Tear into my clothes, brush teeth and hair and fly down and over to the classroom, which was across the way.  No time for coffee or breakfast!  Fortunately, I’d laid out what class supplies I needed the day before, for once.

This was a great class, or rather, classes; it was really two related half-day classes.  The first, Viking Knits, explained how to make a solitary cabled motif placed on a plain (reverse stockinette) background.  I had brought a cable needle as directed but hoped it was OK that I usually cabled without a cable needle, unless it was one of those freaky three-way cables.  Also, I hoped she didn’t mind that I was using circular needles….

Guess what?  As part of the class, she taught how to cable without a cable needle!  And she knits carrying the yarn in the left hand as do I.  (She said she often uses circulars; she was using a jumper flex needle that day.)

Elsebeth was talking about her knitting style because someone asked, as we were knitting during class, doing our project.  She still does “Danish purls” (look here and scroll down to the Norwegian purl video, then you just have to watch it…), though sighing that her grandmother taught her this way as it’s not very efficient (she taught herself to knit back backwards to avoid them when doing big swaths of stockinette; later learned other ways of purling but finds herself reverting back to the Danish purl when not thinking about it.

So, for the first part of the class, we knit a little circle motif to learn the techniques she used in designing the Viking Knits motifs (which results in the motif stopping and starting without changing the gauge).

Then, the handout had a motif on it.   And our instructions for the last part of the class were:

“Go ahead and knit the left-hand motif.  Graph it out if you like, but if you are an intuitive knitter, just go ahead and start knitting; I would encourage you to try.”


If we felt very expert, we could try the right-hand motif.

Well, I regard myself as pretty fearless: so I went ahead and tackled the right hand motif.  And before lunchtime, I had this.


That was so much fun, I can’t tell you!  It was a challenge, but very do-able, and I throve on it.  I made one false start, which I would have caught if I had graphed it out: I turned the second ‘upper’ cables two rows too early, and they were too close to the first cables to look good, plus weren’t going to meet the other cables to cross at the right point.  It became clear in just a couple rows, so a quick frog (ribbit!  ribbit!) and back on track.

Then lunch, which was going to be with Lisa and Karen et al, but then Lisa had to man the Madrona charity booth, so it was a take-out soup affair in front of the charity booth (worked for me, and I said good-bye to Karen).  Then back for part two, Mitered Cables.  Even more fun.

Our homework looked like this (I’d finished it a comfortable 36 hours beforehand, stellar for me).


Then we made it do THIS.


(whispers: SHORT ROWS)

Then, there were some other motifs, and our job was to figure out how we might miter them — make them turn a corner.  Well, we could just graph them (and also some people were knitting the original miter up till about the end); but I decided to (of course) knit one, and having no graph paper (given my tearing out of the room), did it on the fly.

I goofed up a bit due to changing my mind about something in the middle, but it still looks pretty good (and I learned something).


This was turning the corner the harder way, where the action is on the purl side.  Half done above, with a marking thread showing the short rows (they’re not wrapped, and it’s easy to mess up coming back on them).


Great fun.

One other tidbit from Elsebeth Lavold’s class: there are new yarns in her line coming out soon; one is called EuCool, if I remember right, a wool/eucalyptus blend (didn’t smell eucalyptus-y); and I am totally blanking on the second except that it was ‘green’ somehow, I think.  She passed samples of the new yarns around.  And I learned a lot about how ‘the biz’ works.

The class was extremely enjoyable, taught at a pace and in a way that allowed both slower/faster or newer/more experienced knitters to get an equal amount out of it.  As in the first project, where you could knit an easier or a harder version.  I really liked that.  And Elsebeth was a great teacher.  I can’t imagine teaching something technical in a foreign language effectively, let alone doing it with such grace and style.  Her English is very fluent and idiomatic, with a soft, pleasant accent.  I’d certainly recommend her classes highly.  In fact, she’s teaching in Decorah in conjunction with the Vesterheim exhibit this summer, and I think her “Runes” class would be fun. (Paging my friend Lee….)

So, after this I met up with Lisa again, who saved my butt and sanity and has my unending gratitude, because she was willing to send some of my yarn purchases home for me.  (That’s why I haven’t shown you a couple of my acquisitions yet.)  What was fun was that I got to show and tell all my purchases in sorting them out to the things that needed to come home in my suitcase, and those that could take the long road home.  We had fun.

But Lisa had to go home too.  So I had dinner by myself, everyone else having left (but the room service meal I had was incredible! madrona-room-service), packed, read, and tried to go to sleep (no spinning!) so as to be able to get up at 4 am to make it to the airport on time for a 7 am departure.  (What is it with this 4 am stuff?  That’s inhuman!)

