Thursday, July 31, 2014

Knit and Crochet Show Highlights

What can I say about the Knit and Crochet Show?


Here are some of the things I enjoyed most:

Beautiful setting (Manchester, NH):

Amazing yarn bombing (organised by Jennifer Ryan):

Crochet rocks. (Doesn't it?) :)

The Marketplace, also known as Yarn Heaven:

Incredibly inspiring design contest entries (for a slide show of all the entries, click here):

"Backyard Visitors" by Sachiko Adams

"Nicky's Caribbean Adventure" by Dot Drake

Having a helpful and hilarious chat about technical issues with this famous crocheter:

Taking an advanced slip stitch class with Vashti Braha, and learning how to make all kinds of fun slip stitch shapes:

Adorable ladies from Australia, wearing matching Jenny King-designed dresses they crocheted to surprise her:

A great roommate (another Sue) - we got on like a house afire:

The thrill of having one of my designs featured in the banquet night fashion show:

Atomic Rose Poncho by yours truly :)

Oh, and let's not forget The Loot! About half of these things were giveaways:

Other highlights: Riding in the elevator with crocheters and knitters whose work I've admired for years, such as Lily Chin, Dora Ohrenstein, Kathryn White, Jenny King, Stephen West (with a cart full of his amazing designs), and many others. You never knew who might get on the elevator when the doors opened!

The very best part of the conference? The amazing camaraderie. Walking up to complete strangers and feeling their crocheted clothes. :) Trading crochet stories. Being surrounded by women carrying bags of yarn and hooks, who thought nothing of whipping out a project and crocheting at the dinner table. Sitting down with groups of ladies I'd never met, and falling into conversation as though we'd known each other all our lives. Laughing and making new friends.

It was a wonderful weekend.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Hampshire?!?

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like Bob Wiley, and those who don't.

I love Bob Wiley.


Bob Wiley is the title character of the hilarious movie What About Bob? This comedic gem, starting Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, is a kind of family cult classic. In fact, we've watched it so many times that much of its dialogue has become part of our functional vocabulary* - so it's no surprise that when I told my nearest and dearest I was heading to New Hampshire at the end of July, they all responded in exactly the same way.

"New Hampshire?!?"

Yes, New Hampshire. Not to Lake Winnipesaukee, but to Manchester, New Hampshire, for the Knit and Crochet Show, a glorious joint convention of the Crochet Guild of America and the Knitting Guild Association. With knit and crochet classes for all skill levels, plus yarn bombing, celebrations, banquets, and shopping, it promises to be a wonderful woolly adventure.

Vashti Braha has kindly invited me to sit in (with samples) on her Intro to Slip Stitch Crochet Technique class; I'll also be taking a class or two myself, and betweentimes revelling in yarny companionship.

It's a beautiful day in Manchester, New Hampshire. Hope to see you here!

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*"I feel good - I feel great - I feel wonderful." "I said good MORNING, Gil." "There are two kinds of people in this world - those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't." "I need, I need, I need; gimme, gimme, gimme!" "A dog, a frog, a log ... a poodle, a noodle, a doodle...." "I'm taking a vacation - from my problems!""Is this hand-shucked?" "He's not gone - he's never gone!" "If I fake it, I don't have it." And the list goes on and on.... :)

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Blog Hop(scotch)

Penny of Planet Penny recently asked if I would like to participate in a blog hop, which involved:

~ Writing a post that answers a specific set of questions about my work (see below), and
~ Ending the post with links to other blogs to which readers could "hop", making new bloggy connections along the way.

The questions were no problem at all, but I have to admit I couldn't find anyone who was able to carry on with the hop.

So this will be a blog hopscotch post. Just as in a game of hopscotch, I'll turn around at the end and go back the way I came, with links to some of the blogs that came before me.

~ ~ ~

What am I working on?

At the moment, not a whole lot. I spend more time designing potential patterns than actually making finished objects, and since creativity rarely flows in an even stream, I tend to work in spurts. (Such an odd word - spurts. The longer you look at it, the odder it appears. Spurts.)

