Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog Tour & Contest!!

This is it! I'm launching day 1 of the first ever Fiber Gathering Designers' Blog Tour. I'm excited, because the designers for this book are fascinating people, with lots of interesting information, questions, and ideas to offer us. Some will be posting about their work, others will be interviewing me. The photographer (aka the professor) and the tech editor will be along for the ride as well. Check out all the links just to the right of this post. Kim Guzman's up tomorrow, April 1st, no foolin'!

This first post is about "the ride." The journey to write a book is a long one. I started thinking about a festivals book in June 2006. Physically, the journey required the photographer and me to travel thousands of miles in one festival season to go to something like 12 different fiber events. We were lucky in the practical sense; we had a few late planes, but no complete travel disasters. We were also lucky in a metaphoric one--we enjoyed (and even survived) the journey.

Doing a project at home--a knitting, crochet, dyeing, rughooking, weaving, spinning project-- is also a journey. We put our life experiences into the works of our hands. We carry around emotions, sensations, and experience and pour it out into our creative endeavor.

In a time of recession, not everyone can swing a trip to a festival. However, we can all take a trip in our imagination. Make a cup of tea, curl up in your favorite armchair, and grab a copy of Fiber Gathering for the trip. Put your computer nearby, so you can read every one of these fabulous entries over the next few days.


You may notice that this post is peppered with yarn in springtime colors. There's a journey theme here too, through thick and thin:

- 4 skeins of the Tivoli Splendour yarn (bulky, soft blend of fuschias) that I bought in Dublin, Ireland in 2005.
-Three skeins of Noro Shikisai, made in Japan, but sent to me from a friend in England.
-Two skeins of Panda Soy sock yarn, from Crystal Palace Yarns in California...long ago, I visited the old Crystal Palace retail store in Berkeley before the company went wholesale only. It was indeed a yarn palace!
-One skein of Classic Elite Yarns' Silky Alpaca Lace, from a recent learning "journey" I made at home with laceweight yarns.

Please leave a comment at the end of the post and tell me one positive thing that you learned, that interested you, or that you loved from this blog tour experience.
At the close of the blog tour, I will enter all the comments (but I'll only enter each person once!) into a contest to win these yarns. The contest winners will be drawn at random. There are four different batches of yarn to win, so there will be lots of opportunities to enhance your travel experience and your stash adventures through this tour. Watch my blog after the blog tour ends to find out if you won, and to make arrangments to have your yarn sent to you!

I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks for coming along for the ride. Thanks for being such an important part of Fiber Gathering, our rich fiber arts community.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

thinking time

Lately I've found I am spending more time tied to my laptop. I'm not sure if it's because I'm addicted to email(--especially the nice emails about my book?) or if it's because I'm feeling somewhat adrift and want to feel like I'm working even when I'm not.

You see, the professor and I are still waiting on that paperwork. The paperwork from the Canadian powers that be that will help us move to Winnipeg this summer. Until then, there will be no packing, no trips to find a house, none of that. Yet, we're still pretty sure that we'll get the details ironed out by May and the professor would like to move by July. Of course, I'll be at 3 different festival events in May, and a couple things in June, and oh, there's that odd event or two in April. My grandmother had a short hospital stay this week (she's home now, but still ill...) and and and -That's a lot to think on.

It also means that I've got to plan my freelance life so that I don't have anything much due in July or August, cause that would be moving time. It means slowing down now on soliciting new work so that I will not be overwhelmed later on.

Of course, I probably need the slow down. We all do from time to time, and I've been on warp speed with all this bookwriting activity. Yesterday, I decided a change was in order. I tried to step away from the computer keyboard.

A friend sent me a very interesting link to a lecture by Elizabeth Gilbert. Another friend, Cindy, encouraged me to listen to this Knit Picks podcast, which had a fantastic review of Fiber Gathering. All in all, a good chance to think. To listen. To feel stimulated and...to spin. This too is necessary if I want to be a writer or a teacher. Must think. Must practice my craft and reflect.

This photo is shot from the doorway of my office. You'll see that the dogs have the good spot on the couch. My desk chair is being used as a portable lecturn for listening to video streaming lectures. The fiber on my wheel? A springy, somewhat short stampled sample of combed CVM. Naturally brown, fine wool which unfortunately picked up a bit of musty smell along the way. Perhaps in my trip to Arkansas and back? It's going slowly. (perhaps because the smell isn't very attractive) I am also halfway through knitting/designing my second mitten, and I think it's coming out well!