At which point, the second time I’ve ever flown out of Seattle was also the second time my plane has ever been deiced.  With all the flying I do out of Minneapolis-St. Paul. (After the recent loss of the small plane in which icing was implicated, I’m sure that was on the pilot’s mind, though the weather didn’t seem bad; but it was foggy on the runway and chilly.)  (Plus, speaking of recent airplane incidents, I was told much more than I ever have been before, on the flight out, about the flotation devices on the plane, including the lifeboats!)

So….back through the City of Lakes (Minneapolis),


down the Mississippi River,


and back home.




Re-entry to reality.  Sigh.

Good to be back, but — Madrona was such a beautiful knitterly fibery dream.

I just wanted to dream a little bit longer….

Madrona Part Deux

And so we return to Tacoma last week….


Up early


(though since I should have been on Central Daylight Time,  it shouldn’t have been hard) to be ready for my morning class, “Knit to Flatter and Fit” with Sally Melville.  This will be a chapter in her upcoming book, “Mother-Daughter Knits” (due out March 2009).  If you get the chance to take the class, it was great (we were her first students); otherwise, I’m looking forward to buying the book, having had a quick glance at Sally’s advance copy!

I mentioned the homework: a full-length photo of yourself, then scaling your silhouette down to 1:8 and bringing that with you.  Wild.  My husband took the pictures, and it kept looking like my knees were bent (don’t know if it was the angle or my hypermobile joints).  Also, I’m not sure I really wanted to know how I looked from that perspective in my leotard without a skirt.

But it was in a good cause.  Part of the class was playing paper dolls!  We looked at different sweater styles, lengths, and shaping, and ‘tried them on’ our silhouettes.  To my surprise, below is one of the most flattering combos: a shaped, somewhat longer sweater, and a straight skirt.


Neither of which figure prominently in my wardrobe (but could do so more — it’s just hard to find straight skirts that fit me well).  Sally convinced us that the unshaped boxy sweater probably needs to be shorter than it sometimes is (high hip length at longest) and be balanced by something else that creates an hourglass type of shape to be flattering.

We also did measurements, like shoulder width and sleeve length (things I haven’t done since 8th grade home ec, if even then).  My shoulders are average, I’m short-waisted (hm, makes sense, but nothing I’d ever overtly thought about), my head’s big (well, I knew that).  Then Sally told us briefly how to adjust sweater patterns to our sizes and how and where to put in shaping.  My seatmate, who was tall and chesty, nonetheless had narrow shoulders and had great trouble with sweaters sliding off her shoulders.  Sally demonstrated how to recalculate a pattern to adjust shoulder width.  She talked about armscye shaping.  She talked about any number of dressmaking details I had no idea about.  She also talked about general aesthetic principles that could be applied to fashion and to flattering fit, such as: dividing something into unequal parts is more interesting to look at (but not too unequal).  There was so much in 3 hours, my head was spinning, and it was all fascinating.

I took this class because I hardly ever knit sweaters any more, and want to re-start; but want to make sure any I make look good.

Oh!  Another word of wisdom to pass on from Sally.  “When we buy clothes, we buy things that make us say, ‘I want to wear that’.  When we knit things, we knit projects that make us say, ‘I want to knit that’ — not necessarily, ‘I want to wear that’!”  True.  Very true.  And perhaps sometimes we should just put down the needles and back away from the project; or modify it quite a bit if we want to look good in it.  One last word of wisdom she passed on: “The biggest mistake knitters make?  Following the pattern!” (that is, not making the changes that their body requires: lengthening, shortening, etc.)

Then lunch with Sam and Laurie, at which point Sam did a show-and-tell (and -pet) of her marketplace acquisitions (allowing me to make mental notes about some places not to miss).  Sam, I met at Sock Camp last year also:  among other wonderful attributes, it was her MP3 dock that let me perform my Knitting Ballet (YouTube link if you’ve forgotten, or not seen the few seconds of craziness).  It was great to see her again!  Though we will see each other three times this spring, which is wild…. Laurie, on the other hand, is my internet twin, but this is the first time we’ve met in real life.   We have this uncanny habit of doing the same things as the same time:  knitting the same projects, learning to drop spin, and buying the exact same (or nearly so) yarn at The Loopy Ewe.  Our favorite colors are the same.  We first met through the first DishRag Tag: Laurie was the intrepid captain of our team, the Cotton Commandoes.


