Come Away with Me...

I have been sitting on some news that I am tickled to finally get to share with you!

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Over my many years of teaching, I've taught in many places - in yarn shops, in hotels, in schools, on lakes, in cabins, in churches, in TV studios, in cars and buses, on trains, via Skype... You name it, chances are I've taught there. Sometimes I feel like the character in Green Eggs & Ham - I will teach knitting with a fox, in a box, with a mouse, in a house, here or there, anywhere! Somewhere I have never taught but definitely wanted to was on a cruise ship.

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I am absolutely delighted to announce that I'll be teaching with Craft Cruises setting sail to Alaska on June 15-22, 2019!!! This round-trip adventure into the land of the midnight sun starts in Vancouver and takes us along Alaska's inside passage, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, and Ketchikan, all perfect places for glacier, waterfall, and wildflower viewing. The summer sun days will be long and the knitting will be abundant! All meals and shipboard activities, taxes and fees, welcome cocktail party, social gatherings, and yarn shopping info is included. I'll be teaching thrummed mitts or slippers, beginner Fair Isle, beaded lace, lace forensics, counterpanes, and advanced Fair Isle classes onboard.

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Our ship will be Holland America's MS Nieuw Amsterdam, a 935' cruise ship. At 86,000 tons, this ship celebrates the glamour and history of New York City, formerly called Nieuw Amsterdam, with its inspired interior design and art collection.

Highlights include: 

  • Arrive a day early to explore Vancouver on a yarn crawl featuring a visit to the top yarn shops and a visit to the dye studio of Sweet Georgia Artisan Hand-Dyed Luxury Yarns
  • A visit to Vancouver is always a foodie trip, since you can dine on traditional Pacific Northwest salmon or at any number of this city's trendy restaurants or food trucks
  • Spend three luxurious days at sea with classes offered by knitting expert Tanis Gray
  • Cruise Tracy Arm Inlet where steep cliffs, waterfalls, blue ice and glacier-covered mountains surrounded by old-growth rainforest make this Alaska's most stunning cruising area
  • Shop for Alaska produced yarns, including Qiviut, in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan
  • Eat the best crab in Alaska at Tracy's King Crab Shack on the pier in Juneau
  • Ride the Mount Roberts Tramway up 1,800 feet to enjoy the expansive views of the Gastineau Channel in Juneau
  • Cruise into Glacier Bay National Park, which is one of the world's largest biospheres with its abundant marine wildlife, active glaciers and moss-covered forests
  • Take the White Pass and Yukon narrow-gauge train journey in Skagway where you will learn all about the gold rush
  • In Ketchikan sample all varieties of salmon and learn all about the salmon fishing industry
  • Visit the Saxman Totem Park and learn why Ketchikan is truly the totem capital of the world
  • Extend your stay and take the train to Seattle where you can hop on the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island for a visit to Churchmouse Yarns and Teas and then swing by Pike Place Market and So Much Yarn for a true Pacific Northwest knitting adventure

I've mentioned before how I love retreats and knitting getaways because it removes us from our daily lives. We get to leave the relentless everyday schedule behind and be with our people, becoming more educated in our beloved craft! How excellent will it be to bring knitting with you, cruise along one of the most beautiful places in the United States, be with fellow crafty people, learn so many new techniques, have me at your disposal, eat, sightsee, relax, and have an incredible knitting adventure?

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I am counting down the days until this wonderful voyage commences and I hope you'll join me. I have been to Alaska before and it's truly breathtaking. Add in knitting and it's the perfect trip!  I take knitting education very seriously, and consider it truly an honor to pass our craft on and educate students in a patient, relaxing, and exciting way. What better setting than this?

Learn more about the itinerary here, the classes here, pricing here, and the ship here.

Try Everything

I have big news to share next week, friends! Be sure to come back after we celebrate our Independence to see what it is!

If you have young children in your life, chances are that you've seen Zootopia. The bright, quick-paced, hilarious film won many awards and it's apropos of what's happening in the world today. One of our favorite scenes is when a gazelle (with the voice of Shakira) sings the song "Try Everything." One of the lines goes, "I won't give up, no I won't give in until I reach the end, and I'll start again." This is something I try to drill into my son's brain each day - try everything. It doesn't matter if you fail, it doesn't matter if you're the best in the class - just TRY. This song goes off on my phone each school morning as the 10-minute alarm. When we hear it my son knows it's time to make his bed, get his teeth brushed, find his shoes, and be ready to walk to school. I hope that somewhere deep inside his curious little mind this ear worm song will wiggle itself around during the day, reminding him to give something a try even if it's scary and new.

