Tag Archives: Madrona

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.