Soon, the blog tour will begin! Less than a week now...

Oh, and just wanted to repeat. If the seal isn't good on your homecanned goods? Don't eat that! However, it doesn't happen all that often. Very rare, in fact, and opening up that jar of eggplant chutney on Wednesday? A very satisfying feeling of instant, made from scratch food. Well worth the trouble last summer, and infinitely less risk than buying a bag of "prewashed" greens from the grocery store!

Off to make dinner in a bit...cooking's also good thinking time. Lamb chops, chimichurri, spring salad, roasted radishes, homemade challah, potatoes and...fruit crisp with blackberries from the freezer, picked last summer.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

jalapeno paranoia

Ahh, the mysteries of life....include jalapenos. Or rather, the little jar of homecanned jalapenos that the professor found in his mail box when he got back from his conference. It sat, in the biology department mail room, with no label, note, or tag. No way for us to figure out where it's from.

Now, we like to know where our food comes from. Not just our grocery store food, mind you, but our fresh food. Nearly every week, I pick up our vegetables, eggs and occasionally meat from a farm 5 miles down the road, and I harvest some herbs/veggies from our small garden. I get my milk (cream at the top, glass jar, grass-fed cows raised about 35 miles away) from the local butcher's shop in the winter time and from the farmer's market in the summer. I can fruit in season, and I share my jams, chutneys, pickles, and other delights with the professor's colleagues, and our friends.

In return, we sometimes are gifted with a dozen eggs (of all different colors) from a colleague's chickens, or that excess amount of cucumbers or tomatoes no one else in the department could face. Usually, we know who this is from...but the jalapenos were a mystery.

First, I emailed the four people who I suspected...and at least three said, "No, not me!' They agreed that maybe we shouldn't eat them just yet. After all, the professor's 70+ students had an exam coming up. Wouldn't want to risk any serious foodbourne illness!

Eventually, the professor came up with a funny email, sent it to the whole department, and surprise! we found out who had canned these beautifully colored jalapenos. (one of the fabulous models in Fiber Gathering, actually, and a staff member in the department) She's highly competent, so those jalapenos are probably A-OK to eat. That said...it brought up a whole interesting discussion.

If you made all your food locally, you'd know who produced your food. Or, as a friend who had an organic farm said, when watching me can, "You can like I do. What a relief...you've read the whole Ball jar canning guide, haven't you!? We can share now." It was jokingly said, but true. How do we know when that processed food is safe? Locally, we can ask: who home canned that produce, or raised that cattle? Do we trust that person? Globally, we must wonder, was this food, produced across the world by a stranger, processed in a hygenic fashion? Did the jar get boiled first? Did that anonymous cook wash her hands?

The most interesting part about this is that at home, I know exactly where most of my food comes from. I know the farmer who raised the lamb--which is now in butcher paper in my freezer. I've picked pears from his sheep pasture's trees, and I've discussed rain fall with the farm that grows my lettuce. However, when I go out to eat, when I travel, and in big cities, I just try to put my concerns out of my mind. Nine times out of ten, it's just fine. That tenth time (the time when my editor got sick from salmonella in the peanut scare a few months ago?) I'm glad I'm just a wee bit cautious about what I eat, even when away from home. Now, I eat all sorts of highly enjoyable, exotic (and maybe, rarely, risky) things. I love unpasteurized cheese, sushi, ceviche, and all the rest. Yet, those delicious foods were prepared by, well, strangers that I trust. Strangers who cared seriously about their food and its preparation.

Think I'm paranoid? says the professor, in his email. Well, tell that to the people who are after me!

(I'd stop those people and say, "So, have you washed your hands first? Was that jar sterilized? What was the vinegar solution you used with the peppers? How many minutes did you boil it after sealing in the canning bath?")
I'm off to cook dinner for a guest the professor's bringing home...so, what are you eating for dinner? Where did it come from? Was it homemade? Do you trust its safety?

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Sunday, March 22, 2009


My dad is a great fan of made up words. I didn't realize for quite a while that they were made up...but his whimsy certainly prepared me for reading students' papers when I taught writing, or for becoming a writer one day. Anyhow, when I was a kid, instead of saying "having humility" he would say something humbilified me or one had gotten humble or"humbility" after a particularly embarrassing mistake.

