Daily Archives: February 26, 2009

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….