Cozy Memory Blanket

I feel like this month’s posts have all been about knitting love which, while I’d like to say was intentional, was actually coincidence.  But it probably is the best way to count down the time to Rhinebeck where all things fiber are celebrated.  I’m so excited to be going this year and I will be driving with my best knitting pals from home and when we arrive I will be meeting with both IRL friends and online friends from near and far and I can’t wait!! p.s. did I mention it’s my birthday weekend????

Anyway, back to today’s post.  One of the friends I will be meeting up with is L who moved to Vermont last month and who was worked at my LYS on Thursday nights for the last several years.  We got an invite to a going away party and my mind started thinking that we needed to do something for her.  We are knitters so we must knit, right???  And that’s when I thought of all the cozy memories blankets and thought that was perfect.  I messaged 2 of our other friends and they agreed so the 3 of us set about making it happen.

G set up a secret Facebook group and we all invited knitters to join.  The task was simple – knit an 8×8 square and if you were so inclined make it something that reminded you of L or that L would like.  Drop the square at the store and give it to anyone but L and there was an assembly party at my house the night before the party.

Let me just say when set a task before a group of knitters look out!!  We ended up with somewhere around 37 squares, I don’t recall the exact number but it was definitely uneven.  A few tips if you ever decide to plan a surprise cozy memory blankets.  Leave longer than 24 hours for assemby (we were lucky we had some fast crocheters and were okay with uneven rows); try to really enforce the size rule (we had some real varied sizes) and keep better track of who gave each square (we started out okay but lost our way with that – I had hoped to give L a print out of the blanket with who made each square)

We met at the assembly party and first worked out a layout.  Had we started earlier, we probably would have whipped a few more squares to even it out.  But, we let it go (thanks Elsa!) and just crocheted them together the best we could with the numbers and sizes.  We were split on how we started the joining so on some squares you can see the join and others you cannot.  I’m not sure either way is right or wrong but we probably should have made a decision before we dived in.  There were basically 4 of us who did the assembly and that seemed to be the right number.  It was getting a little confusing on who had what and what was being stitched to what so with more people that would have added to the confusion.  In the end we got it all done and were able to give to her at her party.  I’m sure she will never actually use it (honestly, it’s a bit unwieldly with the various weights and textures of yarn).  It’s definitely not washable but she will always have the memories of the knitters of RCS.  She loved it and was able to identify a pretty high number of squares, proving as always, that we knitters have our colors, etc. and those that work at our LYS really get to know their knitters.  My square was made of yarn that she helped me picked out for a poncho I made and a light purple bulky Lopi because L loves purple and crunchy yarns 🙂

Here are a few pics – enjoy!!!

Shepherd’s Day

Yesterday my LYS held a special event called Shepherd’s Day.  It was a trunk show from Cestaria Sheep & Wool Company.  Not only was there yarn, there was the shepherd that tended the flock.  I’m not sure where to start talking about this really fun day.

My friends who work at the store posted some sneak peak pictures as they were setting up on Friday night and the color selection was amazing!  I’ve been wanting to get some yarn to knit the 3 Color Cashmere Shawl and this had some definite possibilities so I was very excited.

When I walked into the store on Saturday morning the first thing that caught my eye were the pile of sheepskins on the big knitting table – they were beautiful and so soft.  I could not stop petting them.  But there were several tables of yarn to look at so I dragged myself away.

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Being someone who is sensitive to wool, I was really interested in the cotton and cotton/linen yarns that were being offered.  In addition, they did have traditional wool in a variety of weights.  As I was making my first pass, the shepherd, Francis Chester, came over to talk about his yarns.  According to the Cestari website, Francis is 80 years old and still farming!  All of their yarns are made and produced here in the US. Francis has a farm in Virginia where he raises sheep for wool.  They also obtain additional wool from reputable ranchers in the US.  The cotton is grown and processed in Virginia.

It is then treated and spun in the US and is all done using environmentally friendly methods.  Even the dyes are safe and non-toxic.  Now, as I’m saying all this you are probably thinking (like I was) wow, that sounds great but how much does it cost???  It was some of the most reasonably priced yarn I’ve come across.  I continued to circle and ponder my options for the 3 Color Shawl and as I did more of the store regulars were coming in.

One of those regulars (and part time worker at the store) was my friend H and her baby R. We love when R comes for a visit and she loves the shop and all her friends!  I found some colors (and they were even outside my usual color zone) and sat down to chat with my friends, and to pet the sheepskin.  Now, here’s the thing, the longer I pet that thing, the more I knew it had to come home with me.  And so, I put the yarn back and bought the sheepskin.

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Me and Shepherd Francis as I model my sheepskin 🙂

While we were posing for this picture, the shepherd explained they brush the skins with dye for the added interested.  I got the black/white/gray one but there were also tan/brown ones available.

I think part of what made it such a fun day was just sharing it with some of my favorite knitting people.  I realize as I listen to various podcasts how lucky I am to have such an active group of knitting friends IRL (in real life) as not everyone has that.  Our store is just like any read you about in the fictional books and that is probably a story for another day.

I highly recommend checking out the Cestaria yarns.  I think he’s making his way around on a tour so if you see a Shepherd’s Day near you – go!!