This weekend, the professor was out of town at a conference. I was on my own with the dogs and spent a lot of time working on my new mitten project. I was cruising along, feeling very good about myself. Really good about how GREAT it was coming out. Then, I looked down and realized something.

I was knitting the chart upside down. Now, this was because I'd turned the book upside down. On purpose. I realized this while speaking with the professor on the phone late at night. He urged me not to rip it out immediately, but to sleep on it. (It's usually my habit to rip out a big mistake right away, as it's hard to live with once I know it's there.) If it's a little mistake, I live with it. I move on. As the Persian carpet makers concluded, only the Almighty is perfect. Leaving a small mistake is ok with me.

I listened to his advice. I slept on it. In the AM, I looked at it again. Doh! Stupid! After feeling completely humbilified and embarrassed again, I ripped it out. I put the book and the chart right side up. I moved on. With considerable knitting time this afternoon, I'm now further along on my first mitten then when I ripped it out the first time--and this time, the pattern is right side up. While knitting, I listened to The Uncommon Reader, a novella, read by the author, which I am heartily enjoying and can recommend.

I also succeeded, this weekend, in finally figuring out how to dry all my laundry outside. This is part of my effort to avoid using the clothes dryer, which uses tons of energy. You'd think, (at least, I thought) that drying one's clothes out on a clothes line wouldn't be difficult, since all our foremothers did it. Hah. I've been able to manage a couple of loads, but the whole week's wash? Getting all of one's clothes washed and dried in one day in the South of the U.S.A. can be a trial. If it's a nice day, above freezing, and you hang your wash out? It's still probably very humid. It makes it take longer to get everything dry. Today, I managed to get 4 loads of wash out and drying before about 11:30 AM. It turns out that early wash helps...along with a low humidity day, some sunshine, and a small breeze. Yet again, I prove through hard research that our foremothers got up early and were smart cookies. It's no wonder that they didn't wash clothes all that often...it's a lot of work.

Note: Since this was a lesson in my own humbility (humility), I cropped this photo so as not to include any embarrassing underthings that might mortify my shy professor. After all, this was my weekend to get in touch with my inner upside-down embarrassment. Not his. :)

PS: Willow is another smart cookie. Note the blog tour information on my sidebar... I hope this is helpful! I hope you'll take the tour with me!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

the cankles continue

This second pair of "cankles" jumped off my needles a few days ago. I'll pop them in the mail to go to my nephew's house in Virginia. Fortissima Cotton blend sock yarn, #2(2.75mm) needles with the ribbing done on #3 (3.25mm) and just a few hours of knitting.
With the first excitement of the book's publication past, I now need to concentrate on getting ready for all the book events and presentations this spring. The first event will be local, at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Then, I'll travel 750 miles east and give a talk (with power point images) in Northern Virginia, right before Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, where I'll also do a book signing. I'll also be giving another talk, along with a workshop and booksigning, at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival, the next weekend. After that, I'll give the after dinner talk at the Tennessee Fiber Festival, as well as teaching two workshops there.
OH, and that's just the teaching,presentation and travelling schedule for 5 weeks--from mid April 'til Memorial Day weekend. I'll also have to squeeze in final edits of book #2 in there, too, since it is coming out in September. Just talking about it all makes me agitated and anxious, so I'm going to stop now. However, when Willow asked, in the comments to:
Please remind us each time another interview is going to happen.
I got panicked. My mouth went all dry. My heart beat too fast. I promise, I'll update the blog as best as I can over the next few months...but my weekly average is roughly 2-3 posts. It would be a miracle if I could do more, especially with all the added fun of the blog tour and real life travelling! I'll do my best...but there really aren't more hours in my day, despite day light saving's time!
Meanwhile, the knitting creativity bug has come back. I'm hard at work at a fabulous pair of mittens (if I do say so, myself) with a Turkish stitch pattern called "Ram's Horn" embedded inside. I'm dreaming of swing coat designs, too. In a fit of retail enthusiasm, I splurged on lots of Jo Sharp's Silkroad Aran yarn on closeout and somehow bought even more Jo Sharp DK wool. (what can I say, I've always been seduced by occasional Australian temptations.)
The urge may have come from a discussion with Terri Shea, a friend and designer for the book. She is currently running a contest on her blog. Tell her a joke, and enter a contest to win a WHOLE BAG (10 skeins!) of Jo Sharp DK wool. That's enough for knitting this whole amazing vest! (Sounds good to me...but I'm not eligible:)
That's the knitting news for now, dear readers! I look forward to hearing from you soon, but first, go tell Terri a joke, please.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fiber Gathering Designer Blog Tour!