Sam’s on the left with a Feather and Fan scarf, Laurie on the right wearing her new Wollmeise Shetland Triangle.

So, Laurie had an all-day class and mine was just in the morning: After lunch, I talked with a friend for a while, messed around a bit more in the marketplace, checked in on the internet, and then met Laurie when she was done with class for a serious though fast trip through the marketplace.

Sam mentioned Rainy Days & Wooly Dogs (etsy link) in her blog post linked above: after seeing her yarn from these vendors, I had to check them out.  Dang, I don’t have a picture, but Laurie and I had fun there.  I especially liked their way cool Gothsocks (here’s their recently sold item listing, and a number of the Gothsocks are there; click on any one to see a sample of it knitted up; it’s a self-striping yarn).  But the colors that were left at the end of the day, I wasn’t sure which, or if, my daughters would like.  Well, the Rainy half of the dyeing duo (who was there that day) so very kindly offered to skein up some yarn that was dyed at home but hadn’t made it to Madrona, when she got home that night.  She was as good as her word, I ducked in quickly before class the next morning and came home with the PERFECT skein of yarn for each daughter:


Little Goth Girl for the Gothlet, on the left, and Green-Eyed Monster for the RockStar (meaning that literally, not figuratively; she’s not a jealous type particularly, just green-eyed and, um, extremely feisty at times).  The Little Goth Girl will apparently be variegated colors in one stripe, separated by black stripes (about 5 rows high, if I remember right); you saw the Gothlet’s favored style of dressing, I think variegation is right up her alley!  And she likes black and green and purple.  Green-Eyed Monster is subtle tones of rich greens and aquas.

Back to Friday; we stayed in the market past closing (oops) and therefore headed out to eat late: all the closer restaurants were filled with happy and hungry knitters.  Laurie and I kept walking, and just before we might have turned back, across the street from the Pantages Theater madrona-pantages-theatre, we found a little bistro/wine bar called Ravenous.

madrona-ravenous1 The atmosphere was informal, but the food and service were great.  We had a wonderful time before Laurie had to head home.  And I came back to the Hotel Murano to hear the latter part of Cat Bordhi’s talk, and see the Teacher’s showcase of their work: amazing.

madrona-teachers-0 madrona-teachers-6 madrona-teachers-1 madrona-teachers-2 madrona-teachers-3 madrona-teachers-4 madrona-teachers-5 madrona-teachers-7 madrona-teachers-8

At which point, I was all energized and wanted to try the new Greensleeves spindle I’d bought that day.  (No spindle pic yet, but here I am showing off a Fiber Parfait at Chameleon Colorworks!


Yum!)  I didn’t get the Parfait, but did buy some Optim fiber to try as well as beautifully dyed Merino/Tencel.

So, back to the room late at night, I tried the spindle on some Twisted fiber I’d brought with me; but then was thinking ahead to wanting to preserve the color changes, and remembered a YouTube video about Navajo-plying on the fly on a spindle, that I saw once while looking for something else.

Now– bear in mind I’ve only plied once, on a wheel, last summer, and have never Navajo-plied or plied on a spindle at all.  But there I am, in my room, watching a YouTube video and Navajo-plying on the fly like a madwoman (emphasis on the MAD).  Till the wee hours of the morning.



Gah.  Insanity.  Which resulted in massive caffeine requirements on


when, after ducking into the market to select the Gothsocks and, um, a bit more, I headed to my all-day class, “Overture to Estonian Lace” with Nancy Bush.  Grabbed lunch on the fly, a quick market stop, and back to class.

This class was awesome, overall, though parts were a bit slow as Nancy demonstrated techniques to half the class at a time (the other half didn’t always have something to do depending on where we were in the project; though I had brought along my DadSocks to work on, which was a good call, and I made excellent progress).  Besides learning about the lace tradition of Estonia, specifically Haapsalu, we heard about the backstory of Nancy’s book “Knitted Lace of Estonia“, learned the history of Estonia, could see a slideshow of this beautiful country, saw all the shawls from the book and many original Estonian shawls close up:


and then learned the techniques necessary to knit a Haapsalu-style shawl, old or modern-style, knitting a mini-shawl in the process from natural white Jamieson jumperweight that Nancy supplied.

I now have overcome my nupp-phobia.  It was just the words “purl 5 [or worse yet, 7] together” that struck fear into my heart, especially after my recent thumb ailment that temporarily stopped me from purling at all.  But I learned the trick for setting up the nupp (pronounced to rhyme with ‘soup’), and did a whole heap, and …”as God is my witness, I will never fear nupps again!”

