Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Head Is Still Spinning With Ideas

Pictured here is the jeans jacket that Alie made and displayed at the retreat. You can see that she freeformed only the sleeves and collar, which I liked because it was creative and attractive but not too gawdy or "over the top" as some Freeforming efforts can be. It was my favorite newer item that she has made since I last took her class last spring.

My head is spinning with ideas and inspiration!!! I just returned from the First Annual Studio Knitting Retreat. I went with Carol, Laura and my Mom. Boy did we ever have a blast. The only thing that went wrong was my camara messed up so I didn't get to take many photos. I found out later it is because I had it set to "superfine" quality so my memory ran out. Since my camara is 4 years old, I need to either get more memory or a newer camara. It doesn't hold much.

A fantastic time was had by all. What can be better than two solid days of giggling, knitting, eating, and eyeballing other knitters' creative work?

The event started Friday night - we had some trouble finding the hotel, because it was in a remote, twisty-roaded location. Since we were driving at night after work, I was fit to be tied by the time we arrived, but we soon relaxed to a buffet salad and soup dinner in the dining room and a "get acquainted" session with the other participants. Many of them knitted downstairs by the fireplace well into the night, but our crew retreated to bed by 11:30 or so.

Then it was up at 7:00 a.m. and down to a nice breakfast at 8:00. There we met Laura:

and Carol:

and we spent the day learning to scrumble like crazy. I will post a few more pictures later, but my photo limit has evidently been hit already on Blogger.

We knit circles, and triangles, and mitered squares and corkscrews and curves and rainbows. We knit icord and learned how to turn it into various things, as well as how to finish off a jacket, sweater or hat with the attached icord. Ali's instruction was wonderful as always. She's a very patient teacher. While she encourages creativity, she also cautioned us about some things that might NOT work from her own years of Freeforming experience. (If you've ever spent much time over at "You Knit WHAT?" blog, then you probably can envision some of those mistakes. However, I believe that much of this is really just a matter of taste, because what one person might think of as "TOO MUCH" another person might view as stunning and artsy. The important thing is that you knit to please your own taste.

One thing I loved about this conference was that they planned it with some built-in "down time." We had Saturday afternoon to either knit like crazy, visit with friends, shop, take a nap, go to the Spa. Carol, my Mom and I took a short trip to a nearby shop that a multi-plex of shops, including yarn store, fabric store and bead shop. It was really fun. Laura had a mud bath in the spa after she spent the afternoon teaching teens to knit at the library.

On Saturday night, we were treated to a Colinette fashion show. There were many eye-catching projects. There was a Colinette vest that I wanted, wanted, wanted so bad. I might eventually buy the kit. It was a real temptation!!! One of my favorite items for sale were the stash bags that had a color theme. Those were very helpful in planning or supplementing a stash projects such as we were doing.

Sunday morning we were tuckered out. After breakfasting, we went in for a final morning session of knitting and admiring one another's work.

We checked out, loaded our cars with what seemed like twice as much as we brought in, then were back on the highway by 1:00. What a weekend. It was even BETTER than I expected. I can't wait until I get to go it next year.

Many of us may try to go to Stitches this year. I think a Kansas City crowd going together would be a total blast.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ta Da! Plain Vanilla Sweater Finished Last Night

Finally I finished the Plain Vanilla sweater. Yay! I like it. Because I decided to use a seed stitch hem on the bottom and the cuffs, I notice that the hem is flipping up a bit. I have some heavy dictionaries sitting on it right now trying to flatten it. I've invented a new technique perhaps? If it works, I'll call it "dry blocking."

Now I need to get busy making some scrumbles for my Freeform vest project. I hope to wear my new sweater at the retreat.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More About Freeform

This first photo shows a freeform block in progress on a sweater Ali was making at the time.

This red bobble sweater is really cute. There are bobbles all around the collar, on the sides and on the cuff. There is a pattern available for this one. I had fun making bobbles during class - they are easy to do, but very tedious!

The shawl is one that her children contributed to. It was a family project. The kids challenged her to make various shapes that were meaningful to them, such as the state of Oklahoma where they were vacationing, and a pregnant woman's belly (the neighbor was pregnant at the time); one is a bottle, one is a miniature sweater. The way she did the edging was she crocheted a chain stitch around each individual piece, then did chains connecting them altogether.

Last Year's Adventure Into Freeform

I'm getting TOTALLY PSYCHED for this retreat next week. In anticipation, I am launching a replay of last year's workshop so that I can remind myself (and anyone else interested) what I learned last year at Alie Scholes' workshop. I'll be replaying these in bits and pieces throughout the week as we count down to the retreat. Tee hee.