One of the great joys and challenges of writing Fiber Gathering was finding designs that represented the breadth and depth of the amazing fiber arts design available in the United States. It just wasn't possible for me to do all the designs on my own along with travelling to all those festivals. Instead, I did 11 of the book projects (the projects without named designers) and found help. Without those competent colleagues, these additional and wonderful designs wouldn't have been possible. Their contributions lent a great deal to the final product.

Several of the designers, as well as the technical editor, and the photographer (the professor) have agreed to help us take another kind of trip together.

We're participating in the Fiber Gathering designers’ blog tour! Fifteen talented designers contributed their designs to this book about U.S. fiber festivals...and just about half of these designers have blogs and wanted to go on tour!

Do some armchair travelling with us every day at the beginning of April to celebrate the release of the book. There will be posts about designs, festivals, photography, and interviews with the author. (psst! that's me!)

Please drop by and visit as we tour the blog world and celebrate our fiber festival community!

March 31st Joanne Seiff, author Yarn Spinner
April 1st Kim Guzman, designer WIPs N’Chains
April 2nd Rosemary Hill, designer Rosemary-go-round
April 3rd Donna Druchunas, tech editor Donna Druchunas’ Blog
April 4th Cathy Adair-Clark, designer Catena Expressions
April 5th Terri Shea, designer spinningwheel.net
April 6th Chrissy Gardiner,designer Knittin’ Mom
April 7th Jeff Marcus, photographer Yarn Spinner (guest post)
April 8th JoLene Treace,designer JoLene Treace Unraveled
April 9th Cindy Moore, designer fitterknitter

psst! Many thanks to my kind readers who voted for my Bug Finger Puppets pattern on Ravelry! I am grateful. :)

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


The other day I heard all about my younger nephew's cankles. This is apparently the area we would call...ankles and calves. On a baby, this would be "cankles." As in, this baby doesn't have any socks that fit properly because of his outsized, fleshy, delicious to kiss-- cankles.

The next line of the email mentioned something about Auntie Joanne, knitter, and whether she'd do something about it right now?

I immediately dropped all my dithering about a knitting impasse. On the way to the Ozarks, I drove 200 miles and then the professor took over and I whipped up the first pair of cankles. The yarn is called Merino Bambino. It is great stuff, machine washable fingering weight Merino, but it seems to only be sold in Australia. (bought in on vacation a few years ago.) The socks hopefully fit someone in the 15th percentile for his age (we're not quite thriving yet, this is the nephew that spent 10 weeks in neo-natal intensive care and it's hard to get enough nutrients through the naso-gastric tube) and that foot length is 4.5". Toe up socks, figure 8 cast-on, round toe, short row heel, and ribbing on a larger needle and a large bind off to accomodate those dear cankles.

It occurred to me while knitting pair number two (in green cotton sock yarn for spring) that I haven't knit much for my nephews...clearly a case of the cobbler's children having no shoes. Or the knitter's nephews having no handknit socks. Or something. They don't even have their own set of bug finger puppets! Their grandmother (my mother) is an avid knitter too, so maybe we should get on that. They are very good for creative play...and use up all your sock yarn odds and ends.

This came up because over on Ravelry, the fabulous database for knitters that is already over 300,000 knitters strong, is having a contest. It's called the Bobby Awards, and there is a category for coolest toy. If you don't have a horse in this race, (as we say here in Kentucky) would you mind voting for my Bug Finger Puppets? Thank you, if you're so inclined. The professor studies bugs, so we'd have to say we're a fan of them over here. Too bad I don't still have the original samples. We'd be playing all the time! :)

In other news, several kind friends have posted fun things about Fiber Gathering. On foodperson.com, Janet tried out the one recipe in the book, apple crisp,...and she liked it! (I wish there had been room for more recipes. I would have gone wild!) My friend Alison posted another kind, wonderful note celebrating all our connections over here at her blog, Spindyeknit. We also dropped by our local book store to pick up a magazine and saw an actual copy of the book there! Yes, we are truly neophytes. This blew my mind. The professor also talked about it for two days, so apparently it blew his prodigious brain as well! We are pretty easy to bowl over these days. It's all a bit overwhelming!