Here’s my mini-shawl the way it came home with me:


then blocked a couple days later.


Isn’t it cute?  (The top Lily of the Valley motif is 7 stitch nupps, by the way!  Or nuppud, as the plural would be in Estonian, a non-Romance language.  See what I learned!)

(I really wanted to get through Madrona-Saturday-day so I could actually show you that knitting above.  I realize there has been a noticeable lack of knitting content on this blog recently.  Though I have been knitting!  A fair amount, even! Promise more knitting pictures soon.)

Right after class, there was an overall Madrona book signing, and Nancy graciously signed a copy of her Estonian Lace book for me, which I’d brought with me.

Oh, and the day before, I’d won a door prize: I picked out a skein of yarn unfamiliar to me, Horizons Lace yarn.  Then I looked at my “Knitted Lace of Estonia” book that night and realized that yarn, Nancy’s own, sold in her online shop linked above, was used in three of the scarves/shawls!  The very colorway I had was used for the Leaf and Nupp shawl (Ravelry link).  Lucky me!   I brought it to class the next day for show and tell.


With that, we’ll pause again (Saturday night was busy) before I embark upon the final Madrona post:  Saturday night, Sunday, and departing.

Musings from Madrona

First of all:

It’s all KT’s fault.

I’d heard of Madrona. I suppose first through the Yarn Harlot’s blog. It sounded special. But not something really accessible to me. I pictured rarefied knitting and spinning teachers drifting through pavilions of tinkling fountains and flowers, dispensing wisdom. Somewhere on the West Coast, I wasn’t even sure where.

Then I went to BMFA Sock Camp last year. And met all sorts of wonderful people. Many of whom live near Tacoma, Washington, where Madrona Winter Knitting Retreat really is.  And who actually go to it! Some of whom even help with it! (Not that I knew that then.)

Lastly, right before the lottery opened for a few classes that were expected to be very popular:  KT emailed me and asked me if I was going to come, because she thought it would be great if I did and would love to see me.

Well, now I knew exactly WHERE Madrona was and WHEN it was. In time for the registration deadline, even.  (Sometimes that doesn’t happen.) I had enough frequent flyer miles for a flight. And I had time I could take off work. So I decided that if I got a lottery class, and could swing the weekend off work, I would go to Madrona.

The rest is history.

My only regret about this whole experience? Which I’ll get out of the way right up front. That I couldn’t enjoy the very nice weather (as soon as I got there, the snow had stopped and the sun came out; I saw at least peeks of sun for the whole stay, and it only rained once lightly and briefly on the last day) and see some of Tacoma other than the wonderful view from my Hotel Murano window:


(this is how it looked the day I arrived)

and also the few blocks down to local restaurants for knitterly meals. I could have seen The Mountain (Rainier), but was never in a position to do so except on arriving and departing, as I showed you Friday.  (But I did feel the spirit of the mountain — or of the Cascades, at least.  On Thursday, after I arrived, I was at the desk in my room in the afternoon getting oriented and had poured myself a glass of ice water.  I noticed the water in my glass vibrating.  It did cross my mind that this might be a tremor, but then I thought, nah, it’s probably a truck or train or some sort of mass transit going by {back home, the train tracks are a mile and a half away, and at night I can sometimes be aware of the trains maneuvering}.  But when I was linking Mount Rainier the other day, I followed a link to recent seismic activity, and there was seismic activity recorded in the region about that time, when I translate the Greenwich Mean Time to PDT.   So maybe it wasn’t a bus!  (Of course, for all I know, it was a quarry blast or something; I can’t interpret the codes.  I didn’t feel anything; only my water glass knew.  All those seismologists that read my blog?  What does this mean to you?

2009/02/12 20:36:53.93  46.4077 -119.2860   0.03  2.20   Mc   32  86    2 0.18  UW

I’m guessing UW at the end is the University of Washington’s observation station, and the date and UDT (GMT) are self-explanatory.  Next is the latitude and longtitude of, I am guessing, the epicenter, which is not too far from Tacoma’s 47.25/-122.44.    Then an I dunno, then the magnitude (2.2), then a whole bunch of  I dunno…)

Anyway, seismological digressions aside, next time I’m in the area, I hope to see a bit more.  But there was SO MUCH to do inside!