 
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People are surprised when I would tell them that I don't knit brioche. I've been knitting for over 30 years with books, TV shows, magazines, and having pretty much anything to do with knitting under my belt. Fair Isle - a technique that strikes fear into the hearts of many - is second nature to me. Lace on both sides? Bring it. Cables with multiple cable needles going in different directions as tangled up as Medusa's hair? Sure thing. Mosaic knitting? Charts? Designing? Easy peasy. But brioche was like someone I really wanted to be friends with but they had no interest in being friends with me. I decided this would be the summer that brioche and I become friends. We would enter into some sort of weird courtship and dagnabbit, we would be hanging out and enjoying each other's company by summer's end.

I try to practice what I preach to my kids, and with this in mind, I picked up needles and yarn with this goal of conquering brioche. I've tried this technique over the years without much success. Like many techniques in knitting, it's easier if someone shows you rather than trying to learn off a computer screen. The person who teaches brioche at my LYS usually teaches on the same evenings I do, making taking one of his brioche classes an impossibility. The stars aligned a few weeks ago and I enrolled in his intro class, off and running with brioche. I made my scarf with Freia scraps (because a riot of color is just how I roll), I learned how to fix dropped brioche stitches and ladder down. I learned to let the rhythm and my hands take over, making my brain take a back seat. I watched my Ravelry queue fill up with brioche projects and quickly recognized that reading a brioche pattern made sense now. I'm working on increasing and decreasing and trying to get a handle on brioche charts.

 
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The most important lesson during my quest? I was reminded what it felt like to be sitting on the other side of the table. I'm so used to leading a class full of students and being in complete control. I can look at knitting and instantly see what needs fixing and be able to take care of it. I was nervous when I sat down with my brioche pattern and swatching yarn, unsure of what "brk" and "brp" meant. I felt like all thumbs and my confidence was hovering right around zero. Yes, it's just needles and yarn and frogging back isn't a big deal, unless of course it's a few hard-earned rows on your needles that just a few moments ago you were incredibly proud of.

Next time you're thinking of trying something new and thoughts of "I'm too old for this," or "I know how to knit everything else, why bother learning this," or "it's too scary" flood your mind, remember what it felt like the first time you picked up sticks and string and turned it into something beautiful. The result is incredibly worthwhile. What technique have you been wanting to try but been feeling trepidatious about? Summer is the perfect time to give it a whirl.

Brioche and I? We've been hanging out almost every night getting to know each other better. We're testing boundaries and needle sizes, but I have a feeling this will be a lifelong friendship from here on out. Like the gazelle says, I'll won't give up and I won't give in.

 

 

Summer Knitting

It always seems like someone is hitting the fast-forward button when we get to the summer months! Between school ending (my oldest is heading to second grade in the fall) and my youngest letting her VAT (very active toddler) flag fly, there isn't as much time for knitting as I would like. However, my project bag laden with yarn and needles continues to be my constant companion, thrown in my bag each morning in case there's a few minutes to squeeze a couple of rows.

Much has happened since I wrote last and I'll be sure not to get too far behind again! In May I found myself a few towns away from where I grew up in Southeastern Massachusetts lecturing and teaching for the Greater Boston Knitting Guild. This prestigious guild met at Plimoth Plantation (yes, that is the accurate historical spelling), a fitting setting for my morning lecture on the History of Knitting and afternoon workshop. The Plantation is home to many folks roaming the grounds representing life in Colonial times and the Guild provides historically-accurate knitwear to them in the form of caps, socks, garters, shawls, etc. They teamed up with Harrisville to create a historically-accurate yarn color palette and updated the patterns into modern-day knitting instructions - a massive undertaking. As both a knitter and member of the Mayflower Society, I was swooning inside when they told me their story and showed me some of these knits.

 
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I hadn't been to the Plantation in many, many years - probably since an elementary school field trip. History and knitting are both very important subjects to me and teaching for this well-established, educated guild on a historic property was quite memorable. My mother was invited to hear my lecture, and taking an extra day to see both her and my dad and crash on their couch was the cherry on top of a delightful weekend.

A big fan of local yarns and companies, I taught Fair Isle workshops at both Shalimar Yarns in Maryland, and Spirit Trail Fiberworks in Virginia. For these workshops, I was thrilled to design stranded color work cowls with Latvian braids, now available to all.

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The Stereo Hearts Cowl is knit in my favorite Shalimar yarn, Paulie Worsted, and is available for download here. A stellar blend of wool, cashmere, camel, and silk, working every stitch is a joy. This buttery-soft yarn makes a drapey fabric that you absolutely want around your neck. Knit on US 7 needles with one hank of each color, it was interesting to see the different color combinations that each knitter chose. From neutrals to brights, and tone on tone pairings, each cowl was as unique as the knitter making it. Teaching on the Shalimar land meant there were horses and a donkey, all of whom befriended my son, much to his delight. 

