A Rustic Garden

jenjoycedesign©the woodsWe had a little bit of drizzly weather last week, hardly enough to call a rain, yet it was.  Now June, the steady lack of weather, and presence of increasing dry heat has moved in like a stereotypical mother-in-law with her oppressive loads of baggage, for a visit with indeterminable end. Who knows when we will have the rain come again, but it is typically not until the second half of Autumn. Having lived my whole life in Northern California, I see it as something of magical fairy dust when rain falls in summer months. Around here we hunker down and work on defensible space (for wild fire) and use as little water as we comfortably can, and try not to worry too much. Nature is at its most raw and extreme everywhere it seems these days,  and Napa Valley is no exception, behind the facade of succulent ripe grape clusters ready to transform into jewel-like world-class glasses of wine, the surface terrain is very soon to be harsh and unyielding. Except for the vines laden with wine grapes of course.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve taken a good long break from everything of which previously I had been running an obsessive pitch. My blog, the knitting, pattern figuring & promoting all has gained distance from me while I’ve been doing who-knows-what else, and March through May have had distracting forces which have carried me along like a boat down the stream.  Last many weeks have been a blur of special (and not-so-special) occasions, of birthdays,  of spending time with new friends who have wandered into my life and also keeping cherished company with old friends, of making appearances to such things as a sixth-grade graduation, and then there has been the undeniable distraction of hard physical labor.

I find recently ‘who I am’ is a manual laborer for now. A Constant Gardener for the garden plot , the woods with its ever-growing thickets of trees and shrubs, and adjacent to that endeavor are my walking trails. Knit-walking has been replaced in recent months by trail maintenance, as the stickery weed burrs and poison oak this year are unbelievable, and full huge firs and oaks are falling across paths and the ridge road seemingly everywhere,  as if some sort of plague of drought, beetle & killer tree fungi all working together to reshape the landscape of the mountain.

But there is an oasis among us!  We’ve been working on a drip irrigation for our fenced-in ‘secret’ garden  this season, transforming the barely established perennials hanging on for dear life into happy productive fruit-bearing members of a garden.  Lastly I have plunged heart & soul into the work of never-ending woods work, primarily the defensible space woods work which involves a bit of hiking, strenuous brush cutting with a hand-held bow saw, hauling, stacking, and burning in the rain season, all of which is endless. I tell you, this sort of work makes one feel overwhelmed at best, facing acres upon acres of dense new growth of trees & shrubs , and I have recently begun to tell myself it is just like knitting ;  one stitch at a time which makes the Fair Isle sweater.

But blogging? Though I am settling more into a non-virtual routine, I realize this morning as I make this post, how since having quite a lengthy vacation from blogging and feverish knitting for a couple of months, I am beckoned back with an itch beneath my skin that there is work to be done but unsure of the next move creatively speaking. I have changed course many times in the recent weeks since Snowmelt tam about what is the Next Big Idea.  I am stale on the Snowmelt Gaiters for now, for writing about the steek is slightly out of my pattern-writing comfort zone, so I need to have a little more time on that, and will let it go to the wayside for the summer. I have been thinking about new ideas of cooling blue Aztec-looking motif, but still I feel like I just am spinning wheels, vulnerable still again to changing course. We all go there, arrive at the blasé place en route to enthusiasm. I live in the sun-dappled places of life, between shadow and light, where one gets caught in the dizzying moments of the ‘dappling’.

jenjoycedesign©rustic garden of potential

Here a photo I just took of the drenching light of early sunrise against the ridge beyond, making it’s way to our modest rustic garden of potential. There are actually things growing in there !  Tomato plants, ten of them, growing upwards greedily claiming their pathway to the sky, fat blueberries on several first-year plants which are my tasty reward for wandering down to the Secret Garden every morning to contemplate in my chair with pot of tea.  Trellised table-grape vines and blackberry vines, strawberries,  now drip-irrigated, are slowly re-establishing.  There is my new prized gardening accomplishment; a cotton sheet-covered and thrice-daily watered lettuce, spinach & kale bed which I have created to withstand drought and baking heat of the near perpendicular rays of the afternoon sun.  All in all, the garden, my Secret Garden I am enjoying immensely. More to come on this, as I have big dreams for this little garden plot !

So if you haven’t seen a lot of new things in the knitterly way, know that all is well, and growing and I am in full dialog with nature every single ( happy ) day.

A Fresh Perspective

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Looking forward to a year full of artful angles and new perspectives.  For the moment I am feeling keenly drawn to the mundane, how could this be?  Upping the ordinary seems to be my cause for the new year, I feel it in my marrow this transformation taking place.