If you voted for Bug Finger Puppets, would you let me know in a comment? Or tell me what you think about those lovely little cankles that babies have? Or whatever? I love hearing from you!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arkansas Ozarks

Although I spent roughly 5 years, off and on, in grad. school, I didn't make a ton of friends there. I made one or two good friends. One is a handspinner, and she and her husband now live in Dallas. Halfway between Bowling Green, Kentucky and Dallas? There's a wilderness area called the Buffalo National River. It's a long long drive from our house (approximately 10 hours) and it was hard hit by the ice storm we had in January, so many of the hiking trails are not yet passable. No matter.

Turns out that our friends' two kids (nearly 2 and nearly 4) were more than content to hunt for fossils or, as they put it, throw rocks, right by the creek near our vacation rental, a really nice house with a great view. The weather was warm enough for camp fires and walks and dinner outside.

We explored a couple of local towns one day, but mostly, we looked at the view. We threw rocks. We slept and ate well. There was no internet access. It was quiet, aside from neighborhood farm noises. It was a really restful few days that it turns out the professor and I both needed.

In the wildlife department, we didn't see much. I did see a dead armadillo and a live wild turkey along the highway. I also saw one dog that I nearly stopped for, until my professor convinced me that a) we had no room for it, b)we didn't know where the nearest animal shelter was c)it probably lived nearby and d)we already have two dogs..at home. I still struggled with that one...(must save all dogs?)

At the vacation house, we were adopted by 3 local farm cats, 4 neighborly dogs, and we watched a farmer help a newborn calf learn to nurse from its mother. Not wildlife, but definitely animals that helped me think about and celebrate our friend Esther's life. (Thanks very much, by the way, for helping me celebrate her in that last blog post. Your comments were very appreciated.)

Along the way, I knitted one pair of socks for my nephew Lewis. (he's at home, but still not gaining weight as a baby should--not really out of the woods just yet.) I also spun some lovely California Variegated Mutant (CVM) wool on my Little Gem spinning wheel. Mostly, I sat and watched the world go by.

I came home to discover that lots of exciting book stuff has happened! A great book review in a magazine, a fun blog post that I helped write, (It didn't look so nifty when I sent it in!) and even, a Knitty review!(scroll down to the very bottom to see about my book.) I've also had tons of nice notes about the book over the last few days. Thank you! I've really enjoyed every last one.

My conclusion? Maybe I should go watch the cows in the Ozarks more often. Lots of good things happen along the way... both on the internets--and in the real world. Here's to one more calf being born!

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Don't let the turkeys get you down

You may remember, back in October, the professor and I went to the upstate New York family farmland to do some apple picking. We picked 400 lbs of apples from the old abandoned orchard on the property. Most of those apples were donated to a foodbank, but I baked some pies, made some applesauce, and fed family and friends with a few of those apples.

Two pies went to our friend Esther. Esther and her husband Dave lived down the road from the professor's family farm. When he visited during the summer, or on weekends, he always saw Dave and Esther. They were there, good friends of the professor's parents, sharing important life lessons like how to milk a cow and get up on a horse--farm knowledge the professor needed as he grew up. They were the kind of family friends who appreciated and admired the professor's turkey photos.

(You see, as a little kid, the professor had a camera, and he was allowed to take photos, but not to cross the road or stray too far from his mother or the farm house. He chose the next door neighbor's pet turkeys as models. He shot many, many rolls of turkey photos. It was an obsession. We still have quite a few snapshots of turkeys, shot at grade school kid height.)

I met Esther and Dave after we got married. This was after Dave gave up dairy farming. It was even after Esther had stopped working as a nurse at the local hospital. They were still busy, running a trucking business and helping folks in the community. Esther had a knack, in particular, for nursing strays. Animals, people--she took loving care until whoever it was? was healed. Esther had that skill. Once healed, those three legged dogs or sad barn cats became her best mates. Her horses and her friends--we were all cherished, hugged and kissed.

After Dave passed away a few years ago, Esther was often sad..life threw her a lot of curve balls. However, she had this way of telling crazy, heartrending, unbelieveable (but true) stories with a big smile on her face. Whatever the story was, sometimes it was so horrible that you knew she had to laugh, because otherwise? We'd all cry.

This week, I couldn't help it. I couldn't laugh. Had to cry. We got an early morning phone call from Esther's son about this news story:
Body found in rubble of Fort Edward home that was destroyed by fire: lone occupant still unaccounted for

When we heard about the two dogs that perished in the fire, well, we knew the dogs too...we played with them in October when we visited. Today's paper (the one that's the local paper at the farm) posted Esther's obituary.