Mom first fell in love with the Freeform look when we went to Stitches 2003 and we ran into a lady in the lobby with the most beautiful jacket on. It was loud, crazy, colorful and composed of multi shapes and textures. We asked her for the name of the pattern and she laughed! She told us it was her design, one of a kind, but that it was a Freeform jacket and that if we wanted to learn more about Freeform, there was a book by Prudence somebody that we should look into. At the time, we were rank beginning knitters, still green around the knitting gills, so we didn't think we'd ever be able to knit/crochet anything that complex.

After attending the workshop, the thing I liked best was the freedom it made me feel. Clara at Kniter's Review called Freeform "offroad kniting." Well, Alie Scholes is one of those offroad knitters. She first took a Freeform workshop in 2000 with a fiber artist named Valentina Devine of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

What did we learn? How to select colors and yarn that will work best for this type of knitting; how to knit a scrumble; pitfalls to avoid and things that make it work better; how to knit including circles, rectangles, log cabin squares, ruffle, curves and many more. How to knit in the tails; how to transform swatches into projects; how to attach icord as accents to your garment. How to use thrift store vests, jackets and purses as cavases for Freeform designs and embellishments. How to make bobbles. How to pin and arrange the individual pieces to form a cohesive garment and avoid as much finishing as possible.

I can't wait to build upon my knowledge and learn even more when we go next week.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Hardest Part of Freeforming

I'm color challenged. So while Freeforming is fun - chosing the right colors for a given project can be challenging to say the least. I can't really tell what goes with what. Freeforming, to me, is all about color and texture together in a very creative way. But sometimes my creativity is hampered by too many choices!

Last night, I started thinking about packing for the retreat. Not my clothes mind you. I'll just be wearing comfortable jeans paired with different sweaters so packing my wardrobe is a snap. But packing the yarn . . . there's the rub.

Assignment: Bring an assortment of scrap or leftover yarn . . . any color or gauge of your choice! Sometimes it helps a garment to have a "color theme" ... so if you're thinking about a garment (which I am) try sticking to a theme, i.e. jewel tones, pastels, naturals, blues, etc. Try to get at least 10 different kinds of yarn (different colors, textures, some with fuzz, some with glitz). They should all look nice together in a basket. Plain black yarn is a good choice for tying a bunch of seemingly disconnected yarns together.

Okay the base of my garment will indeed be black, but I want it to be embellished with these freeform accents. So I started with this:

and ended with this:

If I go with the color theme of pinks, I could go with:

Of course, I could also go with: burgandies, browns, purples. Ah!!!!!!!

You see my problem? Too many choices. Now I'm confused.

I think I'll just bring them all and decide later. How does that sound?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Like A Teen Anticipating a Rock Concert

First, a disclaimor! The photo of the lovely Freeform vest is not my creation. I can't claim it. It was designed and knit by Alie, owner of The Studio. (See link at right). She's the teacher of the Freeform class I'm taking at the retreat I'm going to in 10 day. It is going to be a blast!

The reason I'm bringing it up again is because I received the information packet from the Studio last night in my mailbox when I arrived home after an exhausting day from work.

I am as excited as a teenager going to a rock concert. Gosh, it must be middle-aged insanity. If you'd have told me thirty years ago I'd be excited about a knitting workshop, I would have said you were crazy. But last night, I poured over this 4-page letter like each word were gold. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a LITTLE, but not much.

Last night, I got out all my Freeform books, handouts, and the vest that I started last February when I first took Alie's Freeform class at her shop. She gave us some awesome handouts then, and I started reading them again last night too.

I can't believe I'm going to get away to just have fun, gab and knit. Fun, fun, fun.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ice Inspired Sweater Kntting

During the ice storm, I couldn't make it to knitting group. It was just too nasty out. I was all set to get out in it, and then turned back when ice started pelting my car around 12:30. So I came back home and set to work on the Plain Vanilla sweater I've been knitting for weeks. I finally finished one sleeve. Yes!

I decided to eliminate the rolled sleeve edge and instead do a seed stitch one. I decided to un-bind off the hem of the sweater. It has originally been designed and bound off as a rolled hem on the bottom as well as the sleeves and neck. It was rolling a little TOO much for my liking and looking rather sloopy. So I unbound off (ever done that before? Yes, it can be done --- no bindoff is forever if you don't want it to be). I am making a seed stitch hem on that also. Looks much nicer.

So all I have left on the top down sweater is the missing left sleeve. I hope to start on that soon - maybe Monday night after work if time and energy allow. Ideally, I'd like to have this sweater finished in time to go to The Studio retreat in two weeks. I think that's doable.