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Driving through St. Helena a few days ago, on my way home from a visit with my brothers family, I stopped in for a meditative cup of coffee with 2015 planner pages opened up, and as I pondered the mystery of empty calendar pages, imagining the notes I will scribble in between the bold numbers which represent a twenty-four hour portion of my life, I inhaled the aroma of cafe creme and also of hope for the year ahead ~~ how good and rich and wholesome it indeed did smell.

Back in my car to make the second half of the trip home, cruising along Oak Street this house just stuck out for me. It would not otherwise be noticed save for the time of day and the way the shadows played it up. How interesting ! It seemed to ask me to pull over, park, and dig my camera out of my stuff and take a shot.  So I did.

In 2015 I strive to detach myself from distractions of consumerism, and instead to slow down and ‘do without’… to Mend & Make Do if you will. It just seems so attractive to me here at the onset of the new year, and before dawn, to contemplate true simplicity. I have always longed for the slower-moving vantage point.

I close this post of the first day in January to ponder this idea of Less Is More, and I wish you all a very good year ahead to set out for what you long for.

Its Only Knitting

I’ve been busy as a bee working away on my designs, coming up with new ones and further test-knitting my existing ones.  Add now tutorials.  I have gotten to the point in the whole knitting Thing where I really don’t have time or energy to put into anything which is not my own design.  I really can’t regret this , because whether or not I endeavor to write the design into a pattern, I’ve just come to face the fact that I have to make up for lost time.  I’ve embraced Indie Design, and am committed to wear ‘all of the hats’ in the job, and I’m ready for a lot of hard work ahead. The more I tell myself this the more I want to work like an ox towards succeeding. However, the elusive truth often escapes me, and that is ” Its only knitting. ”   A quote of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s used by over-zealous knitters everywhere.  Although it is ‘only knitting’ ,  I am practically ‘only knitting’. I have little chalkboards I’ve made which I’ve placed in prominent places of my work space ,  with lists or sage messages to give me perspective, and I use them to keep my focus clear wherever I turn.  Today’s brilliant message . . .

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Approaching A New Year

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In case you didn’t notice, I’ve changed my banner. It was really difficult to do it, for I think I’m a little obsessive about Things being In Their Place… and well, I just figured today…so close to the new year, I’m ready for some changes.

Looking back to this post when it was so hot out that I was so drawn to blue, and had unknowingly posted five times in a row having blue as a main feature.  I was decorating Emma with yarn towers,  playing around with a camera and the cooling powers of blue, when it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside . . .

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(As it is now just after the winter solstice, I think it is interesting this post was just after the summer solstice.)

I believe I’m going to have some fun with yarn this coming year, in more ways than I have been. There’s no denying, yarn has gotten tangled up in my life in a way which has changed me (hopefully for the better), and I’m not kidding when I tell you that I wake each day thinking about something that yarn has to do with.  Yarn is nothing less than a slow miracle for me.

I usually shirk new years resolutions, but this year I’m passionate about them!  I want to get beneath the soil of things, yes of course, tending my garden to thrive, but metaphorically so too, in creative process and endeavoring from it. I am tempering my patience and my self-confidence like two razor sharp edges of a sword, and I am bettering myself through knitting. I so want to round up what little experience and confidence I have with pattern writing & design and put jets on the whole thing.

This morning I’ll admit to myself that  I have come up with a few good ideas, and in less than a year have learned a lot.  Well, there’s more to learn, more to knit, more to ‘math out’ and more to write. I will slowly inch along, with all of your presences & encouragement that ever-so-much appreciate, I really could not have progressed, nor continue further, without you. Thank you everybody, and here’s looking to a great year ahead in 2014.

What are your hopes and plans for the new year?

Seasonal

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This knoll of Autumnal  vines above I photographed last year in late afternoon, as its leaves yellow’d and fell into the ground or floated in the gusty breezes.  Where I live , on a mountain ridge which borders Napa & Sonoma valleys, the seasons show not only in the trees, but strikingly so in these mountain vineyards.  But something very dismal has been taking place on the mountain very near by.

Change is difficult, but I suppose is necessary all the same, or we’d become rigid as logs in our outlook of the world. Well, one colossal change which has taken place in my life, is that the vineyard very close by, through which rows and roads Emma & I walked frequently for years (her whole life), acres of historic vines, has for the most part been ripped out of the ground, and are presently heaped in massive sad piles.  They are gone, and yet,at least I am grateful that I have these photos to remember them by.

These vines which were plucked out of the rocky soil of the mountain only weeks ago, once produced wines which won ribbons in blind tastings in France in their glorious past. They were beautiful and they were as jovial friends I’d pass by and wave to so often, as I would also the friendly workers who tended them.

