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Monday, August 21, 2006

More from Michigan

When you get to the big chicken, you've arrived.

I very nearly brought this little guy home with me. I have had pet rabbits. My grandparents raised rabbits, but we don't talk about why they raised them or where the rabbits went. That was a long time ago in a lifetime far, far away...A lot of things changed on the farm around the time I was born, not the least of which was the addition of indoor plumbing. Seriously. My mother, who is not yet 60, went to a one-room schoolhouse. So did my aunt, and she's even younger. The schoolhouse was at the end of the lane (the country equivalent of a long driveway), so at least they didn't have to walk miles uphill both ways in the snow to get to and from class. (We are talking readin', 'ritin', 'rithmatic, and rural, folks.) Anyway, there is an Angora rabbit in my future...

I called this one Old Blue Eyes.

I was born in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. In fact, I am Pennsylvania Dutch. My mother and my grandparents speak Dutch (a dialect of German) and they used to speak it when they didn't want my brother and me to know what was going on. I can say one sentence in Dutch, which translates to "Can you catch flies?" I don't know why all Pennsylvania Dutch children are taught this phrase, but we are. I can't spell it, and if I tried to spell it phonetically, it would have what appear to be at least two not-so-polite English slang words in it. (Maybe that's why we are taught to say it as children; our parents and grandparents thought it was funny.) Anyway, I grew up in an area where a lot of Amish (and Mennonites) live. Getting stuck behind a horse and buggy on a narrow, winding country road was a common occurrence. I don't see a lot of Amish people in Chicago. (Okay, I've never seen an Amish person in Chicago.) Pennsylvania Dutch is not the same thing as Amish, although in Pennsylvania, the Amish do speak Pennsylvania Dutch. I don't know if the Amish in other states (Ohio, Indiana, etc.) speak a different dialect of Dutch. Hmm, I've never really thought about it. Now I'm going to have to research that. And don't get me started about the movie "Witness"...

When I was little, I lived on my grandparents' farm. Many days, twice a day, I hung out in the barn during milking time, sitting on a big pile of hay bales playing with the barn cats and the dogs, most of which were strays that found their way to our farm and were taken in. My favorite milk cow was named Daisy and she was beautiful. When I was five, my grandparents decided to sell the farm and move up the road to a smaller farm, so they sold off the livestock. Daisy was the first cow sold. I can still remember every detail of what the man wore when he came to get her, and I cried when he loaded her on the truck. That's my dairy fact.

Beef facts for your edification.

Wooden shoes. Really.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Knitting and Camping

So, no one who knows me thought I was serious when I said I was going to camp at the Michigan Fiber Festival. But serious I was.

My weekend at the Fiber Festival could not have been more different than last weekend at Stitches. Here are a few reasons why:
  • I slept on a 1" "air mattress" instead of a pillow-top King-size bed. (Note to self: buy Aero bed before Wisconsin.)
  • No cell signal.
  • Bugs.
  • Making peanut butter sandwiches in the trunk of my car.
  • More spinners. Weavers, too.

  • Sheep and goats.

  • Sheep herding.

  • Manure.
  • Tractors. (They were running one of the tractor engines all day Saturday--I don't quite know why--and the smell of the oil fumes took me right back to my grandparents' farm. My grandparents had three big tractors and I think at least two were red International Harvesters. My grandma can't drive a car, but she could sure drive a tractor.)

  • Small tufts of sheep fiber blowing around like little, tiny tumbleweeds everywhere.
  • Rain. And the concern that the dead tree I pitched my tent near would come crashing down in the middle of the night. (Note to self: don't do that again.)
  • Staying up past midnight knitting under the pavilion with fellow campers. (Instead of staying up past midnight watching cable tv.)

Being a city girl now (for nearly half my life at this point), it was interesting to go to this Festival and be reminded of so many things from my childhood. It had a county fair quality to it. I met a number of people (including my neighbor from the tent next-door) who had farms and raised their own animals. Lots of really nice, down-to-earth people.