On my hook right now is something that will probably become a scarf or cowl - a free pattern I'll be posting soon as part of a tutorial on Stretched Crochet Stitches:

Stretched Stitches were also used in these three recently-published patterns:

Olive Twist Shawl, Love of Crochet Summer 2014
Photo courtesy of Love of Crochet

Honeydew Scarf, Love of Crochet Summer 2014
Photo courtesy of Love of Crochet

Mountain Shadows Bracelet, published in
Love of Crochet's Crochet More 2014

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Oh gosh, ask anyone who reads my tutorials, and they'll probably say something like "weird stitches" or "bizarre joins".

I like to use slightly obscure techniques that aren't always part of the standard crochet canon - Knotless Chains, Knotless Standing Stitches, Invisible Joins, Limpets. I also love to invent (or unvent) techniques and stitches, such as Mirrored Foundation Stitch, Mock Invisible Join, Twisted Cluster, Wide Linked Treble, Stretchy Star, Triplets Stitch, Twisted Stitch (a slip-stitch variation), Stretched Stitches, and lots more that are still hiding in my design notebook!

Why do I write/create what I do?

Because its fun! Because I can't help it.... Because I love crochet, and cycling, and words, and wildflowers. Blogging about all of them satisfies a creative urge. It's wonderful to connect with readers and with other bloggers, to trade ideas, encouragement, and support. Knowing that somebody out there might enjoy a photo I've taken, or smile because of something I've written, or learn a new crochet technique from a pattern or tutorial of mine - these are tremendous motivators.

Why do I make up crochet techniques? Because I'm always wondering if there's a better way to do a particular crochet task, and am willing to spend countless hours messing about with yarn in hopes I may find it. :)

How does your writing/creating process work?

Well, for crochet design, it often boils down to the aforementioned messing about with yarn. On very rare occasions I'll get a specific idea which comes together quickly (the Bean Blossom Scarf, my first posted pattern, was one of these). But most of the time I spend hours or days (or even weeks) working out a stitch or a design thought, and trying to make it as perfect as I can.

As for inventing/unventing crochet stitches and techniques, I can only blame it on a hopeless case of What-iffery. What if I try to make broomstick crochet with chain stitches instead of yarn loops? What if I insert the hook in a different part of the stitch, or make a stitch on top of the one I just made? What if I pull the yarn up to a different height? What if I skip a normal step of the stitch, and draw through all the loops now? This yarny curiosity has resulted in some really fun patterns, like the Northern Shadows Cowl and the Picea Hat.

A very important part of my crochet design process is writing down and/or charting as I go. A stitch pattern or technique may feel as though it's burned into my brain while I'm working on it, but if I don't make detailed notes I will inevitably forget what I've done. So all my designs, and many of my ideas, get jotted down in a notebook for future reference. Each page includes pattern name ideas, yarn notes, hook size, technique details, shorthand pattern, and sketches or charts (with plenty of erasures and crossings-out).

And that was the last question for the blog hop! Thanks so much to Penny for inviting me to join in.

Here are some of the wonderfully talented bloggers that preceded me in the lineup:

Penny -

If you've never made their acquaintance, hop over and visit them now. :)

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Three Lakes

(This is the fifth in a series of posts about our Colorado vacation)

On the Monday after Bike MS, we bid a fond farewell to Snowcatcher and the Lizard, packed up our bikes and bags, and headed down the road to Boulder to spend a few days with my favourite nephew and his wife.

On Wednesday we went hiking. Potential routes were discussed: "We could do Mitchell Lake," said Nevvy. "It's a 2-mile round trip. Or we could continue on to Blue Lake - that would be a 5-mile round trip." "I can do 5 miles," I said. (What the heck was I thinking? Is there something in the Colorado air that inspires ludicrous over-confidence in my own physical stamina?)

Mr. M, who knows his limits, wisely stayed behind to sit on the patio in the sun and catch up on some work-related reading. Meanwhile, we three headed up gloriously scenic Highway 119, on our way to Roosevelt National Forest and the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

~ ~ ~

The parking lot closest to our chosen trailhead is inaccessible, so we park as far in as we can and "hike to the hike" (as Nevvy's Wife puts it).