When they were colorful and turning gold to crimson in my favorite months of October & November, they spoke of the cooling marine air pouring over the ridge, and they reminded me how happy I was that it is indeed Autumn… finally !

When they were bare as we walked along their long shadows in January, with uncut branches like tendrils, they spoke in words wintery and woody, and they spoke of the promise of a new year ahead.

As they became cropped & pruned it was is they were led to the starting gate at the race, building excitement from within, in February,  with thick grasses carpeting the earth.

Then to leap out at the blink of vernal influence, and their main branches sprouting new growth in March !

And in April & May, the poppies come…

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I have in recent weeks mourned their death. These old vines as I walked by them almost everyday while knitting, were very important to me, a part of me.  Ah but this life, death, and rebirth, and planting new is to be expected.  I wanted to make acknowledgement to the changes in this post, and my bereavements too, and even Emma’s as surely she notices, and misses her meadow walk along the canyon cliffs….

Meadow desktop

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But hey, let me cheer things up a bit I thought I’d mention a happy thing !  Kirra has won the giveaway from my book review & interview with Jean Moss, and I want to congratulate her !

((Kirra, I have sent your address to Taunton press , who have replied already that the book is on its way, and hopefully very soon the book will be in your mailbox, in time for you to make those great little gifts for your friends & family.))

Seasonal times indeed, with the gift-giving time of year nipping at crafters’ heels, time for us to leap for our needle cases and dig through our stashes and shop for more yarn as its officially 11 weeks until Christmas…yikes!!!

:: crack of whip echoes ::

Lets make tea and calmly collect our thoughts, shall we?

What gifts you planning to make this coming holiday season?

 

The Personality of Linen

When I was visiting in Vancouver the other week,  Jeff’s sister just tossed a couple of her linen wardrobe items in my hands and asked me if I would like them (she does this often!). But of course ! And so fiendishly I stash them in my travel bag to take home. It wasn’t for a week after arriving home however, did I take this out and even try to wear it (truthfully, I almost declined it at first). I looked at it, thinking, wondering how does one wear a ‘short dress’… or is it a tunic? After putting it on over equally faded plum colored pants, I decided it is indeed what one refers to as a smock.

I’m triple smitten with this smock ! For one, it is Flax label, made of (mostly) linen, and I love, love, love linen ! I especially love linen’s personality when it is washed and dried on the line. It’s texture which speaks like no other cloth. To iron linen is to tape shut it’s mouth as it speaks it’s poetry ! Though I do love how immaculate and fresh that ironed linen is, too, though not quite as much. This particular smock, is not full-bred linen, but part cotton, thus lacks a little luster in the unpressed form.

Secondly, it has huge pockets which I discovered makes it a thoroughly ideal utilitarian thing to wear, as I found myself both gathering tomatoes and snipped parsley in the garden and stashing them in the voluminous caverns hidden inside the pleated ‘skirt’ of this thing. Having discovered how well the pockets had become useful servants to me, I wore this beauty out for a couple of knit-walks and didn’t even need to carry my yarn bags, just the pockets by themselves worked wonderfully. So the smock is ideal for holding yarn as well as it is garden produce !

Thirdly, it is a lovely shade of blue. I nearly titled this post ‘The personality of Blue’. Does one call that French Bleu? Perhaps it is the color of the flower of flax, from which linen is made? Folks, I’ve decided that after two-and-a-half decades of avoiding blue, I am totally and unexpectedly thirsting for it! This shade especially, this leaning toward indigo. I also am drawn to the deep azure tones of the sky at altitude, or blue faded to near white. Well, I’ll explore it with this linen smock for starters, the mood it imparts into my wardrobe.  (Note, these photos were taken in the first light of the morning the other day, and the camera rather fuzzed up the image, but the colors are spot on. )

I had been winding off two shades of blue recently, as I’m up to a little knitting something in two shades of blue.

Capturing

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Light in the stairway, from above, morning light piercing through from the roof window, and stretching shadows to incredible lengths.

I think that being an artist of any kind is nothing more than capturing an inspiring moment and freezing it.  Objects & angles.  This stairway is one of my favorite places in our house. It is very bright and ascends into rooms, one of which is the creative space I call my loft.

Yesterday I was manic and coming up with big plans to design a shaped ‘plus’ size range of the original Pin-Striped Sweater Tee, and after charting, drawing, messaging with kind knitters wanting to partake in my design experiment, setting up a virtual knitting room for it, and then at the end of the day, after nearly collapsing into a state of ‘what have I done?’…. I was very unhappy.  So strange, that in order to please others, I was making myself unhappy.