I didn't take any classes (I might consider that the next time I go) but I did attend the dinner and fashion show Saturday night. Instead of tall, leggy models in 5" heels there was a rag-tag band of teenagers, most of whom were related to someone associated with the festival. Instead of stilettoes they wore flip flops and sneakers. Jeans stood in for color-coordinated separates. Make-up? Who needs make-up? This fashion show had its own homespun charm. Oh, and Rick Mondragon was nowhere to be found.

The stash enhancement was somewhat restrained on this trip. (Sorry about the disorganized heap of stuff.)

Briar Rose (who sponsor Cast-On) did cause me to part with some significant funds. (They will be at Wisconsin, too.) I bought yarn to make two of these vests. Some really cute buttons, too. I got a kit and extra materials to make a felted silk scarf. Fun, fun, fun. I was enticed by one of these ladies to get a drop spindle.

It was kind of like the crack dealer who gives you your first hit for free--and then you're hooked. She first taught me how to use a drop spindle using one of hers, and then she went with me to help me buy my own. It was so kind of her to be so generous with her time. (She also gave me her email address in case I have problems.) I bought the blue/green roving with the spindle from Toni of The Fold and another 8 oz. of roving from a guy from Harvest, AL. (I just had to get something from him with my Alabama connections and all.) I picked up a really charming jacket pattern from a woman whose last name is Pufpaff. (I found her name so interesting.) Lastly, I bought my mother's Christmas present: two Santa hooked rug kits. This isn't the rug hooking that uses pre-cut yarn bits; this is the technique that uses strips of woolen fabrics and look like lovely fabric paintings when they are finished. She took a class sometime last year so I think she'll like them. And, it also fits the bill for the annual addition to her extensive and, I might add, really lovely Santa collection. (No motorized, red plush jolly old elves here; most are handmade and quite special.)

Two weekends off, then to Wisconsin. Now I wish I could go to Rhinebeck...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tales from Knitting Camp

I am exhausted. Three plus days of non-stop knitting activities have whupped my butt. Stitches Midwest came to town (well, Rosemont, actually) and I went in for (almost) the whole enchilada. After work I drove out to the lovely Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for the student-only market session Thursday evening. (I passed on the Opening Day sessions with Jane Sowerby on Victorian Lace and the Student Mixer.)

This is the carpet in the meeting rooms at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Mmm, pastel-y. Look at this for three days, why don'tcha.

The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center has a Hummel Museum in it. I've never seen it open. I don't know if Donald himself collected all of those Hummels or if someone willed them to the Convention Center. There are a lot of them and I find it disconcerting.

I hit the Socks that Rock pretty hard. I also got a few glass buttons from a lovely glass artist, Sheila Ernst. I had purchased some of her buttons from Toni of The Fold at Maryland so it was really nice to meet and chat with her in person. I headed home for a good night's sleep before driving back out to my home-away-from-home at the Doubletree Friday morning. There was more shopping (!!!) and an afternoon class on knitting circles using short rows with Candice Eisner Strick. This was my least favorite class of the five I took. It was a technique I could have learned pretty easily on my own, and the three hour class was much too long for the subject matter. (On a side note, Candice makes amazing knitting kits with incredible color gradations. I'd been lusting after one of her pieces since last year, so one managed to find its way into one of my shopping bags.) Friday night was the Fashion Show. Oh, my. I met some delightful women who took me under their collective wing for the evening. Gotta say, there was a lot up there on the runway that did very little for me, and then there were a few pieces that were quite lovely. (Do read Franklin's review of the 2005 fashion show. He was dead-on about a number of things...)

