Friday, September 25, 2009

We Did Fun Stuff with Guys

Hi everybody it's Harry! So Franklin is still figuring out which evening kimono to pack for Portland and he said hey, would you mind writing some more about what we did on the trip to Washington State and I said sure can I write about the men's retreat and he said okay sure. So here I am doing it.

So after our visit at Renaissance Yarns we went to a knitting retreat that was kind of like a sleep-away camp except everybody was grown up and a guy. There were no ladies which as you know is kind of unusual.

The place we stayed at was right by the water but that didn't bother me because I am superwash and I got to go down one day when the tide was out and take some pictures with my new camera that I bought off eBay with the money I made this summer from sellling lemonade on the days they have games at Wrigley Field which is right near our apartment.

So anyway this is how pretty it was where we stayed.

Dumas Bay

Dumas Bay

But weren't there all the time because we had field trips. The first one was to Skacel which is where Addi Turbo needles come from, and when Franklin found out we were going there he got all red in the face because don't tell him I told you this but sometimes when he doesn't know anybody is watching he pulls out the case with his Addi Turbos in it and he touches them and he has this look on his face like Dolores gets when she is looking at the new Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.

First this pretty lady talked to us and her name is Karin and she owns the place so she told us a lot of interesting facts.

Karin at Skacel

And we got to look around the Garment Room which is where they keep all the pattern samples and the guys had a lot of fun trying things on and they kept saying "I want this one" and "I have to have this one" and "This is so fabulous" and it was also like when Dolores is looking through the new Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. Here is a picture of Keith and some garments.

In the Garment Room

This is Stephen who loved one of the sweaters so much he decided to model it and I said you work it and he was quite fierce don't you think. Miss Tyra Banks if you are reading this I think you should have Stephen on your show next time he is so sassy and versatile kind of like Linda Evangelista but funny.

Stephen is a Model

And we had a tour of the whole place, first we went into the warehouse. They had this sign on the door and I think they were being funny but as you know I am yarn and to be honest it made me kind of nervous.

At the Skacel Warehouse

Well I was relieved because inside there was no flying happening that day but boy there was so much yarn. Think of all the yarn you have ever seen in one room and it was more than that. No really I am serious, look here is a picture of my buddy Joe who writes a famous blog.

Joe Likes Yarn!

Joe is tall but the yarn is even taller than he is! And see, he has that look on his face which is like the one Dolores gets when she looks at the new Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.

And then we went into the needle room and this is a picture of Rob who is the marketing dude and he is very nice too and smart.

In the Needle Room

So in the needle room they keep all these thousands of Addi Turbo needles and Addi Lace needles and like every kind of Addi needle including some we never saw before. You know what it was like it was kind of like that wand shop in Harry Potter or maybe it was more like the goblin bank except no goblins.

And Franklin said it was not how he imagined, he always thought there would be a moat around it or a vault door or a retinal scan or something, and when we were leaving he asked if there would be a body cavity search and Rob said no and between you and me I think Franklin was disappointed.

So then if that wasn't enough we were hanging around at Skacel and who shows up but Cat Bordhi, who writes the books about crazy ways you can knit stuff , and then suddenly she and Franklin climbed up in a tree. I don't really understand what happened but I am pretty sure it was Cat's idea.

Cat in a Tree

Candice from Skacel sent us this picture. Shout out, Candice! Thanks girlfriend!

And Franklin said to me afterward when Cat Bordhi shows up you never know what will happen so be prepared and just in case wear grippy shoes.

Let's see, then the next day was another trip and we went to a farm where they raise alpacas which is called Moonshadow Alpaca Ranch, and I was excited to go because I think alpacas are always so cute don't you?

This is a picture of Deb and Nancy, the ladies who own the farm, they were so friendly and told everybody about what it is like to have alpacas and I think maybe some of the guys would like to have their own farms. I saw one alpaca that was not so big like maybe you could keep it in an apartment and I asked Franklin and he said if I can figure out a way to make Dolores move to a remote corner of Idaho he will buy me two alpacas!