So let me start to tell you about the wonderful people I met: some long-distance knitting friends I got to see again, some internet friends I hadn’t met in real life yet, and some new friends, as well as well-known knitters/dyers/authors (the idea of famous knitters still cracks my [non-knitting] good friend up, though my husband has adjusted well). In later posts, I’ll tell you about my classes, which were astounding. And maybe show off a bit of the yarn and fiber that is following me home (with a little help from the ever-gracious and kind Lisa).

I was going to go day by day, but it was getting WAY too long.  So today’s post will just cover the first day with pictures!


Which really started Wednesday night, as I pulled an all-nighter to get ready to go, having worked late, and needing to leave for the airport at 4 am, plus no dryer. So, with the aid of my extremely helpful parents letting me sneak into their house like a thief in the middle of the night (a thief with dirty socks and underwear) to dry my clothes in the wee hours, I got packed without, apparently, forgetting anything other than my camera cable. (Not too bad. But one of the teachers says she has a ‘travel drawer’ with everything she takes with her on trips in it; that makes a whole lot of sense! Except that the camera cable was plugged into the desktop computer as it usually is. But I could put the card reader that my tech-savvy mother gave me in the travel drawer….or in the laptop bag that I just got for my laptop, which I am still in love with and which I am writing this on.)

So, exhausted but having napped on the long leg of the plane ride (aided by, for once, having no one next to me),


and having tried to outfly the dawn,


I arrived at SeaTac (which, I know now, is definitely closer to Seattle to Tacoma….I learned a lot about PNW geography last year, but not nearly enough), got on the appropriate shuttle, and was deposited at the Hotel Murano, a paean to glass artistry.


(see the Bohus in the wild?)


I lucked out and they allowed me to check in early (it was late morning). Though the market called, I was running on fumes (I had only had 1/2 cup of coffee and no breakfast except a granola bar). So I drew the curtains and had a lovely nap.


Somewhat rested and refreshed, I woke up a couple hours later, drank about a gallon of water, and started to get myself together (debate: shower or no shower? Now or later?) Then KT called: she was in the marketplace, wondering where I was. OK! No shower! Down stairs I went, to register for the retreat, then head across the pavilion (where I saw this unfamiliar stuff that I mentioned before)

Green Grass! Hotel Murano plaza

Green Grass! Hotel Murano plaza

to the yarn and fiber market.

This is not Stitches (which I have not been to, but I have seen pics) nor is it Rhinebeck; the Retreat is about the classes, but the Market is a lovely adjunct open to the public. I loved it, and I regret a little (ok, second regret) that there were a few shops that I never got to really browse in. (Yes, I was there for 4 days; but socializing and class time really cut into shopping!) I walked around the market once to get the lay of the land, stopped at Tactile Fiber to pick up my Ravatar nametag (and while I was there, learned to spin from the fold, bought a spindle or two, and some merino/yak fiber….but not the camel/merino because, seriously, an allergy test once said I was allergic to camels, so I thought it was better not to test it), then was drawn as a lodestone to the North, to the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth, anchoring one corner of the market. (I’ll show you later what I got there, because there were a couple new yarns which are not on their website yet, which I thought were wonderful — especially after fondling — so those beg to be shared.) But it wasn’t (just) the yarn that drew me — I was looking forward to seeing my Blue Moon friends again.

When I got there, Tina was there and I got a hug. 🙂  That day and the next, I was so very happy to see and talk to her and Debbi/Cockeyed (look here for Tina’s great picture of Debbi and me) and Tammy and the other Sockateers. We missed Hot Flash who was having shoulder surgery (argh!).  (Here’s Tina’s post about Madrona — she took an awesome picture of the Shetland Seas Shawl too, which is in that post.)

And to complete the camp reunion, no surprise, KT and Lisa found me there.

After a multitude of hugs and lots of talking, as well as a bit of yarn and fiber purchasing, I had dinner with KT, Lisa and Karen.

Blurry pic of walking to the restaurant and the Hotel Murano facade (Lisa and Karen with awesome Lisa-sweater)


and KT modeling her almost-done sweater in the restaurant


Then “Charity Night” with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talking, and knitters bringing items to donate for a local school-based charity, which especially needs warm things for kids. (Oops, another thing I didn’t get packed and really meant to — I have several knitted kids’ hats to donate, and couldn’t find them easily, then my husband went to sleep and somehow wouldn’t have been receptive to me turning on the overhead light to rummage around for the hats at 2 am.) So, when I couldn’t find the hats, instead I packed some PolarKnit (PolarFleece) yarn I had bought from The Loopy Ewe, meaning to make a hat or scarf.

