Lunch with Kristen!

Posted on | October 20, 2009 | 1 Comment

Even though I couldn’t make it up to Rhinebeck this past weekend, I felt like I got a capsule (and in some ways better) experience in the days leading up to the yarn festival.

That trend continued on Friday when I got an email from Kristen Rengren, the author of Vintage Baby Knits, asking if I would be free to meet for lunch because she had to stop in the city for a yarn emergency en route to Rhinebeck. Hell yes! I’ve been wanting to meet Kristen for a while…ever since I’ve been charmed by her book, her passion for all things vintage, and her talent at translating vintage knits for a modern audience. In addition, she comes across as a fun, sparkling, and insightful person in her posts (both on Ravelry and on her newly retooled blog) and she doesn’t disappoint in person :)

Because she intended to go to the Rhinebeck area after our lunch and because she was driving into the city, we decided to have lunch on the upper west side (from my days of driving into the city on weekends, I remembered that the edges of the upper west side sometimes yielded parking spaces). We settled on Alice’s Tea Cup – a yummy high tea cafe that also serves lunch items.

Talking to Kristen was a lot of fun. I think we both started designing around the same time and approached it in a similar manner; so we’re at similar points in our designing evolution. Also, Kristen’s a girl after my own heart, preferring small gauges and tiny needles. So, we had a lot to discuss!

Before we parted ways, we had a quick snapshot taken with Kristen’s camera with the whimsical print of an upholstered bench as a backdrop.

I hope I’ll get an opportunity to see Kristen again soon.


Nobel Physics Prize

Posted on | October 19, 2009 | 3 Comments

I’m a little late, but I had to say ‘Yay’ for part of the Nobel Physics prize going to Willard Boyle and George Smith who developed the CCD (charged coupled device) in 1969, without which, we would not have our beloved digital cameras.

Weekend at Gudrun’s, Part 2

Posted on | October 18, 2009 | 2 Comments

Saturday evening, Gudrun had invited several “local” knitwear designers (the local is in quotes because some made quite significant drives to attend the potluck) for dinner at her house.

Ysolda made a wonderful galette with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onion, and cheese from a recipe posted by Smitten Kitchen and a gorgeous chocolate beet cake with psychedelic pink (naturally dyed by the intense beet juice) frosting. Gudrun cooked a delicious eggplant lasagna (with the ricotta substituted seamlessly with tofu) and a wonderful quiche. Now, here my memory of who brought what becomes a little fuzzy, but I believe Cecily brought a fresh salad, Cheryl brought a crisp cabbage asian-inspired slaw made from veggies from her garden, Cirilia brought gooey, delicious pecan, caramel, and chocolate brownies (?), and Julia brought an apple and cranberry tart. I’m sure I’m forgetting things so I apologize for the lack of details! Ysolda has a great shot of the feast in her flickr stream.

The dinner guest lineup, as taken with my woefully inadequate cell phone camera is below. I made everyone sit very very still and tried to be very still myself when taking the shots; but they’re still a bit blurry.

Here’s Cecily Glowik-MacDonald, who I’ve had some great email exchanges with in the course of mutual blog commenting and through my one design last season with Classic Elite. She’s wearing a gorgeous sweater of her own design that I really hope she self publishes. Cecily also brought some Classic Elite yarn samples that we divvied up. I scored some lovely Silky Alpaca Lace that I hope will turn into an indie design.


And here are Cheryl Burke and Melissa LaBarre. Cheryl just published her first pattern with Twist which is proving to be very popular. She also was one of the first people to knit my Henley Perfected, as a sample for WEBS. I’ve long admired Melissa’s designs in Knit.1, Vogue, and elsewhere and can’t wait for her and Cecily’s book to come out.


And here are Gudrun and Cirilia, gamely posing with their knitting. Gudrun was our lovely host and that pile of yummy goodness in her lap is her Rhinebeck sweater. It’s beautiful; the perfect fall coverup that will segue nicely into winter wear. Cirilia models for Lexie Barnes; and designs and models for WEBS and Berroco.