Ranch Ladies

Here is one of the cute alpacas.

They Were Not Kidding

This is picture of all of us guys at the very end of the weekend. Franklin is in the front row next to Mike who was the dude in charge, I am in the very front near the center wearing the new Persian Poppies ball band I made after I took a workshop about color knitting from cute James who came all the way from New Zealand for this!

All the Guys

The whole weekend was so much fun that when it was time to leave I think Franklin maybe cried just a little bit but I said hey it's okay, they will have one next year so we can come back again and he cheered up, and plus we still had a trip to Paradise Fibers in Spokane to look forward to, but I will let him tell you about that next time because it's time for me to go to bed because we have to be at the airport early tomorrow to fly to Portland.

So this is Harry signing out. Bye!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cupcake Goes West

When you grow up in a military family, as I did, it's a fact of life that you're going to see more of the world before you're ten years old than many Americans do before they're fifty. Every three or four years, orders come through to pull up the tent stakes and head west, east, north, or south as dictated by the whims of Uncle Sam.

My sister and I saw even more than we might have, thanks to our parents' fondness for road trips. For example, when our orders were to leave Tucson, Arizona (Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) for Fairborn, Ohio (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) we made the trip in our Plymouth Scamp via a serpentine route that introduced me (aged five) to a number of firsts, including:
  • first encounter with a live chicken
  • first entrĂ©e composed chiefly of a creature to which I had been introduced
  • first swim in natural body of water
  • first contact with muddy bottom of stagnant pond
  • first admonishment for screaming like a girl
  • first ride on horseback
  • first fantasy involving cowboy boots
  • first plate of biscuits and gravy
  • first second helping of biscuits and gravy
  • first third helping of biscuits and gravy
  • first fishing trip
  • first attempt to get out of going on second fishing trip
And that was just Arkansas.

Over the years I wound up spending at least a few days in most parts of the country–but never the Pacific Northwest. I'm not sure why. It wasn't for lack of wanting to go. You hear such lovely things about the place. Ferns, coastline, fabulous cooking, yarn shops sprinkled thickly across the landscape.

Nancy at Renaissance YarnsIt was the yarn that finally drew me out there: two shops and one retreat simply stuffed with it. The first was Renaissance Yarns in Kent. Owner Nancy (she's the one on the left, without the goatee) welcomed me into her beautiful shop with immense cordiality for a book signing. The place filled up with merry knitters, who I am afraid may have been a touch disappointed to find I was unaccompanied. They were too polite to say so, but something about the sweet table suggested who the real attraction was.

Dolores in Frosting

As you know, it's not uncommon to see Dolores toasted; but it's rather unusual to find her baked.

The multi-talented confectionary artiste behind the cupcakes was Allison, who kindly posed for a souvenir portrait with the charming bibelot she'd created just to commemorate the occasion.

Allison at Renaissance Yarns

A closer look:

Dolores in Felt

The scary thing is that no matter where I put it, the eyes follow me around the room.

Renaissance Yarns was a terrific introduction to the Pacific Northwest, and set the tone for the rest of the trip. More about that in the next few entries.


I like to think of myself as a curious knitter, always interested in a new ways of doing things, but I have no illusions that this applies to my sock knitting. I learned cuff down, heel flap, Kitchener toe from dear Charlene Schurch and the only thing I'd ever done differently since was switch on occasion from four dpns to two circulars. Until now.

One of the goodies I got at the Men's Knitting Retreat was a pattern called "Oliver" by Marlowe Crawford, which had been created specially for a previous men's retreat. I confess that when I first saw it I thought, Oh, a sock pattern, yippee, and then I pulled out the next thing in the goody bag, which was a Della Q needle case, and I went all gooshy and forgot about the sock.

But when you hear ten guys out of thirty wax eloquent about a pattern and how it turns out the best-fitting sock they've ever met, and you know some of those guys have been around the block with quite a few socks, you can't help but take a second look.