Just last week I was pacing myself, immensely looking forward to two big accomplishments to get behind me ~  and that was to submit the Pin-Striped Sweater Tee  pattern, which was the culmination of which I had spent all of spring knitting four of,  and also the  Dicey Bonnet  pattern, which is my dear pet project.  But last night I realized I was not relishing my accomplishment , but getting myself into a pile of more work, and so I cancelled the plus-sizes tee project.

I need to spend some time celebrating, as I finished all I set out to do! Unwinding now, I am going back to knitting hats & socks for a while. Perhaps I will  sit on the steps of this blithe stairway and just capture some happiness today.

Christmas Bits & Bobs

I never really thought of myself as a holiday kind of person, in fact, I’m pretty grouchy around holidays. But this year I am welcoming the cheer from our Christmasy bits & bobs . . .


Everything out of boxes, queuing up for a little decorative cheer in our house in the coming week.  Our tree ornaments  are integrated,  his & mine together, in a sentimental sort of chaos.  Such a perplexing emotion these objects evoke, these bright colorful new & old baubles shuffled together, our childhoods super-imposed upon each other’s, representing Christmases Past, separately & shared.  Two snowy white sheep from the late 80’s given to me when I first learned to spin wool . . .  an airplane wth lost propeller and a merry skier on its ski lift of Jeff’s from the 70’s . . .  a bicycle from my bike shop days in the mid 90’s . . .

Our dog Emma is familiar with these strange and intriguing Christmas things too, she makes our little family a trinity, she even has a stocking put out for Santa which gets filled with doggy goodies, and she loves unwrapping presents, is quite the ace at it !  Emma recognises all these seasonal sparkling & feathery oddities spread about our the table, and perhaps she anticipates a succesful heist from all the tempting things to steal from on and under the tree . . .


Strands upon strands of shiny golden stars get ready to be flounced about the evergreen branches . . . shiny red painted paper mache’ apples , a dozen of them,  will hang on the tree as if ready to pick and bite into.  A few antique toys will sit beneath the tree, inviting anybody’s child-like bewilderment to bubble up , bidding good-bye the imposed sense of stodgy ‘grown-up-ness’ ~ at least  for a while.

A doll’s doll which was my mothers as a child, and which I decided to put a hook on and hang on a branch, an old painted cast metal toys hang on the tree . . . and many feathery birds ready to perch on the branches. . . many miniature mandolins & guitars too, given in encouragement of my learning to play … and little painted nutcrackers.  Most of all I think I love the jewelled tones of the really old glass balls in varying sizes of crimson, ultramarine blue, spruce & moss greens, burnt orange, indigo & violet purple. The colors just tickle a place inside of me which only gets tickled for a couple of weeks a year,  when I bring them all out, it almost seems as if I’m bringing my past to life.

I am glad to say hello to the holiday boxes for another Christmas,  and glad to very soon bring in a fragrant tree who’s fresh needles perfume the house so sweetly.  The magic begins when the forgotten boxes emerge from behind musky suitcases in the furthest recesses of the closet, and these little things find their place among the house, as every year they do. Let the lights sparkle on the holiday ornaments , it is soon to be a brand new winter season ! And you can bet I’m knitting in a frenzy for holiday gifts !

Each Day

Each day, in the morning light, as I go into my kitchen, I hope to see the sunrise cast its blithe shadows on the wall.

Everything so penetratingly deeply glowing as if I am peering into the mouth of a firey oven . . . but then the light changes so fast, within only one or two minutes.

I then can see the form of the trunks and foliage from the fir trees outside the window, as shadow puppets performing a merry show,  while the soft benevolent orange sun climbs up rapidly from the east.

The light which peeks in so intimately through the window early in the morning for only a few moments, so suddenly becomes aloof,  and then the wash of the light of the day floods the room, so fast !  Then everything just looks and feels … well… brightening … yet fading. 

This makes me realize how creativity works.   When conditions are right, a window through which I feel intensity of life, of inner light perhaps, and a bulls-eye to be glimpsed, and aimed toward.  But only moments later the light changes and does not show so clearly the target, and conditions wane, inspiration washes out.  Inspiration is merely a flicker, really, when I think about it, when conditions are right.  I must let my mind’s eye capture that flicker , let it be etched in, and hold it for as long as possible.

In between these flickering moments, I bide my time with the work which needs to be done.

What I Want It To Be

(The original sale yarn ready for dying.)