Whenever Esther would smile and tell one of these basically awful stories, she'd remind us that life was short and not to let those turkeys (the crazy people, the upsetting things) get us down. She was right--but when we're going away this weekend, I'll be thinking of Esther. We may well see some wild turkeys on the trip...we're going to a rural wilderness area. You can bet I'll be thinking of her patience, her joy and appreciation of children and animals, and her healing love.
Rest in peace, friend. We'll miss you.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009


The socks: Totally unexciting short socks of my own design, knit out of a yarn called "Hot Socks", which is a lot like Patons Stretch Socks, I expect they were produced by the same factory. These are great for wearing with my sneakers, in spring, summer and fall. I've produced something in the range of 5 pairs of them now, and...pssst....they use just one ball of yarn if your foot's no bigger than a woman's 7.5. A great thing.

This is the first project I've knit for myself in a year. For the past year, I've been churning out projects for this book. My second book, Knit Green: Twenty Projects and Ideas for Sustainability, will be filled with only my designs. It's now up on Amazon, so I can mention it! I'm already starting to teach workshops on this topic, starting in May. I'm excited about talking about sustainability...but...but? without this huge deadline?

My knitting has hit an impasse. That would be:
1.a position or situation from which there is no escape; deadlock.
2. a road or way that has no outlet; cul-de-sac.
Synonyms:1. stalemate, standstill, standoff, dead end.

In other words: a blind alley. I started on those mittens I mentioned a few posts ago. Hmm. Those few skeins of different weight yarns looked fabulous lined up near one another. In the small swatch, they looked ok. The swatch didn't lie. Really. It just didn't tell the whole story. Knitted up together, those yarns looked like a fuzzy, oddly variegated, pinky rose olive green version of, well, cat barf.

I couldn't go on. Yet, a new pair of mittens is a good idea. My true impasse is that I start on my pleasure knitting at 7:30 at night, after dinner and a glass of wine. I knit for maybe an hour and a half and am ready for bed by about 9pm. If it weren't for harming sleeping dogs, I would just crumple into a heap wherever I happened to be at the time. Last night, in fact, I caused the professor sheer panic by laying down on top of FOUR double pointed needles! (No worries...I have no new holes in any body parts.)

Worse, we are scheduled to go away for a few days with a long drive on either end. I must have a good knitting project. Any project. Started and ready to go...

Today I had an afternoon appointment that was cancelled. I think I'll try the stash diving approach again. I'll start knitting right away to make sure the project works. Me, without any knitting to do? Truly a dangerous impasse. Imagine, if I can collapse on four double pointed needles safely, it must be my natural habitat. The danger would be in attempting it without the knitting. Like tight rope walking without a net. (hmm, a net. Should I knit one of those?)

PS: Thank you for all your wonderful celebratory notes about Fiber Gathering. I've tried to write to each of you individually to say thanks. I'm still stunned over it all. Sadly, it appears that even people who write real books must run errands, do chores, and work. I thought, in my daydream, that was all behind me now? (apparently not!)

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Monday, March 02, 2009

What I did this weekend

If you're on Ravelry, you might want to check out this preview of almost all the projects in my book. I mean, if you happen to be over there or something.... (yup, I uploaded information for 19 projects. It took a while.) Hope you like what you see! There are some amazing projects over there.

If you're not on Ravelry, it's an online database for knitters and crocheters with an enormous amount of information. It's not small. At the moment? Over 300,000 users. Yarn people. We're going to take over the world. :) Tomorrow.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tops and Toes Blog Tour

Today, as promised, I’m participating in Kara Gott Warner’s blog tour for her new book, Tops and Toes: A Whimsical Collection to Delight Hat and Sock Knitters! I was invited to contribute a pattern to the book, and I’m thrilled to share a photo of Playful Polka Dot Socks with you today, along with this interview.

Kara: Hi Joanne, thanks for inviting me to stop by. I’m excited to learn more about your Playful Polka Dot Socks design. What was it that inspired you?

Joanne: Well, polka dots inspired me! I looked at a variety of sources that indicated that polka dots were in fashion. While I think polka dots are always fun and retro, not everybody can wear an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini! Instead, I tried to figure out what part of the body is ALWAYS flattered by polka dots. Feet, of course!

