I love rug hooking with yarn

This is my newest creation...Doesn't that just sound just too pretentious, but I really have discovered that although I hate drawing and painting (there is something about trying to squish 3 dimensions into 2 that makes me feel like it's cheating) I LOVE working with wool yarns to create pictures.

Recently someone asked me what would be the characteristics of my perfect hobby/activity. What a coincidence because I have been trying to discern what it is about activities that really touch me that makes them so special. My favourite activities would include writing, kayaking, photography, knitting, and now rug hooking. The obvious link between the 2 handcrafts can't be taken too seriously as what I get from knitting (as I've been doing it in a more or less professional vein for the past 30 years) is very different from the honeymoon phase that one has when learning a new skill such as I am with rug hooking.
I've come up with 4 factors that are important to me in saying that "I love..." a certain activitiy.
1. It needs to surprise me - in delightful manner. When I finish writing a piece or if something occurs to me to remind me of a story that I wrote a long time ago, but it's still fresh in my memory, that's a delight. When I'm compelled to pet the richness of the wool blossoming into a pattern in knitting or into a rich configuration in the rug hooking, that's a delight. When I hit some waves in Lake Ontario and it makes me laugh like a 6 year old, that's a delight.
2. I need to feel a sense of security within the work. Partly that means that I can't feel physically threatened of course (as I would in skiing for instance) but it also means showing a certain proficiency for the activity so that I wonder: How did I not know that I could do this? Why didn't I try it before? It's not that it's easy but more that if you have a bit of encouragement from a certain ability right off the bat, there is a sense of it not being a waste of time to pursue it.
One might wonder how I can feel secure kayaking in Lake Ontario. The answer is that I'm seldom more than 20 yards from the shore and that's far enough to have all the fun in the world. Besides I have PFD and as a kid I once hung out in a lake for about 2 hours by treading water and floating on my back. That gave me a lot of comfort and confidence in the water, besides I figure I'm such a chicken I'm not likely to ever put myself in a dangerous situation.
3. The activity can't demand too much or be wasteful in any way. I once said that I couldn't have begun writing in a time before the word processor, or gotten seriously into photography before the digital camera because I was too cheap or too embarassed to use all the resources necessary to develop the bad pictures along with the good ones. Kayaking requires next to nothing beyond the basic equipment. And although we all like to collect the nicest and newest tools to make our knitting more pleasant, is it really anything compared the "required" implements of woodworking or golf.
4. My choice activities need to have depth, I need to be able to learn something continuously and see that there is somewhere else to go with what I'm doing. I've been knitting for 30 years because I have seldom had a pattern that I didn't alter, I have seldom met a yarn that I didn't wonder what it would be like if I mixed it with another, and I haven't met a pattern that I didn't like...lots of them I wouldn't do, but in all of them I appreciate the integrity of the person who designed it.
Heaven knows that in writing, photography, kayaking and now in rug hooking, there is always lots to learn, another aspect to develop and lots of fun to be had.
What would be the characteristics for your favourite hobby/activity???


A week of discovery

At the Fair Isle class that I taught last weekend we had lots of fun. The greatest shock to me was that of the 4 participants, 3 of them were continental knitters, that is to say that they hold their yarn in their left hand when knitting instead of the right hand method that most of us in North America were taught.

This was amazing in that we were going to investigate the 2 handed Fair Isle method of knitting where each hand holds a colour and stitches are worked using both continental and British methods. This is usually a stretch for many of us right handers as the continental method, although extremely simple to accomplish, is really hard to learn for us profound "North" paws. Continental knitters seem to have an advantage as it's usually easier to catch on to the right handed method. All did very well!

The highlight of the class was when I insisted that everyone have a chance to cut a single "steek"seam on one of the samples that I had knit to prove to the participants that the whole piece was not going to disintegrate before their very eyes. After the shudders, averted eyes and head shakes, I was surprised that when I asked who wanted to go first, all 4 hands went up. As Teira put it: "It isn't my knitting; I don't mind cutting it."