Here I go again . Ripped out what I had started on my second niece’s sweater, I just couldn’t handle the ‘bug guts green’ color any more. (see over there, in the sidebar, under the text entitled “On My Needles”)   The yellowy bug-gutsy green which was so neon that it scared me,  from overdying ‘bright yellow’ over ‘sky blue’ in a very saturated dye bath. What was I thinking? One Autumn Sweater named “Berry Smoothie” for it’s likeness, the other I couldn’t not call  “Bug Guts” .  Also, the deep grey overdyed with spruce is a little too sophisticated for the colorway “Nine Year Old Kid” that I had in mind.

Changing course is good.  It just has just got to be work sometimes.  And that work not always accepting It being what It Wants To Be, nay, sometimes, this year, this lesson learned, the work will be in making it right,  of it being what I want it to be. A mountain of work to save a few dollars from some sale yarn. Risk factor high. I may have to go buy new yarn , in the end, but, I’m giving it my best shot.  Oh, and in the process of taking dye out of some yarn the first time around,  the bleach bath absolutely ruined the yarn, and it seized up… like melted chocolate getting cold water poured into it. After rinsing all that mess out,  the yarn was hopelessly tangled, and I threw it in the waste basket.  However, after a short talk with myself I realized that Waste Not Makes Want Not, and I took it out of the waste basket, dried it out on the line, and then promptly hid it somewhere not to be seen,  in order to avoid embarrassment of my bad impulses.

So here I am now,  untangling that whole mess of yarn.  I will soon be winding into new skeins on the niddy noddy and dipping into a fresh bath of dye, on a Saturday morning, while watching the fog rise from the valley and drinking really good coffee.

Sock News


I am sort of taking a break from any projects which require  a lot of creativity, for a spell.   Sometimes I want to just defrag and knit a basic project, and contemplate more logical ideas.

For instance, sock knitting. Very basic sock knitting, I’ve decided, is extremely under-rated. I want to cultivate the utilitarian-ness of basic-sock-knitting, and I can’t really see myself ever becoming very decorative about them.   Just two knit/two purl rib sock knitting , where the numbers are multiples of 8, and really, for the adults and teens I know and love and knit for, and using fingering or even sport weight yarn, I’m figuring there are likely going to be two common sets of numbers to work from ~ total stitches being 56, or total stitches being 64.   Sport weight yarn with 64 or 56 stitches,  on #3 needles will be a large-ish sock, maybe a little snugger on size#2 needles (like for Kilt Hose !) , and I’m seeing that fingering weight yarn with 64 or 56 stitches and size#0 – #2 needles is a good variation of size range too. I’m knitting my second pair of Regular Ol’ Socks and  keeping very vigilently to #2 needles ~ this time careful to not accidentally knit with the #3 needles.

(Question: How can one so easily and so often mix them up? Answer: too many needles heeped in a cigar box, unlabelled).

I knit very snugly, and these stitches are super duper fine and …. well these puppies are tight! Imagine what I could do with fine fingering weight, my tight knitting, and size #0 needles !!! I could change the world ! Or… at least… I could knit some very fine, very nice socks for my wee hoofish feet, using 64 stitches, or even introduce a new number of 68 or 72 stitches… just imagine…knee-highs…with delicious rib decreases…and even increases !  I’m salivating !

So here is another observation I’m making : Using two 16in circular needles (a pain, yes, and having to adjust needles every half row is high-maintenance knitting for me, but must be done, because the 56-stitch socks in fine fingering weight yarn, stretched around one 9in circular needle is a job wrestling the whole way, pushing stitches along at their widest possible girth is also high maintenance.

Here we have progress with two 16in circular needles…


And here is progress with one 9in circular needle…

I must admit that I prefer low maintenance for something as ‘easy’ and ‘simple’ as a Regular Ol’ Classic Sock.  I’m thinking that streamlining the two 16″circular needle method is the best bet for a sock that’s not big (like for gent)… but for my feet, which are more like wee hooves of a baby burro… but   I still am sleuthing out the best method.

Edit In : Okay, for the second time , on the second pair of socks, I’ve decided a set of 4 double-pointed needles are actually the least bit fussy and least maintenance.  Suprising, since I have to switch out 3 times in one row !  Most importantly the yarn loops don’t get stressed when getting pushed between the fine cable and over the needle join.. where I’m constantly having to really pull and that I’ve decided , is the agitating ‘fiddly bit’ I can do without.  DPNS are IN.

On Becoming An Intentional Knitter

Here we have a keeper, finally, after the fifth start. The fifth.

More and more lately I find I must cast-on in a sequence of attempts before the project finally ‘finds its feet’.

Not a bad way, but it takes a lot of time.