Saturday morning was a zippers and other closures class by Margaret Fisher. I went in with fairly low expectations. I haven't made any cardigans and I hadn't really considered setting in a zipper. I have no idea why I signed up for the class. I was so very surprised. It was incredibly informative, and Margaret was a fabulous teacher. And, it was so much more fun than I ever would have guessed. Lunch time, more shopping. (There isn't a lot of eating at this thing; the classes start at 8am--way before I can eat in the morning--and the food at the convention center is basically the same stuff they have at movies theaters sans popcorn and Junior Mints.) Afternoon class was Creativity with Sally Melville. I TOTALLY have a knitting crush on Sally Melville. Maybe it was the swingy skirt with the knee socks. Perhaps it was the Canadian accent. More than likely it was the really fantastic class that was part design, part philosophy, and part human behavior. She was just great. So charming. So smart. And I left all of her books at home so I couldn't get them signed--dang. Saturday night was the Student Banquet. The same lovely ladies (with a few new ones swapped in) took me in again. This fashion show was a mixed bag in every way you can imagine. There was one woman whose two pieces made everything else (including the pieces created by professional designers from the night before) pale in comparison. It was worth sitting through the long-winded commentary from the host just to see her gorgeous creations.

Sunday morning I had another class with Sally Melville, Learn to Love Intarsia. I may never learn to love intarsia, but I did learn that the few times I've played around with it I was getting it mostly right. And, Sally makes you feel like everything will just be fine, no matter what. Next, a trip back to the market. I was so not going to buy anything else, but Brooks Farm finally got me, as did Interlacements. Behold, the haul...minus the two Habu scarf kits being shipped to me. Yipes. I have voluntarily forgone any anniversary or Christmas presents because of this...

Then, the finale: Trims with Lily "5 points" Chin. (If you've taken classes with her, you probably know what I mean.) I was really intimidated because the homework for this class was not clearly written and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. (Turns out I did know what I was doing--whew.) The class started out a little slowly and it took a little while to get Lily's teaching style and delivery. Once it got going, the class was great. She really won me over. (And, she was wearing a really cute dress that she designed/made that will be in the Spring or Summer Knitter's next year. I just may have to make it.) The class was really about various stitch patterns for the hems of sweaters. She delved into the reasons certain stitch patterns behave the way they do and it was really quite a good class.

I hauled my 400 lb. knitting bag back to the car and drove home. It was so much fun to be somewhere where everyone speaks the same language and shares your interest. I can't wait for my next knitting event...

Sunday, August 06, 2006


It has been more about un-knitting than about knitting here at Maison PurlsAvantVin. I decided to frog the Yarn Girls tank. There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I think it is a little too tight. It is also a little too short from the midriff lace band to the top, and the ever-present threat of bra exposure loomed--and not in a good way. C'est la vie. There were a number of issues that plagued this one, so I am totally fine with starting over. I've gotten so mellow in my *old* age. (That is hy-sterical to anyone who knows me well; mellow generally does not apply.)

On Monday I attended a Bloggers' Party at Arcadia Knitting. It was a very nice time. I was able to connect with a few bloggers I've met before (Corinne, Lynette, Aidan) and I had a delightful chat with Franklin. As you might assume, he arrived sans Dolores. (That trollop is out and about these days). He was so gracious and delightful in person--everything you might expect from reading his blog or listening to his essays on Cast-On. If you are the owner of a small dog, be sure to check out Corinne's web site. Her dog sweaters are quite sweet and she has a book of patterns coming out in the near future. (I am not the owner of a small dog and, while my cats might fit into the aforementioned sweaters, I know they would NOT cooperate despite how attractive said sweaters may be. They won't even wear collars anymore. They're just nekkid. Furry but nekkid.)

Calling all DC-area knitters! I am trying to find a LYS or knitting group that offers knitting classes or groups for kids. The DC/Bethesda/Gaithersburg areas are all options. You might recall that I signed my niece up for a class at a LYS. To make a longish story short, I'm looking for a different place to send her to--a bit of a challenge from many states away! (NOTE: Please don't post negative comments/reviews about shops in the area as I don't want to cause a ruckus in the blogosphere; I've contacted the shop owner directly rather than airing the issues here. Conversely, if you have positive recommendations, bring 'em on!)