Last Tuesday at the Kingston Knitting Circle meeting at Chapters, I happened to hear the Siren of the magazine department calling to me and I found 2 new knitting magazines in their first issues: the first was Fons & Porter's Love of Knitting where on p. 24 they offered an excellent display of different methods of steeking and finishing the rough edges with fabulous pictures. I wish I had a chance to read the magazine before the class so that I could have shown it to everyone, but it might have taken away some of the WOW factor of the experience. Anyway, here is a link to the content page of this American magazine.

The other magazine that I picked up in its first edition is pricey, but that is exactly what intrigued me about it. I thought: "Who would pay $20 for a magazine???" But somewhere in its pages I read a quote that likened "The Knitter" to a quality coffee table book that would stand the test of time. I have to agree. It's absolutely beautiful - 12 exquisite patterns and lots of extremely interesting insights from the creme de la creme of the British Knitting elite.
Here is a link to an interactive introduction to what's inside. http://www.zinio.com/express3?issue=336872700

I'm not sure if Chapters has any more copies; I read on p. 89 that issue 2 was supposed to be hitting the stands in Britain on Feb. 7th and will feature Colour and Fair Isle work. I guess it will take a little while for this next edition to make its way over here, but meanwhile check this one out. It truly is a fine fashion magazine for the serious knitter who longs to learn more about the art and construction of his/her craft and its patterns.


The fairest of Fair Isle

Next Saturday I'm doing a class in Fair Isle knitting techniques at the store and in preparing, I've discovered that what we are actually going to learn is about colour stranded knitting. Fair Isle knitting is a form of this technique that has some very specific characteristics: it is usually knit of fine wool: jumper weight (jumper being the term across the pond for our pullover) which is about the tension of what we call fine 4 ply or 4 ply sock weight. It needs to be quite fine as this technique uses 2 yarns throughout the entire sweater.

The other characteristic of traditional Fair Isle knitting is that the background and contrast colours vary frequently creating dramatic colour effects as well as design variations.

This is a picture from the original Fair Isle of Scotland. Not exactly a hospitable looking place but it does have a certain rugged beauty, much like Sean Connery come to think of it.

It was this coloured stranded knitting that I first started working with when I was in my 20's and living on the West Coast , learning about the knitting of the Cowichan People. My brother has a sweater that I made him while living out there, which is 30 years old and he said that when he wore it yesterday in Victoria, several women stopped him to ask him about his sweater. I'm not sure what that says about my knitting, his charisma or just his ability to care for a sweater for 30 years.


Home again

We arrived back in Kingston on Saturday evening and I can truthfully say that we did experience what might have passed as uncomfortably hot weather - for about 5 minutes - when we stopped for a coffee somewhere in Maryland and I was way overdressed for the temperature.

All in all we had a great time and I do love exploring new places. The last day in Savannah I got to visit a lovely needlepoint store which carried a little bit of knitting. I was met by a fine gentleman who was wearing a beautiful entrelac sweater of Noro Kureyon. I really should have taken his picture.

There were 2 themes about our time in Savannah that I wanted to share. The first was the gigantic deal that St Patrick's Day is there. It would appear that they decorate for this Irish holiday the way that most places decorate for Christmas. Every store was decked out in green and there were St Patrick's day deals offered to tourists that began Feb. 20th and went right through until the big day on March 17th when the city is descended upon by revellers from all over the continent, of all races and nationalities, for the big parade. Apparently there was a time when 1/3 of the population of Savannah were refugees from the Irish potato famine. Of course, that would include Scarlett O'Hara's father and probably many others throughout the history of Georgia.