Wanting to learn to be an Intentional Knitter I am considering laying down some guidelines for myself,  and not allowing myself to touch the needles until I have drawn out completely what I intend to knit, and mentally gone over each step.   Afterall, is my  knitting a means-to-an-end, or  merely a past-time ?

Wanting to speed things up ~ knit faster, cut corners, grow into my skin a bit more (a lot more) I’m going to have to just quit with the lazy ‘whatever happens will happen’ way of knit design.  I want, no, I need to create a system for myself by which I can go from concept to satisfaction of a finished knitted project. I need to:

1. Sketch and confirm the intention of what I want to make, regardless of skills I don’t yet know.

2. Assess the skills I need to learn, and have resources ready at hand to apply them.

3. Write as I go, take detailed notes (because I intend to learn the skill of pattern writing.)

4. Stay to the plan ! Do not stray  (the hardest part, as I am so squirrelly by nature).

5. Finish, and write the pattern, for the sake of practice.

These are my thoughts as to how to go about the knitting in the future. I’ve already started these Autumn Sweaters for my nieces, so I can at least follow steps 3, 4, and 5. This committing aspect of design, is not for pansies, and I find myself up against a limitation of doubting in my ability. I must go deep within myself and draw on determination and faith in my ability, and to have higher perspective when to stay on course, and when to make an edit ~ and there between is a very fine division.

Makers & Believers

This inspirational Eunny Jang video really does say it all. The web has enabled us to see and be inspired by the work of others, to learn from them, and then to extend that out at a speedy rate, to in turn teach others. I feel this is what has consumed me in recent couple of years, and I have been gradually becoming fit for the world-wide-web.   It was about three years ago, maybe longer, that I tripped over my first knitting blogs, and was led as if by magical breadcrumbs to more vast spaces (Ravelry), which forced me to take bigger strides, always following those who were striding even bigger (much , bigger) before me,  and with me along with hundreds, in their wake.  I am pensive this morning, after watching this video, about potential, about believing in it.  I am surrounded by inspiration, so much it is actually numbing at times.

I like to get going early, around  7 o’clock in the morning, with my creative ‘work’, and interacting on the world-wide-web is a huge part of that process.  For to read about and interact with those that stimulate and excite is essential. I love the saying… “Choose those for friends who you wish to emmulate”.   Such  friends can be virtual presences I do believe, it’s all the same,  the ‘friends’ in my life who make me a better knitter, artist, cook, gardener, musician, and well..  a better person.  Giving is essential to the mix. I can’t get away with just drinking in, just consuming through the screen on my laptop,  or I will implode.  Besides, I don’t think what ‘comes in’ is really processed and progressed until it is ‘given out’.  And I do mean given.  Even more than sold…. (though I fully hope to have some ‘wares’ for sale in the near future)

I can only hope that I have something to contribute to the world , to knitters, and to music lovers, but like so many talented artists and designers I am studying, I might never know the extent of how much my ‘work’ is admired and appreciated by others, if it is at all, it may never be mine to know.   I am perhapas not entitled to know, but to be the workhorse only,  tilling the soil of the creativity.

I think that Potential is never found,  that it is only a direction, and that the path towards it is taken one small step at a time. Though I feel frozen in my tracks sometimes,  it is paramount that I do move into that step….

..and that I am not able to know now, the second step,  only the first. 

Summer Breeze

It’s particularly quiet on the mountain this morning.

In the summer stillness of Northern California, there is usually no weather to report for months on end. Sometimes there is a breeze. Sometimes a little fog which swells up from the valley in the morning. Sometimes a relentless wind which cracks off dried branches from the trees in the forest and whips off tips of new growth, littering the country road.

The wind whistling through the tree tops is the most eerie up in the Rafters O’ Society, above the towns, overlooking ridges which  overlap , one behind another clear into the next county. Because in the breeze one hears a kind of silence which is felt in the restless sound of the trees quivering. The fact that one hears *only* the breeze, I guess is what makes it seem so quiet.

(Two pensive ravens perched in a dead fir tree, photographed with a zoom from my house, yesterday early evening.)

I do like rain, or even a lot of rain ~ in fact, I love rain.  But for now there’s blue sky. Lots and lots of clear, dry, and very blue sky.  This summer season makes me feel rather despondent, clear through September.  I must hunker down in the shadows.  It’s time to make a good strong pint of tea and stir things up.

In the dusty wild west, where things are a few degrees removed from finery, some of us pioneers, well, we devise our own way of doing things.  I do have a couple of small tea pots, but I have gotten into the habit over the years to brew loose-leaf tea in a canning jar,  sometimes a pint sized (to be pour’d into a pint glass) , but more times than not, I make up in a quart-sized jar.  What is left can easily be put into the fridge for cold tea later, which is a treat in the summer heat.