Since I had slept all day since then, practically, I knit a kid’s scarf during Stephanie’s talk (hilarious as always, and I have no pictures since I had left my camera in my coat pocket in my room) and finished it before I left, leaving it on the table with the other lovely knitted items. (No photos, see preceding sentence.)

Digression for notes about PolarKnit yarn: surprisingly easy and reasonably pleasant to knit with other than requiring bigger needles which is a disadvantage for me (my hands don’t like them so much any more); the yarn is resilient and soft. But at least one of the two colors I was using shed like a bright blue Newfoundland dog. There were tiny little balls of blue ALL over my lap, my shirt, my chair, the floor, the inside of my knitting bag….

I have enough left to make a hat, when I have the proper needles to do so, but I will take precautions re: the shedding!  A towel in my lap comes to mind.

Anyway: this is where the Shetland Seas Shawl made its debut. When I first went down to the market, I was wearing my Joe Cool long-sleeved T (as in Tina’s picture of me and Debbi) and felt grubby still from traveling and sleeping during the day (no shower, remember). It was not the proper presentation for the shawl, you see. (My husband the former sous-chef, and the Iron Chef  TV show have taught me all about the importance of presentation, n’est-ce pas?) But I did a quick wash & change before the evening talk, and wore a simple white long-sleeved top to allow it to be seen.

Over the course of the long weekend, I’m sure well over a hundred knitters not only complimented the shawl, but stopped me and wanted to know more about the yarn and the pattern. (There were more with drive-by compliments.) I was requested to write down the website for several. (Sorry, fellow Twisted fans.) The shawl was personally petted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Cat Bordhi, and Tina Newton, as well as complimented by Elsebeth Lavold and many, many friends and strangers.  I love it very much myself, so was happy to show it off.

Last on the day’s agenda: collapse into bed, no playing with the new fiber or Greensleeves spindle I bought at Tactile Fiber (OH!  You should see the natural pigments I got there too!  But they’re still coming in the mail, I’ll share them later.)

Tomorrow:  Day 2, maybe more…. promise, I’ll try to be a bit more succinct.

I Haz a Proud (or two)

Sorry for the Lolspeak; it just seemed to fit.

I’ve been working on a Madrona post, which just keeps getting longer, the more I write.  (Funny how that works.)  But part I is almost set.  In the meantime, though, I had to share a little maternal pride from this past Friday.

First, the RockStar had her Wisconsin State Music Association’s Solo and Ensemble regional ‘festival’.  Vocal and instrumental musicians participate to undergo ratings and constructive criticism by judges.  If your piece is in the most difficult category, and you perform outstandingly, you go on to the State competition/festival.

The RockStar and her friend sang a duet beautifully, though both had colds, and received a 1 rating – the highest possible for their class B piece.  Here they are, not being nearly serious enough while awaiting their turn, with their accompanist.


They really blended well, listened to each other, had stellar tempo and key changes; it was beautiful (and a moving piece: “Inscription of Hope” — YouTube link, the best one I could find; there were a number of YouTube renditions that weren’t as well done as my girls’ above).  I heard the same piece done twice more that day not as well, so appreciated them even more.

Then, later, the RockStar sang her solo, which was in Italian, “Se tu m’ami” (another YouTube link).

A little more serious now, but not much (just waiting).


She got a number of excellent critiques from the judge, but left, I think, feeling sure she hadn’t gotten a ‘starred first’, the prerequisite to go to State; as she had had all sorts of glowing positive feedback on the duet, which was considerably easier, and she mostly heard about things she could improve upon after her solo.

I pointed out to her that she had indeed done very well (though hearing this loud child of mine being advised to sing out was rather amusing: but her cold had left her somewhat breathy, and the piano was in front of her and playing loudly).  And I reminded her that, if she had done well enough, she would need to sing the song again at State, and she had been given a number of excellent recommendations to improve her performance.  (I found out later who her judge was, and was even more impressed; believe me, he has the credibility.)

Anyway, after waiting and waiting, her score was posted: indeed, a starred first, and on she goes to sing at State.  It was only the second vocal starred first in the first several hours of the festival.  She’s worked hard at this solo and it showed: her Italian sounded fluent and smooth, and her intonation and dynamics were great.  And this is a girl who has only had a handful of vocal lessons from a college student who has since graduated. (I’m going to miss her state performance!  I will be on a school trip to Washington DC with the Gothlet.  Darn.  At least I heard her sing this time.)

So that is Proud Moment number One.


