Saturday, February 19, 2011

Moments at Madrona

It has taken me fully a week to recover from the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

It may be premature to speak of "full" recovery. I may never recover fully. I know I have been changed by the experience. I'm not sure I want to change back.

The retreat hurtled past with such velocity that I find myself unable to offer a fluid narrative. All I have are a sprinkling of moments, and a handful of dreadful photographs. (I know my limits. I can be a participant or I can be a decent photographer, but not both. I chose to be a participant. Carpe diem.)

Herewith, a small selection of the memories (sweet) and the photographs (otherwise).

Funny Moment: Meet Faye

I was prepping the classroom for round two of "Photographing Your Fiber" when I heard a student come through the door. I turned to welcome her, and was startled to meet a lady in dark glasses being led by a Seeing Eye dog.

Now, I've had students who've forgotten more about lace than I will ever know show up for my "Introduction to Lace" class, and I've managed to show them a good time; but I confess to a moment of panic at wondering how one teaches a blind lady to capture true color.

The lady in question was Michelle, and Michelle's guide was Faye.

Michelle and Faye

Happily, Michelle can see well enough to knit and to make photographs; in fact, photographing objects makes them easier for her to encompass visually.

Faye, on the other hand, hadn't brought a camera. She settled herself under the table at Michelle's feet, with her furry derrière sticking out from under the cloth. Occasionally, while I was speaking, her tail would thump delicately against the floor. Or during a pause, I would hear a gentle complaint from her squeaky pony.

I'm thinking of re-writing my classroom requirements henceforth to include a desk, a flip chart, four thick markers of different colors, and a puppy dog.

Personal Note to the Universe Moment: Pocket Wheels

I rode on one of these and I @#$*!! WANT ONE. Just putting it out there, Universe.

Guess Again Moment: Mystery Knitting

A lady in my "Antique Patterns" class held up her half-finished mystery project and asked me, "Is it a vagina?"

No, it is not a vagina.

She's Pretty and Talented Moment: Sivia

I stopped by the Abstract Fiber booth and Jasmine showed me a glove design from Sivia Harding, so new it was still bleeding.

Glove by Sivia Harding

It's simple, yet intriguing. It's energetic, yet elegant. It's perfect. It's typically Sivia. If I didn't like Sivia so much, I would want to smack her.

Excuse Me for Drooling on Your Booth Moment: Retail Therapy

Churchmouse Booth, Madrona

Churchmouse Yarns and Teas.

Tina from Socks That Rock

Socks That Rock.

No further explanation necessary. Moving on.

Sometimes It Pays to Have Puppy Dog Eyes Moment: Goth Socks

The night before everything started I got to peek around the marketplace and saw an entire booth of hanks by a dyer whose work makes my eyeballs knock together, Rainy Days and Wooly Dogs. This is she.

Steph from Goth Socks

Steph dyes the increasingly famous Goth Socks–including the only self-striping I've seen in years that I truly want to knit with, if for "want" you read "lust with the fiery passion of a thousand guys fresh off a six-month deployment on a submarine."

By the time I got to the market the following morning, during the first break between classes, this is what all the shelves in the booth looked like.

Goth Socks...All Gone

Gone. Gone. That's not a rush, that's a feeding frenzy.

I grew despondent, until a gentleman to whom I'd just been introduced–the friend of a dear friend–took pity on me and insisted on sending me home with his own hank of Goth Socks "Dark and Twisty." And he's straight! He didn't demand sexual favors or anything!

The kindness of some human beings is not to be believed.

Sock one is nearly complete, and it is to die. Pictures coming soon.

Getting to Know You Moment: Karen and Jacey

At the teachers' dinner I sat between Karen Alfke and Jacey Boggs, and amidst the lofty talk and low (but delicious) gossip going on around us, we shared our personal experiences of public nudity, both first- and second-hand.

That's all I'm saying. And no, there are no pictures.

Lord, Let Thy Servant Depart in Peace Moment: Evelyn

During the Teachers' Gallery event at which we displayed the patterns we'd written, Evelyn Clark came to my table, picked up Sahar and said, "This is absolutely lovely."

Fanboy Moment: Vivian

I got seated at the banquet next to Vivian Høxbro. It turns out she has to eat food, just like a normal person. I always figured her to be the type who lives on pure mountain air and ambrosia.

I asked if she would mind having a picture with me. She did not mind.

With Vivian Hoxbro

Jeepers Moment: View from the Lectern

Anybody who goes to Madrona will tell you that among all fiber retreats, it is Different. The reasons for the difference are legion, not least the organizers' insistence on treating the faculty with enormous respect and courtesy. (At some events, the employer/teacher relationship is closer to that of, say, Pharaoh and the Israelites.)