Where and When? #6KCBWDAY7

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It’s the last day of Knit & Crochet Blog Week and, as with the #LoveYourBlog challenge, Eskimimi saved the easiest for last – Your Time, Your Place.  When and where do we take time out to knit.  I’m not one of those people that takes out knitting everywhere they go. I find I don’t need to be knitting all the time, everywhere.

So, when do I knit?  The simple answer – pretty much everyday, but Thursdays are knitting days.  At this point even some of my co-workers know this.  Knit night starts with tea and pastry as the bakery next to the yarn store (River Colors) and ends at a local restaurant with a meal and an adult beverage but this might belong below in the Where section.  The more thoughtful answer – I knit when I’m bored and when I’m stressed.  My favorite saying is “Sometimes all you can do is knit in a circle”.  I recently talked to a friend who found knitting in a circle to be absolute torture so I guess it’s not for everyone but for me, having something on a set of circular needles and just knitting is very relaxing.  It requires almost no concentration so when I’ve had a long, hard work day it is all the mental power I have left in me.

Where do I knit?  At home, each night to relax from evil work days.  On Thursdays, we knit at River Colors Studio. Thursday is open knit night.  The yarn store where I learned to knit did not have open knit days/nights.  I wanted to become a better knitter and a knitter who was able to finish more than one project a year so when I found knit night I decided that would force me to dedicate two hours of my week to knitting.  Funny, now if I only knit two hours a week there is definitely something wrong!  When I started going in 2008 there was a large group that met on Thursday nights and I sort of blended into the crowd and took in the scene.  Slowly, the crowd started to trail off and I was able to actually start meeting other knitters.  I’m sure all knit groups go through an ebb and flow.  We often talk about those who have been part of the group and then mysteriously disappear, never to be seen again.  There was a small amount of time where it really was only the 5-6 of us in my group.  We’re back up in numbers now and new people trickle in and out which always makes things interesting.  I have also been known to pull out a sock at very long, very boring work meetings 🙂

This year’s blog week was especially fun as there was quite an active group over on Facebook and I “met” many new bloggers this year.  Can’t wait for next year!

Full Circle

I booked my work travel sometime around Christmas.  At that time I realized that flying from Baltimore to Cleveland on Tuesday and then Cleveland to West Palm Beach on Wednesday did not make much sense and went with the flight directly from Baltimore to West Palm on Tuesday.  This gave me an extra day in my schedule and I had plenty of work to keep me busy in the hotel.  What I didn’t know at the time was that my cousin would be visiting my uncle at the same time I was there for work.  We don’t get to see each other all that often and she was on the Gulf Coast which was about 2 1/2 hours from where I was staying.  I worked all morning and then set off for a little adventure.

My first stop was a nearby yarn shop.  I had scoped out some options on Ravelry and headed to the shop closest to my hotel, which was Knitters Nook in Delray Beach, FL.  When I pulled up the first thing I noticed was that it was very busy.  There were a ton of cars in the parking lot and they were all in front of the yarn shop.  I walked in and I believe someone did greet me across the room.  I started taking in all the different yarns.  There was a table full of ladies knitting.  As I was lingering over some beautiful bamboo yarn, a discussion was taking place near me.  Without directly quoting, the gist of it was that there was someone at the knitting table who the others had decided did not have the skills to be there. The discussion was quite heated and language was used that I generally don’t hear at my LYS, unless something has gone horribly wrong with someone’s project.  I checked the website later and it does appear I came in near the end of a class.  The class stated that one should know how to knit on DPNs and circulars so maybe this person did not have that skill but I really did not think it should have caused the amount of anger that I was hearing in this conversation.  I kept moving and looked at some other yarn and the book section.  It was at that point that I saw a notebook on a stand requesting that you sign in so they could help you in the order you arrived.  Seriously??   I felt like I was at the phone store where they make you sign in.  Even when my LYS is busy most of us knitters tend to wander and work out the help when we can.  I left without buying anything because I really didn’t feel compelled.  It was definitely an interesting store.

After that I took a drive down to the beach.  I wanted to take a short walk and grab some lunch but all the parking was meters and I had no quarters so I kept driving.  Then it was off to the other side of Florida.  I had my GPS and I was ready to roll.

I’ve never been to the Florida Everglades and had no idea (since I did not look at a whole map and was relying on my GPS) that I was driving through them, for almost the entire trip.  Alligator Alley was my main route.  It was a very pretty drive through the swampland.  I had several thoughts while driving.  1. I was not coming home this way – too creepy and I would be eaten by an alligator if anything happened.  2. I was reminded of my bus ride through the Australian outback.  It’s really kind of desolate and there are only these weird gas/food/bathroom stops along the way and they don’t come very frequently.  3. Florida has been the cause of a number of issues in the US and I wonder how much bigger a problem the state would be if it was fully habitable.  I kept waiting for the blue highway signs telling me what I could get at the exit and they never came.  I broke down and stopped at the roadside center and felt like I had stepped into another planet.  It was a weird mix of tourists, locals and a few people who I think came right out of the swamp.  I got a hot dog, hit the bathroom and took off.  Again, vowing not to come back this way…

I made it to my final destination and had a great time catching up with my cousin.  And, then searched for an alternate route back to the hotel.  As it turned I basically drove in a complete circle.  The Everglade make driving across Florida more difficult than crossing other states.  I had driven south and then west and then north.  On the way back I drove north and then east and then south.  It was far more populated and better lit so overall, a good choice for the ride home in the dark.  It was a great way to spend my extra day down in Florida.