Friday night then, the Gothlet had her kid birthday party:  a roller skating party,


(That’s her in the orange shirt: she has her own sense of style, which is very definite.  No Hollister shirts here, believe me.)

then her first sleepover (which resulted in me going to work on a snowy Saturday with less than 5 hours of sleep due to several crises of various sorts; but that’s all we’ll say about that).  But here’s the Gothlet proud moment:

She’s not a particularly strong skater (I did see this more than once)


but as I kept an eye on her and her friends, I saw her in the middle of the rink, comforting a little girl who was sitting down, crying.  As I watched, she helped the little girl to her feet, then slowly skated with her, guarding her from faster skaters, off the rink over to where her parents were.  (Apparently she’d fallen and hurt her wrist, and her parents hadn’t seen yet, because the protective wall makes it hard to see someone on the ground unless you’re close.)

I was so proud of her.  No one else had helped the little girl yet, and my Gothlet took the initiative, and not as someone who was the absolute most secure skater out there, but she felt she could help, and she did.

That’s my girl.  Proud Moment Number Two.


So, two different parental proud moments.  One is truly because of a remarkable God-given talent and its use, though granted, hard work did go into the performance.  The second, because of an action, a real-life living out of a principle, of quiet compassion and aid to one in need of help, without fanfare.

I’m very proud of both my Friday girls.  But I’ll leave you to deduce which proud moment left the warmest afterglow inside.

Tacoma Eye Candy Friday


Mount Rainier from the air at dawn, upon saying ‘so long’ to Madrona and preparing to re-enter reality.

(Click for the big picture, if you like, to see it as I saw it.)


The window seat can be an otherworldly place.  Thanks be for blogging, or I might not have had my camera right there and handy.

We’re in the big leagues now

Thanks for all the Gothlet birthday wishes!  I’ll make sure she sees them.  Madrona post(s) coming very soon, when the work backlog lets me get my head above water, but I had to share this in the meantime.

From a Charter Communications story about the recent semi-conversion to digital TV (on the Gothlet birthday, as a matter of fact):

“The most populous places where many or all major-network stations are cutting analog this week include San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif.; La Crosse and Madison, Wis.; Rockford and Peoria, Ill.; Sioux City, Iowa; Waco, Texas; Macon, Ga.; Scranton, Pa.; Rhode Island and Vermont.”

Glad to know we’re up there with San Diego… Waco… Peoria… and the state of Vermont!  What an interestingly varied list that is, to be a part of.

Yes, we are all digital here in this populous place.  Explains why my father had his upper body wedged in the kitchen cupboard corner, installing a converter box for their little kitchen radio/TV, when I went over to their house to dry an emergency load of Gothlet jeans Tuesday night. 

(A propos of which:  my husband finally arranged repair services, who came and fixed the oven yesterday, assisted by the Beya-kitten (fortunately, the repairman was a cat guy).  The dryer?  Worked when they tried it, dang it.  Supposedly repair guy and husband tested all sorts of things while they were about it.  What about no heat, no tumbling and weird burning smell for me?  Makes me nervous.  Because,  since nothing was fixed,  it WILL happen again.  At the worst possible time.)

Ain’t technology grand?

Happy Birthday, Gothlet!

Yesterday, the Gothlet turned 11.  A momentous number, somehow.

I had meant to put up a post on The Day — but we were too busy doing things for her birthday, much of the day.  I had just returned from my trip, and had taken the day off to spend time with her.

Part of her celebration?  Having me take the corn snake, Trinity, in to school (with the definite support of her teacher) so the Gothlet could show her off and talk about her.  She’s a nature girl, all right.

Hard to believe that my sweet, sunny baby girl


is now a somewhat sardonic albeit beautiful young woman.


(We see this face a lot.  Besides, any time a picture is taken, the long-suffering attitude comes out.  Or the patented Gothlet Death Stare.) 

Besides being privy to her pithy wit (and I have misplaced the Gothlet wit and wisdom that I had written down, else I would have shared more — no doubt it will resurface and be shared in the future!), I have enjoyed seeing this self-possessed child come into her own over the last year.  For most of her life, she has been somewhat overshadowed by her loud, extroverted and undeniably talented older sister.  Starting with her first Halloween.


(Well, which would you rather be:  Dorothy or Toto? Though you have to admit, it’s a great costume for a 6-month-old.  Costumes courtesy of my mother….)

And it just kept going.


The Gothlet idolized her big sister back then, and tried to do everything she did.  But when Big Sister has a Big Headstart on you — it’s hard to be a little sister who’s good at some of the same things, but not necessarily better, and definitely younger.