This really isn’t about tea, or the wind, or the ravens.  Its about my changing course,  about drinking in what nature brings to me, and waiting for the wind in my sails again.  Having  had a house full of family for an epic family reunion I am ready for something cheerfully  rejuvenating.   I am going to shake it loose and default to some good ol’ classic knitting ! So time to finish these…

I learn from my mistakes very clumsily,  like using a machete through the bush, I rip back and then knit forward, rip and knit, rip, knit.

Last night I had to rip back the mindless knitting I had apparently done while at a long break during a gig last weekend, I kept decreasing through the heel gussets (two at a time mistake) and ended up with far too few stitches. So, having fixed that, now I am merrily on my way again.

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop

For the moment I am immersed in knitting-while-watching this instructional dvd I borrowed from the local library.  I am blissfully captivated for hours and hours,  learning all about everything Zimmermann Knitting, even the things I thought I already knew, I am learning again, and better.   Taking a break, while about two thirds the way through the series ~ while working untiringly on Eleanor’s birthday sweater, which is rather ending up quite another  improvisation, I must admit.  I can’t get enough of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s lessons on seamless yoke sweaters, and her Percentage System,  her very creative ways of  hemming ( and with messages in the hem, now that is clever !)… just about every kind of decrease and increase,  and just all those Zimmermann-esque finer touches.

Right now, I’m on the lesson about how to do applied i-cord. I had only suspected before, but now I know for sure that it was Elizabeth Zimmermann who developed the  ‘ i-cord’ in knitting.  The name she called this cord was just her more polite rewording the name idiot cord ( how unbelievably sweet of her. )   I think the i-cord was her way of achieving the same product that was made from  ‘spool knitting’,  and she pretty much figured out how to do on knitting needles, casting on with it, binding off with it, and applying it from picked-up stitches just about anywhere in between. Brilliant.

Oh , but she, the Mother Of Modern Knitting also brought the i-cord into center stage, and demonstrated  just about every concievable way to use it on a piece of knitting or lace border, or for just about everything.  For me the genius of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s i-cord is only just being realized, as I watch her “Knitting Workshop” , oh, she is showing her i-cord applied as edging for , or instead of ~ button bands , and she has created dear little buttonholes too, both invisibly as detached in intervals along the applied border, and also decoratively as loops !  All this she demonstrates and talks so with a manner of teasing,  as if I would want nothing more than to take that piece of knitterly candy right out of her outstretched palm. Genius ! If the Mother Of Modern Knitting wants me to use it , I shall.

Watching this dvd  just today is just perfect timing, it’s uncanny, because I’ve been deliberating on how to do the button bands of Nora’s  pullover, which has a neck button band, which is tricky and I’ve never done one. I do believe EZ’s instruction on how to apply the i-cord as an ‘invisible’  buttonhole band is going to be the answer to my puzzle.  It was meant to be !  I am smitten.

Anyway,  I have SO many ideas coming to mind, and I love most how she encourages thoroughly, total experimentation,  and figuring out as you go.  And well, it’s no big deal because as she always says ~” it’s only knitting “.   How wonderful she is.  I just love her !