When the teachers are happy, everybody's happy. We all came together–students, teachers, organizers, vendors–for a merry banquet on Saturday night; and I had the honor of addressing the company.

This (if you will tip either your head or your monitor to one side) is what I saw when I looked down from my perch.

Madrona 2011 Banquet

It's enough to make a guy choke on his angora.

The warm energy in that room was enough to sustain me through about 365 days of swatching, ripping, re-charting, re-writing, re-ripping, re-knitting and answering e-mails with the subject line "I Think There's a Mistake in Your Pattern."

But I still don't know how I'm going to wait until it's time for Madrona again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And So We Begin

I flew to Tacoma, Washington yesterday morning* to teach at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat, which kicks off in just an hour. I'm so excited I could pee, and have.

It's a honor to be here, and heaven knows I love to travel; but when you do it a great deal–as I lately have–confusion sets in.

This is the sort of note I now customarily leave for myself on the bedside table before I go to sleep. It helps immensely when I wake up in a cold sweat and can't remember where I am, or why I'm there.

Note to Self

Speaking of travel, wanna go to Iceland with me?

*Dolores flew in later because there were no seats left in First Class on the early flight. Yup, First Class. She also has a rider in her contract requiring a chocolate fountain in her hotel room. I got a granola bar.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Stealth Knitting

Time was when I could have called myself a monogamous knitter: one project at a time. Okay, sometimes two; but the projects always knew about each other and agreed that an occasional tricotage à trois* added spice.

Now, much older and denuded of anything like wide-eyed innocence, I can no more claim fidelity to a single project than Empress Messalina could have sung “I Only Have Eyes for You” at karaoke night without raising a bumper crop of eyebrows.

I think it’s due to a difference in the way I approach my knitting. Once, I worked from patterns, and casting on was like cracking open a Dickens novel. The beginning was full of intrigue, the middle veered from high comedy to grim despair, and the end wrapped up with nary a loose thread. Off with one hat, on with another. Neat.

Working as I do these days, the clear narrative is blown to smithereens. I sketch, I swatch, I rip, and pieces have a disconcerting tendency to shape-shift in mid-flight. I’ve gone from Charles Dickens to William Burroughs.**

I already wrote about the winter hat. Was supposed to be for me, is instead for somebody with enough moxie to pull off a cloche. Since so many of you liked it (thank you!), I’m refining the pattern and I’ll be releasing it in a new yarn to be determined.

Likewise, Abigail’s Pink Thing started as a poncho and has become a cape and hood.


It progresses, by the way–or will, when the rest of the yarn arrives from the nice lady at Cascade. Turns out I didn’t ask for enough; I confess I’m being rather prodigal in my lavish use of 220 Sport. More fabric in the right places makes for a better twirl.

I still want to knit something for myself, and was going to attempt another hat. But a set of needles were thrust at me that changed the game. They’re called Blackthorns, and the suckers are made of–are you ready for this?–carbon fiber.

Things that are made from carbon fiber:

Stealth Bomber

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

My knitting needles
Blackthorn Needles

You know I’m not given to stereotypically boyish crowing over new industrial technology; but this gave me the shivers. Even adamantly non-knitting males in my social circle have been forced to concede that carbon fiber knitting needles are Pretty Freaking Cool.

And they handle, my dears, like a dream. Pointy. Light. Bendy as wood but not prone to snapping under the brute force of my manly fingers.*** And they have the perfect (to my mind) balance between slippy and grippy.

They’re US 00, which means socks, so I’m making some from Cascade Heritage Sock.

Bavarian Twisted Stitch Socks

The pattern is a pretty little motif in Bavarian twisted stitch. It fit perfectly (one repeat on each needle) and is taken from Twisted-Stitch Knitting, the superb one-volume English edition of Maria Erlbacher’s Uberlieferte Strickmuster–an out-of-print trilogy revived with much loving care by Schoolhouse Press. (Dear, dear Schoolhouse Press–if you were not fighting to rescue these books that would otherwise be lost to us, who would?)

So, socks. I think. For all I know, next week they might have turned into a soft-sculpture giraffe. Harry continues to suspect this is the pernicious influence of Wool Pixies; but that’s another blog entry and I’ve got to go make dinner.

*I have no idea whether this is decent French or bullpuckey, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now. It will have to do.

**Without the sex. Not that some of the silks I’m playing around with haven’t tempted me.

***Hey, share the fantasy.