So I cast on for it using Schaefer Yarns Heather in "Betty Friedan," and didn't get out of my chair for two days. I can't remember ever working through a project in such a froth. It was like racing to the climax of Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, except at the end of the sock I didn't want to knock on the author's front door and demand a personal apology.

Purple Sock

Instead, I want to send a thank-you note. This sock hugs my foot like Dolores cuddling up to a fresh bottle of Ketel One. Marlowe, you're a freaky genius. Whatever weird gears in your brain turned in synch to help you create this thing, I hope they keep spinning for a long, long time. More, please.

Notion of Note

I was helped immensely in knitting "Oliver" by yet another prize from the retreat, a set of clever stitch markers by Girl on the Rocks. These are made of wood, and smell very faintly of hickory smoke.

Stitch Markers

Since I can never seem to remember which side of the damned gusset is k2tog and which is ssk, these are going to settle permanently in my knitting bag.

Friday, September 18, 2009


DogSo, where have I been?

Let's get this bit out of the way first.

It’s been more than a month since I’ve written because the tiny black dog (see illustration) who almost always trots along behind me got out in front, teeth bared in an unambiguous snarl, and backed me into a corner.

It happens. It’s been happening for years. I was overdue. And now I seem to have put the little nipper back in his place, at least for the time being. And while I’m terribly sorry not to have been in touch, and I've missed you intensely. But better silence out of me than grouching. Trust me. Where I grouch, no grass grows.

While I Was Out

It was for the best that just when I was most inclined to hide under the bed with a copy of Sartre, scribbling you said it, brother and oh, mais oui in the margins, I had promised to leave the apartment and mix with knitters.

And oh, Sweet Nancy Bush, have I ever been mixing. I should have KITCHEN AID stamped on my forehead and a dough hook stuck in my mouth.

I mixed close to home, teaching three classes on home turf at Loopy Yarns. And then I mixed far, far from home in Washington, at Renaissance Yarns (Kent), Paradise Fibers (Spokane), and an all-male knitting retreat in a decommissoned convent.

There’s no way I’m going to try to cram all of it into a single entry. I know I’ll run out of energy halfway through and wind up back under the bed listening to a bootleg of Diamanda Galas/Fiona Apple mash-ups.

The only thing is to rummage about in the filigreed bonbon box of memory and proffer random sweet bits to you as I grab them.

Crochet for Mixed Marriages

The genius behind my trip west was Brian Kohler, who works at (and designs for) Skacel, Inc.–the nice people who have grown spoiled and indolent on all the money I spend on Addi knitting needles.

Brian is doubtless familiar to some of you as That Guy Who is Knitting Seven Pairs of Socks at One Time on Two Circular Needles, because he is in fact knitting seven pairs of socks at one time on two circular needles. You can read about it here.

When he is not knitting seven pairs of socks at one time on two circular needles, Brian creates designs that are not only clever and beautiful but may even help us realize the fugitive vision of Peace in Our Time. Don’t believe me? Have a gander at this enigmatic little number.

Two Faiths, One Hat

It’s a crocheted Easter Yarmulke, perfect for those who have to dash from a Seder to the Egg Roll on the White House lawn without time to change outfits. All you do is give it a spin. Brian, would you be so kind as to demonstrate?

In Your Easter Yarmulke

The coalition-building power of millinery. It gives one hope, don't you agree?

Back and There Again

Until this month, the Pacific Northwest was the one part of the United States I’d never visited. And I’m going back again¬–this time, to Portland. (I've only been trying to get out there for twenty years. It's about bloody time.)

If you’d like to hang out, and I so dearly hope you will, I’ll be at Knit Purl for a full-day class (Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Tomten Jacket and Garter Stitch Jacquard) and book signing on September 27, and a brand-spanking-new illustrated talk on September 28.

And then from the west, I head east. More on that (and so much else, my dears) tomorrow.