And now to quote EZ ~

~~~~Good Knitting !

Edit In :  Just finished the dvd.  I am refreshed with a tenacious desire to knit some textured Fisherman ganseys as well as more traditional Scottish Fair Isle things.  And, well, I have just learned a NEW thing that I’ve never seen before.  EZ’s sideways border and sideways join on front and back of sweaters, looking very much like a saddle shoulder on textured knitted sweater, but it’s especially brilliant because it is more like a yoke and  allows the neck shaping to be easily done.    I always wondered how these things were handled. Now I know.  I will likely go wild with the SIDEWAYS BORDER and JOIN …  so much that I am afraid I will become Sideways !  I will have to watch this over again and again, I think that she just has a way of rubbing off a certain amount of No Sweat, its-only-knitting sort of attitude which I just adore.

Hey ! It’s only knitting !

Knitting While Walking


What do I have In Common With These Women?

I collect and carry peat ?  No.  I am able to knit while I walk ?  Yes !

I am proud to report that I now am in a similar league with these Shetland Knitting Peat Carriers of olden days. I must qualify : I am not merely strolling along a paved road at a liesurely pace while watching my knitting ~ nay ~ I am actually really hiking,  along trail and ridge road,  through weedy and rocky sections, and  up and along the mountainside , while watching the scenery and my feet, and while I happen to be knitting without looking at what I’m knitting, for the most part.  There is a difference.   (I say with a playful expression of mock pretentiousness) .

What began this new thing of mine is the awareness I am experiencing about a kind of physical atrophy which happens when one sits around too much knitting, and for too long.  I mean, as if blogging about knitting , and reading about knitting (while knitting) isn’t enough… to actually only knit while knitting is just too too much ( sitting ) LOL.   I figure I absolutely  must learn to double task this whole knitting jones or I’m going to get incredibly lazy.  I have been known on many occasions to knit in the wilderness while backpacking in the Sierra Nevadas, enjoying stunning scenery at great elevations with glaciers all around ~ but that is *destination-in-order-to-knit*  hiking, not knitting *while* hiking. This new thing is entirely different.

I am going to absolutely plunge into this today, and go out again in a couple of hours, to fetch the mail, and with my knitting ofcourse. I will borrow Emma’s treat pouch for the yarn, thinking it may just be the ideal yarn ball holder. Otherwise I will just be bunching the more weighty body of what I am knitting, under my elbow.  No doubt I will refine and share my successes.

My first knit-while-walking excursion this morning was a bit slower pace than my usual exercising pace, but I think over time I can improve on the pace.  For instance,  I took one of my 30 minute routes and it did in fact take 40 minutes, but that is also including stopping and letting Emma sniff or drink in a puddle, and once (I admit) I dropped the ball of yarn and kept walking , for about 30 feet… and had to rewind it while picking a few weeds out. My knitting was also a great deal slower, but that’s to be expected.

I also want to mention the crazy coincidence in the fact that I needed to knit 4 rounds before changing color in my project, and I forgot to bring the other color yarn, but,  I managed to fit exactly 4 rounds (rows), walking in from the end of 40 minutes with about 7 stitches left before switching color !  Talk about perfect gauge ! Of course, I am implying gauge of numbers of stitches knitted over distanced walked, and not inches measured. 😉  I can’t wait to go out again.

It is my dream that one day I will walk and knit in the footprints of those hardy creel-laden women of the British Isles who walked the same path before me.

** ** **

Edited in 2 hours later: Well, I managed to walk for one and a quarter hours, all while knitting.  I am observing some things while knitting & walking: In total of two walks today that I was knitting/walking for over 2 hours. That is easily well over an hour I wouldn’t have normally hiked, and the same with knitting.  A win-win?  I think maybe my walking posture is only slightly compromised (though probably no different than walking with hands in pockets), while my knitting posture is greatly improved as I was standing up straight instead of spine curved , neck hunched over knitting while sitting in a chair.  I was aware of nature around me, even noticed a red-tailed hawk fly over (same area as last year I noticed a pair nesting) , and I even sweat !  It goes without saying that every walk won’t have knitting involved and visa versa, nor should I try. But I have found that knitting is a great distraction for walking for the sake of exercise ~  pure dogged daily walking (excuse the pun, but I do have to get Emma out for a run-around most days, if not myself.)  Notice the Peat Carriers making use of the knitting , perhaps for distraction from the work of hauling creels of peat fuel home to burn.

All in all, my mind was too busy watching where I was going, as well as scenery , as well as knitting… like full to max with work to do that the workout aspect of hiking uphill was hardly noticed … and I never dropped a stitch !

Perspective

I am finding that knowledge and skill of knitting increases exponentially as I knit more and more.  In simple truth ~ practice makes perfect.  Yes, but not only that, it takes knowledge to have deeper insights and thereby gaining further knowledge. Such is the learning curve. I’ve recently become quite good at knitting straight stocking stitch while reading, and so double tasking in itself excites me to the point of nonstop activity. Not good for a fit body, but good for a fit knitting education.  I suppose accomplishing *even more* is a great motivator, and so I’m learning more about knitting while I’m knitting. Poring over my recently purchased *used* book purchases, studying techniques of the great knitters of my knitting world, such as  Elizabeth Zimmerman, Alice Starmore, and others.

As I have been knitting up a storm, actual rainstorms have been frequenting the mountain top. Nearly nonstop for about a week, and so I’ve been getting lots of knitting done, as well as reading about knitting. Of course, nobody can survive on knitting & reading alone, so one must get out and about, so I’ve been out with umbrella with my dog Emma, and we’ve been taking a break from knitting when the rains break.  More importantly, the mind needs to step back into another environment of sensory stimulus of colors, smells, and tactile experience, in order to get perspective.  I do as so many artists have done through the existence of humanity,  I gain ideas about relationship between color and shape from nature.  Simply ‘getting perspective’ is essential part of any creative endeavor !

Out getting perspective, on a nice rainy day walk in March.