Nevvy and I setting off across the parking lot, backpacks laden with water and snacks:

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

I feel dizzy and breathless, overwhelmed by elevation (or possibly the spectacular views):

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

After gasping quietly for 20 minutes or so, the dizziness clears and breathing becomes easier. Still, I welcome any excuse to stop and pose for a photo:

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

Eventually we reach the trailhead and begin the hike proper.

Words cannot do justice to the beauty of this area; even the best photos fall short. But that doesn't stop me from snapping away:

Who can resist the magical rush and tumble of a mountain stream? Impossible to capture the true charm of its dancing foam....

The gal at the park entrance has warned us of snow on the trail. Though dry at first, the path soon becomes a trickling downhill stream, which then turns to squelchy mud and rock ... and then the snowy bits begin. Rather large snowy bits - perhaps banks would be a better word - of all sorts and conditions of snow. Soft snow, packed snow, ridged snow, piled snow: sometimes barring our way, often obscuring it completely. (Luckily Nevvy's Wife has snapped a photo of the trail map.)

I slither along, doing my best to keep up with my companions, who kindly moderate their pace for my  middle-aged benefit. "Hiking", to me, has always meant a reasonably groomed - or at least visible - trail, with the occasional log or rocks to negotiate; this arduous scramble over and along a series of miniature alps is something else. (My twist-prone ankles don't like it at all.)

"It's another quarter of a mile to Mitchell Lake," says Nevvy. "Are you okay, or do you want to turn back?" "I can make it to Mitchell Lake," I reply. "But I'm afraid Blue Lake is out of the question."

More scrambling and sliding along the snow-packed trail, and then we've reached it:

Mitchell Lake, the reward for our labour. Definitely worth the climb:

Photo courtesy of nevvy's wife

Mitchell Lake lies serenely under Mt. Audubon, a 13,223-foot summit in the Indian Peaks wilderness.

Nevvy and his wife sit down for a snack, while I prowl around spying out wildflowers near the lake's edge. These tiny pink buds are less than 1/4" long:

There's also a small and fascinating black-headed grass:

When everyone is fed and rested, we head back down the trail, passing yet more glorious views:

Back at the trailhead we turn right, then walk across to Long Lake.

Long Lake offers a spectacular panorama of the Indian Peaks, but there are also smaller beauties nearer to hand:

The out-and-back Long Lake trail is blocked by both snow and a sign that reads "Closed for Revegetation". So after a few photos...

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

...we turn back and follow the path to Brainard Lake, though our progress is rather slow. "I brake for wildflowers," I tell my companions.

And there are some lovely specimens here. This looks to me like a kind of buttercup:

And these, like pearly everlasting:

These unidentified lavender beauties are tiny and breathtakingly lovely:

Here's the black-headed grass again, open this time:

A very rare Rocky Mountain Dandelion (ahem):

No idea what these are (other than gorgeous):

More of the buttercup-ish blossoms, with Nevvy and his wife in the background:

I am out of my depth here. Toadflax perhaps? It comes in both cream...

...and purple.

Really, these wildflowers deserve a post of their own.

Soon we are back at Brainard Lake, where we started. What a glorious spot.

Nevvy's Wife looks at a watchlike thing on her wrist (here I reveal my technological ignorance), and announces we've walked 4.59 miles.

Not quite 5 miles, but pretty close!

~ ~ ~

Two days later our Colorado vacation had ended; we set off on the road for Wisconsin and home.

It seemed ironic to take a vacation that involved so much strenuous physical activity. (My usual ideal of relaxation involves sitting around reading or crocheting.) But here, in the space of seven days, I rode, walked, and hiked farther and higher than I've ever done before. And, apart from some painful moments on the bike, it was wonderful. Voluntary hard exercise, especially in such beautiful surroundings, certainly has a way of clearing the mental cobwebs and reducing everyday problems to their proper proportion. (And if you're lucky, it shaves a few pounds off the waist and hips. I was lucky.)  :)

A very good vacation.

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