I just DREAD driving in this icy weather tomorrow, but I must go to work. Yuck! It will be a real mess. They really haven't scraped the streets around here. I hope the highways are better. Wish me luck.

Pursuit of Happyness

I saw this movie during New Year's weekend. Not once but TWICE. I don't often go to first-run movies, but let me tell you, this one was really worth it. What a phenomenal, inspiring movie. And it's based on a true story.

I won't give you a plot synopsis, because you can find that here or here, but what I will tell you is that this movie had me crying both times. Wow! It shows how a real-life guy surmounted poverty and hard times to triumph in a BIG way. And he started as a failing salesman of medical equipment and ended up a hugely successful stock broker. He raised his son and wouldn't give up, no matter what. Becoming someone his son could be proud of was vitally important to Christopher Gardner.

Even when living in homeless shelters, he kept his dignity and grew his own and his son's sense of self-worth. In spite of what I've said, it sounds like a depressing movie, but for me, it was the most inspiring and uplifting movies I've seen this year, and one of the top movies in a LONG time. This man was a fantastic role model and father, in spite of never having had a father himself to pattern himself after. What a triumph of the human spirit.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sitting Through An Ice Storm/Pajama Day

This photo was taken last winter - when I was knitting the famous never-ending Clapotis. But other than the project, it could have been how I looked today - because I did the same thing, layed around in my pajamas with my dog, Domino, sitting on my knitting. No makeup. No errands. No obligations. Just relaxing.

It's funny that sometimes it takes an ice storm to bring your frantic life to a screeching halt and turn the weekend "busy" routine into a precious chance to do NOTHING. How seldom I do nothing these days, and how much I savor it. I need to do more of this lazing about more often. It feels really good for my soul.

It's been a crazy week at work, not a good crazy, but a CRAZY crazy. I'm so glad to be home for two days. Blessed relief.

During this "lull" in our activity, the three of us were sitting around watching old family videos we haven't seen in years. One of them was a family vacation to Universal Studios in Los Angeles when Emmy was only 7. She had her little autograph book in hand, and we were going through the parking garage as we were leaving the studio. She was in the habit of getting all the "characters" to sign her autograph book. They have a cast of movie characters and famous celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe (people dressed up like celebrities - playing those parts). So when we were leaving, she approaches this parking attendant, smiling ear to ear, bringing him her autograph book to sign. He looked suprised for a moment, then smiled back, ear to ear, and wrote a whole page in her book!! He clearly was thrilled that she thought he was important and worthy enough to warrant a signature in her book.

This reminds me, on this very ordinary but sacred day, that we're all special, even in our ordinary-ness, maybe ESPECIALLY in our ordinary-ness. We don't have to be a celebrity to warrant an emotional signature is somebody's book.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sweater and Scarf Progress

At the knitting group today, I got even farther on the sweater. I finished the collar, which I'd barely started in the photo I'm posting here. I can't decide whether to leave the bottom a "rolled hem" to match the collar or if I should do ribbing on it or seed stitch hem.

It was fun just sitting around knitting and gabbing for 3 1/2 hours! I got to see Carol, Mary, my Mom. Relaxing. Nice.

How Is Self Control Working?

Last time, I posted about my word for the year "self control." I thought I'd post a brief update on how that is working for me so far. I was telling Debbie that the way I use this word is as a tool to keep me on track. In the case of "self control" I've had a hectic week and used the word several times. It has kept me from numerous blow ups with my teenager. It has kept me from a couple of arguments with Bob.

Bob's goal, by the way, has been to stop smoking, so we've had a tense, stressful and emotional week -with a lot of snapping back and forth. But no huge "World War III" fights which might have erupted.

I've generally stayed on my diet. I had a great week diet wise except for this weekend, when I've slipped off a little during the mad rushing around yesterday to do errands. I ate Chinese food for lunch and we had dinner at Burger King. Still, even when we went to these places, I made different food selections than I normally do and I ate smaller portions. The word "self control" stayed with me even when I cheated a bit on the diet.

Work was a nightmare this week, very much so. In fact, well . . . I won't say anymore about that right now, but . . . . suffice it to say, work was a challenge but I didn't eat like a pig to emotionally self-medicate.

One thing that has helped this week was mailing my food diary to Phyllis. Having some accountability to someone else really seems to help. I didn't exercise this week, and I'd like to start doing that.

I didn't get much knitting done this week. I literally fell into bed several nights this week right away a long terrible day at work.

I hope I can have a bit more enjoyment and knitting time this week.