Kara: I think the choice of Knit Picks Palette yarn was a great choice. Can you tell me a bit more about this yarn, and what makes it a great sock yarn. Is this yarn machine washable?

Joanne: I love that Knit Picks Palette has a wide range of colors. I happened to have some stash in a variety of colors, and the array of shades to be inspiration in itself. I’ve used it before in my Heart's Ease Sock Pattern and it’s worn well in a stranded knitting pattern. That’s why I chose it. Sadly, it isn’t machine washable—a real downside! However, there are many solid colored wool sock yarns that are, so it’s easy to substitute yarns if you’d prefer.

Kara: Why did you choose to design this sock from the cuff-down, rather then from the toe-up?

Joanne: I believe most sock knitters have a formula that works for them as if on automatic pilot. That formula can be knit almost without thinking and fits them well. For me, that formula is based on Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ book,Simple Socks. While these socks could theoretically be worked toe-up, my habit is to work cuff-down. Fitting the color patterning to look “just so” can be complex when designing so I try to lessen any other designing complications!

Kara: I’m curious, since you’re working with 3 different colors, is it hard to do on something this small? Do you have a trick for working with multiple yarns? I always end up with a tangled mess myself!

Joanne: Many stranded or Fair Isle knitting patterns tend to be on smaller needles. I didn’t find the size to be a problem. In fact, I find knitting with two colors and two hands to be mesmerizing, especially when the movements are so small. Once I get the pattern down, it feels like a meditation, done while knitting!

Here are some things that make it easier. First, although there are three colors here, you only ever knit with two colors in a row. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any jumble of yarns to contend with—just two at a time.

The third color, the one that isn’t being used, can be easily carried up the back of the work. At the beginning of each row, just catch that unused color up by twisting it once on the working yarn, behind the first stitch. The twist will be at the back of the work and won’t show, but the third color will be carried right up to where you’ll need it this way, without any long floats….

…And, talking about floats… I try to design my stranded knitting patterns for socks without long floats so no one’s toes get caught! If this is a concern or you’d like to build in extra warmth, you can work that twist (mentioned above) even with your two working yarns. For instance, imagine you have a section with 4 sts of color A, and color B would normally be a float. Knit 2 sts of color A, twist color B at the back of the work once around color A, and then move on to the next 2 sts. Voilà! No long float, and even warmer tootsies will result…

Kara: with this cuff-down sock you use a Modified 3-Needle Bind-Off. This is an interesting technique. Why did you choose this to bind off the toe?

Joanne: My “formula sock” (mentioned above) uses a 3 Needle bind-off and that’s my habit—I use it in most of my personal sock knitting! However, when I attempted that, I found the bind off line made across the top of the toes was not tidy and neat. I suspect this is because when you knit with two colors, your gauge will be tighter than when knitting with one. The bind-off is in just one color and hence it looked loose and disheveled. I came up with a way to tighten that up through a creative modification.

The short answer is that it solved a technical difficulty between two gauges. The personal answer is that I’d hate to work a whole sock and have everything look beautiful but the bind-off! That would just upset me as a knitter, so I try not to let it happen as a designer!

Kara: How long have you been designing knitwear, and what are your favorite things to design?

Joanne: I’ve probably been designing knitwear since I was a kid. My first published piece was in Interweave Knits in 2002. I don’t really have a favorite! I usually work in the beginning to intermediate range, and I don’t do a lot of lace or polar bulky designs. Otherwise, I think my favorites are the ones that bring me pleasure to knit and wear! It’s hard to tell what will be a favorite until after I’ve designed it, knitted it, and sold it. I also have a fondness for patterns that other knitters love to knit, of course.

Kara: Have you been published in any other books or magazines? Tell me a little about your background, and what brought you to knitting.

Joanne: I’ve had designs published in a variety of places…a short list includes Knit Picks catalog, Interweave Knits Magazine, Spin-Off, Magknits.com, and Lion Brand Yarn Company. I’m most excited about the designs coming out in my books. Fiber Gathering just came out, (HURRAY!) and Knit Green: Twenty Projects for Sustainability, which is coming out this fall. I designed all 20 projects for Knit Green on my own!

I started knitting when I was 4 or 5 and I’ve always enjoyed it. I used to teach – high school, community college, and adult education, but the moving required for my husband’s academic career made it hard to find a new teaching job in each location. I began freelancing part-time in 2002 and took it full-time in 2003. My writing and knitwear designs are a fun part of that freelance career.
Kara, thanks for inviting me to participate!

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