 
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For my Spirit Trail project, the Dipladenia Cowl, I wanted to show how a super bright paired with a subtle variegated can make a large, bold pattern pop. I love their color ways and teaching in the dye workshop was a special treat. In the morning the students learned Fair Isle with me, and in the afternoon I turned them over to Jennifer who taught them speckle dyeing techniques to use for future Fair Isle projects. The cowl was inspired by the dipladenia flower and I love the ply and stitch definition provided by the Luna yarn. The pattern is available for download here.

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Last weekend found me in Reno, Nevada teaching mosaic knitting at the Jimmy Beans Wool Retreat. I had never been to Reno and was delighted to see the Truckee River outside my hotel window and stunning mountains in the distance. Using the time change to my advantage, I took an early morning walk before it got hot, worked a few rows by the river, then it was off to teach. There's something special about retreats - people leave their everyday lives at home, find their people, learn some new techniques, and knit as much as they want. We talk about anything and everything as we all gather around our craft, continuing that chain of tradition of women and their handiwork. I always enjoy seeing students at dinner, in the street, or in the elevator, taking out their work to show me their progress.

 
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Between classes, I skipped lunch in favor of making the short ride out to Jimmy Beans. YARN MECCA. The giant space is chockfull of amazing yarns and notions. The storefront is charming, bright, well-organized, overwhelming, and what I imagine a bit of heaven looks like. I found myself alternating between squealing with delight and cackling with glee, especially when I crossed into the warehouse. All too soon I had to get back to teach, but if you find yourself anywhere near Reno, I highly suggest making your way there.

Lastly, did you see my new free cowl in Knitty Early Fall 2018? Fenton's Arrow is a Fair Isle and corrugated ribbed cowl (shocking, I know), and the ombre yarns make this graphic cowl look much more complex than it is. Sit back and let the wonderful Freia Ombre Worsted do the work for you! I always look forward to Knitty Early Fall and am in good company this issue with many great designs.

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I continue to teach at my LYS through these summer months, while working away on exciting new designs and projects to bring you for fall. I spend time chasing fireflies and beach balls around the backyard with my kids, make gallons of iced tea, take early morning walks with my friend, grill, pick up some sewing here and there, bake bread for the neighbors, and dream about what will fly across my knitting needles next. If you find me by the community pool with my iced tea and project bag, stop by and let's knit!

Coventry Cowl & Lancaster Recap

Teaching at retreats is a magical experience. To me it's like diving right into the pool, rather than sitting on ledge just dangling your feet in. One of my favorite things about these kinds of events are the groups of people. Some friends meet up every year and it becomes part of their tradition, while others take a chance and fly solo, quickly getting absorbed up by a bunch of knitters happily welcoming them into their group. Sometimes it's a mother/daughter team, each traveling from afar to meet up and knit together. There is throw-your-head-back laughter, tears of joy, eating, hugs everywhere you turn, and my goodness is there knitting!

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I was happy to teach at the Lancaster Knitter's Retreat a couple weeks ago in Bird-In-Hand, PA in Lancaster County. My family and I have visited Lancaster County a few times and enjoy the crafts, the beautiful scenery, learning about the Amish, and I'm a total sucker for a handmade soft pretzel. The retreat is put on by Wendy and Bob, owners of the wonderful Lancaster Yarn Shop, a very classy and chic shop tucked right into the heart of the county. It's one of my favorite shops and was right down the way from the retreat hotel. This was the 4th annual retreat and it was sold out!

 
 

I love teaching large groups with varying skill levels. As a teacher, there is nothing better than seeing that lightbulb moment students get, watching people sit down with a bit of trepidation and leaving with a confident smile. I love standing next to people in the breakfast line talking about their progress, getting high fives and hugs from someone who thought lace was something they could never grasp, or having folks come by after dinner for a bit of extra help. We're submerged in nothing but knitting and friendship for a few days. Phones are put away, newspapers go unread, and we find ourselves in a delightful and crafty bubble for a brief moment.

 
 

One of the classes I taught (one of my favorites) was beaded lace. I designed a retreat-exclusive project for the students and now I'm happy to make the pattern now available to all! Introducing the Coventry Cowl, a beaded garter lace extravaganza. This cowl begins with twisted ribbing and is knit back and forth in rows rather than the round to avoid lots of purling. The design cinches in at the top so the cowl tapers slightly and lays more open once around the neck. The edges are mattress stitched together at the end and after a good blocking, the lace will open up and the beads will twinkle and shine!

 
 

I love knitting lace on worsted weight, giving it a more modern look and a bit more substance. This cowl takes 1 hank of Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio Worsted and is knit on US 6 and 8 needles. While any 6/0 beads will do, I'm a fan of Miyuki.

I see this cowl and think of the great time I had teaching 50 amazing students. Each project I design and knit has a story attached to it, a memory, or reminds me of something going on in my life at the time. This cowl reminds me of Lancaster, new friends, soft pretzels, and fond memories.

Download the Coventry Cowl here.