The other major theme that one runs into throughout Savannah is a literary one, in the form of John Berendt's book: "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". For those of you who don't know this book/movie, I would highly recommend it. The author is actually a reporter who writes his stories in the most interesting style, that makes you believe that you are getting the best of a great murder mystery combined with the excellent detail of a colourful magazine article. One of the main characters in this book has got to be the city of Savannah herself. Most people that I know who had visited the city had done so because of the book. It's like reading about a wonderful grand Dame that you just have to meet. On the cover of the book is a photograph of "The Bird Girl", a statue which was originally in Bonaventure cemetery (the garden of the title) and is truly a piece of exquisite beauty. You can see a version of the sculpture in this picture along with copies of the book and CD's of the spoken version, and Dvds of the movie (starring Kevin Spacey).

Having been such a big fan of the book and the author (played by John Cusack in the movie) I had to pick up a copy of his next book: The City of Falling Angels which is about the fire which destroyed the opera house in Venice a few years ago. I can't wait to get into it.

But back to the real world. Bills to pay and yarn to sort will only be put off for so long.


A bit of what we came for.

This is a picture of Tybee Island about 25 minutes out of Savannah. We spent most of the day there, sitting on these lovely wooden swings that dot the 3 mile long, immaculate beach ($1 000 fine for littering and my guess is that it's well enforced.) Beautiful and sunny but I still spent the day with my jacket on and wrapped in a queen size fleece blanket while I read my book on the beach. There were a few hearty souls sunbathing - I have goosebumps just thinking about that much bare skin exposed to the sea winds, never mind the radiation from the sun.
This little community is obviously a summer place and wasn't quite sure what to do with us tourists who were foolish enough to come at a time when we couldn't swim in the ocean. A few restaurants were open but we still ended up eating lunch at the Subway shop (one of only 2 fast food franchises in the town- which is quite amazing).

The funniest thing happened which does a good job of giving you the flavour of the town. It was 3 o'clock and as we were heading out I wanted to pick up a cup of coffee for the ride. We stopped into a little ice cream shop and as I was reading the menu board, wondering if there was perhaps a local sweet that I could add to the coffee when the fellow behind the counter asked me what I'd like. I told him that I'd start with a large coffee and before I could say anything else, he said in a very apologetic voice with the sweetest southern drawl: "I guess we could make y'all some, but coffee's kind of a breakfast thing 'round here. Now I could name 20 places y'all could walk to if y'all wanted a beer. There might be coffee across the street at the gas station."

I don't think that Timmy's would do very well down here.

I have some pictures for a last post but it takes some fooling around to get them in place so "y'all" will have to wait until I get home to share them with you.


The Forest and the trees.

Still cold but everyone keeps saying: "Don't worry. It'll warm up before the weekend." Small comfort, but it is getting better - lots of sunshine and down to 2 jackets from yesterday's 3.

Besides we were on a wonderful bus tour through the historic area for most of the morning. On the tour we got to see the bench where Forest Gump sat throughout the telling of his story during the whole movie. (One of my favourite films!) The funny thing is that I wasn't able to recognize the place as it is supposed to be a bus stop presumably facing a street where a bus would travel, but it's actually a bench that faces in towards the centre of a beautiful park square (one of 21- squares that is, not benches, in the city).
We also heard that ALL of the trees in Savannah were destroyed during the Civil war, and that our tour guide's "Grandaddy" was the first commisioner of trees and was in charge of planning and executing the reforestation of the entire city. What a success story as the "lav oak" trees are everywhere and are an amazing symbol of rebirth. (It wasn't until I saw a plaque that described the trees that I realized that they were called "live" oaks.) Savannah is also supposed to be the most haunted city in America. There are several theories as to why this is, but I believe that it has something to do with the "Spanish moss" seen on these trees that truly makes every street look like it is being flown over by a flock of ghosts with hanging gauzy robes. Who could help but be prone to believing in ghosts, living in such an environment. Our tour guide did say that people here all like the Spanish moss as it creates more shade. I imagine that for a good part of the year shade is an important factor... not yesterday or today!