Well, the hero worship, not so much any more — not since The RockStar entered adolescence and started acting silly (according to the Gothlet, though she says she’d use a different word).  And now the Gothlet has started to shine in her own spheres instead of trying to compete in her sister’s.  She continued piano when her sister quit.  And now she’s working on “Für Elise” and “Linus and Lucy” for the spring recital.  She thought about taking guitar like her sister, but instead took up drums after trying viola.  She’s a great drummer!  She’s taking more dance than her big sister, and is particularly good at tap (it must go along with the drumming).  She’s the studious one.  And the saver.  (She counted coup on her spendthrift big sister when she saved all her money from two birthdays and one Christmas plus some odd jobs, and had enough to buy an iPod touch all herself.  Her sister is SO jealous.)

And she’s always been the artist of the family, the intuitive and creative, introspective one.  The crafty one, too.  Both girls know how to knit: I taught them at the same time when they asked, though they didn’t do much with it at that point, then Maddie asked again a year or two later.  This time she wanted me to teach her Continental, the way I knit, instead of English, the way I’d taught them first (which is the way their after-school Knitting Club teacher knit).  She learned that way and was the first of the two to actually finish a project.  She also got my mother to teach her to crochet.  (Which I don’t really know how to do.)  This is the girl who made us all laptop computers with attached mice out of paper, tape and yarn when she was 4 or so.  We used to have to ration her tape….

So, happy birthday, my funny, witty, creative Gothlet!  Eleven’s a great year!  And you’ve been waiting to be not-a-kid for a long time.  I think you’re kind of an old soul anyway, but welcome to young womanhood.

Just remember not to use that sarcastic tongue on your mother, hmmm?

Knitting, Can’t Come To Blog….

I’m at Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat right now.

I was going to try to pick out a Friday picture, but guess what?  Didn’t pack the camera cable or a card reader!  So all will have to wait to be revealed until I get back Monday.

Or, realistically, sometime after Monday when I get caught up.  And hopefully some laundry done.  (Just got off the phone with the spousal unit.  Someone still hasn’t called to get the dryer fixed.  Guess who does the laundry at home, hmm?)

This morning, I had a great class with Sally Melville called “Knit to Flatter and Fit”.  The material presented is to be covered in one chapter of her shortly-to-come-out book, “Mother-Daughter Knits” (mid-March, I think, was the publication date).  The homework was onerous.  No swatches here:  the assignment was to take a full-length picture of yourself in undergarments (plus, at most, a leotard etc.), print it at 8×10 size, trace your silhouette, photocopy the tracing to 1:8 scale (so that 1/8 inch = 1 inch in real life).

Then we learned a lot about what’s flattering, what’s not so much (think a much nicer and less New York fashionista ‘What Not To Wear’) in principle, then we measured each other (I found out I am definitely short waisted, which you’d think I would have known, but not so much), then we played paper dolls.  We cut out various sweater shapes and lengths and tried them on our silhouettes along with various bottoms.  

I think there are certain things in my wardrobe that are going bye-bye when I get home (my husband will be pleased).  A universal principle seemed to be that bulky and long and straight is not particularly flattering on anyone.

Anyway, tomorrow I take a class from Nancy Bush: “Overture to Estonian Lace”.  Then, on Sunday, Elsebeth Lavold will teach me how to make my cables turn corners and do other tricks.  Then I leave predawn Monday to return to where there is no green (sigh).

Yes.  There is green grass here.  I know it keeps snowing, but there is GREEN GRASS.  And SHRUBBERY.  I walked outside without a coat today and yesterday!

I think I needed this.

I’ll tell you about all the wonderful knitters I’ve been spending time with when I get back and can show you their pictures.  (I’ll also add in links when I can.)  Got to go meet up with a wonderful knitter now… Wish you were here!


Gothlet quote of the day:

Donuts: Not just for breakfast any more!

And who can argue with that?

This was breakfast time yesterday as I got to work, not as gray as the day before, over the parking lot:


Late in the afternoon, the high temperature was a record-tying 51.  Fortunately, yesterday’s steady rain stopped.  Rain in February is not a good thing here: the ground’s frozen and it has nowhere to go.  There was some minor flooding, plus now it will be ice-rink-slick in areas.  The good news: most of the mounds of snow are gone.  My Pacific Northwest friends tell me the snow is over there instead!  Strange….

I missed the near-record warmth, working late to get things tidied up so I can leave tomorrow in good conscience.  Here’s the sunset over the parking lot on the OTHER side of the building I work in.


And I left in the full dark, a few hours later. Sigh.   Gotta pay for your fun — on both ends — I think.

Maybe I’ll go have a donut.