This is one of the yarn stores here in town: Wild Fibre. (Both knitting stores are within a couple of blocks of each other. I'll be seeing the other one tomorrow.) Lovely store with lots of space and a sofa for visiting knitters to sit on.
I noticed that they had a sign asking for knitters to work on "student projects". I asked what this meant and the lady explained that Savannah is home to one of the best and largest schools of Art and Design in North America and many of the students in the fashion design area need pieces to be knitted for their design collections - what a great job, but it certainly would require an interesting set of knitting skills.
Great lunch at "Mrs Wilkes Boarding House", listed as one of the "1000 Things to see Before You Die". Only 999 to go!


I found some azalea trees

Truly, you cannot believe how cold it was this morning when we went out. It reminded me of walking around Old Montreal in the late fall. But as the day went on the sun came out and I didn't have to run from store to museum to gallery just to keep warm.

Before heading out, I was looking up some places to hit in the craft world of the area and imagine my surprise when I turned up this piece of rug hooking from Cheticamp N.S. where I was a little over a year ago to learn about their rug hooking.

It was being sold on an antiques site and had been retrieved from a home here in Savannah, probably much like this one. The architecture is really incredible in this city.

This, I believe is an azalea. They are blooming now but not profusely. Still it's nice to see some colour among the trees.

Didn't get much knitting done; a few inches so that I could start the armhole shaping. I'll try and get the front finished today or tomorrow.

Local treat of the day: Corn and crab chowder that definitely wasn't made with skim milk...yum. Also deep fried cheese cake (like Mexican deep fried ice cream only warmer.) Also found a chocolate shop that made tiny little truffle sheep the size of an almond for $4 ea. Boy, who would want to eat them for that price. Just keep them for posterity.


Knitting to Savannah

Yesterday, Saturday, Feb 28th at 4am, for the first time in 20 years, we (my husband, Scott and I) were on our way to a southern destination where the weather was supposed to be better than what we left in Kingston.
After a 15 hour day of driving, which included a terrific breakfast of homemade corned beef hash at a diner near Syracuse, and leaving my purse in a gas station bathroom in Virginia (and retrieving it because some kind person turned it in) we arrived in Wilson N.C. in time for supper at Bill's Barbecue Buffet - pictured here. This barbecue experience is worth sharing with you. I must say that it was the first time that I've ever been to a buffet of so many things that looked kind of familiar but that I really didn't recognize.
Among these, I discovered were collard greens, hush puppies (finger sized doughnut type treats), banana pudding (with ladyfingers, banana slces, custard and meringue), sweet potatoes baked in apple juice, honey and topped with marshmallows, and yellow coleslaw. It was all great, including/especially the barbecue pulled pork from an entire pig displayed on a heated tray. (I felt like such a total carnivore.)
This morning we woke up to a violent rain storm and 40degrees F, and predictions of snow for the region. This was not a good omen so we figured that we'd better keep on our way. We had been planning on driving until we were warm enough to sit outside and read. At this rate is felt like we would have to drive to Central America to achieve that goal.
Before we left North Carolina this morning I had an audience of several very confused breakfast eaters watching me through the restaurant window as I took a picture in the pouring rain of the knitting that I got done in the car yesterday: 2 balls of Diamond Luxury's new SILK TWEED which I love. At least the picture shows that there were some green azalea leaves on the bushes to prove that we weren't still in cold Ontario.
I'm not sure exactly how this sweater that I'm working on will turn out, but you may get a chance to see it in progress as the week goes on. So far there is 13" of stocking stitch with a band of about 5" of cabling in the centre to provide some shaping, followed by a few short rows to give some extra room in the front. I have a pattern that I'm kind of following, but I keep changing the detailing. It's fun!
We have arrived in Savannah; it's still freezing cold but at least there are no expectations of snow for this area and they are predicting warmer weather later in the week and lots of sun too. I think that we'll tough it out here rather than moving on, as we're both pretty fed up with the inside of the truck.
Hoping to look into the knitting community in this area of Georgia while I'm here. Will keep you posted.