And last, but certainly not least; Ysolda managing to maintain still and Julia being less successful at that task.


It was great fun to eat great food, knit, and talk “shop”. As Ysolda has said in the past, sometimes being a knitwear designer is a very solitary pursuit. The sketching/planning, knitting, pattern writing, and pattern release phases can all be done from home. Being able to get together, talk, share stories and experiences can really replenish the inspirational well.

The rest of the weekend passed very pleasantly, but too quickly. They included a brief photo shoot for Ysolda’s next Whimsical Knits 2 pattern at the Leverett Peace Pagoda followed by some wireless internet access action at the Leverett library (Gudrun, Ysolda, and Gudrun’s husband, David):


A yummy dinner of roasted salmon and autumn veggies:


And some knitting in companionable silence, the soft clicking of needles attracting the attention of Percy, Gudrun’s mischevious kitten:


Here’s Gudrun and me, just before I got on the train to go back to Jersey:


Gudrun’s home was so warm and welcoming; her family’s creativity in evidence everywhere. David is an acclaimed writer and their children are budding artists/scientists/scholars. Thanks again, Gudrun, for the wonderful stay!

Weekend at Gudrun’s

Posted on | October 15, 2009 | 4 Comments

I can’t make Rhinebeck this year, so my plans for meeting Gudrun, seeing Ysolda again, and generally getting my yarn geek on were foiled. When I emailed Gudrun and Ysolda to see if they might swing by NYC after Rhinebeck; plans were suddenly set in motion for me to visit them in Gudrun’s beautiful western Massachusetts home. Gudrun and I have been corresponding for a while, so I jumped at the chance to get to spend some face-to-face time together.

Gudrun and Ysolda picked me up Friday afternoon at the Amherst train station and we met up with Angela Hahn, who drove down from the Cape, in the evening for dinner. I’ve gotten together with Angela several times during her sojourn in Como and always enjoy my time with her.

The next morning, we grabbed some breakfast at the aptly named Black Sheep Bakery (photo below) in Amherst before heading off to WEBS, otherwise known as knitters’ mecca.


At WEBS, both Angela and I (as first-timers) were a bit overwhelmed; and it took us a good 25 minutes to get past the first shelf filled with yarn goodies. When we managed to tear ourselves away, both Angela and I found samples of our work on display. Angela found her Vine Lace Beret from the recent Vogue and I found my Henley Perfected (which, incidentally, was sample knitted by Cheryl Burke, who I would see Saturday night).

After looking through the main store, Angela and I ducked into the warehouse in back; where we encountered aisle upon aisle of yarn. I snagged a passing WEBS employee and asked her to snap a quick picture of the two of us to get a sense of the scale of the place.

By the way, that lovely pullover Angela is wearing is her own design out of Tilli Tomas Fil de la Mer and will be released at some point on her blog. The details are exquisite and it’s top down and seamless!

Around noon, we bid a fond farewell to Angela and returned back to Gudrun’s to prepare a Saturday feast for a gathering of knitwear designers. Actually, Ysolda and Gudrun prepared a feast while I helpfully watched ;)

Next post: Saturday Potluck

Lots to talk about, but…

Posted on | October 13, 2009 | 2 Comments

I have lots to talk about after my extended weekend trip to western MA to stay with the talented Gudrun and her lovely family (Ysolda was also staying with them), but first I need to gather my thoughts and my few blurry phone camera snapshots.

When I came home last night, one of the first things Maurizio asked me about was this garment that was blocking on my blocking board. The morning I left for MA, I was frantically blocking it so it would be dry by the time I came back. Because I got in a little over my head these last two months (5 sweaters for various publications), my wonderful friend Melissa helped me knit one of them and had turned over the body to me that week. So, Maurizio had never seen it before and was quite puzzled when it materialized in our apartment. I think he was starting to think I had been knitting in an alternate universe — because he’s usually quite familiar with my projects (in the case of angora or alpaca yarns that shed all over the apartment, unhappily so ;) ).

Currently obsessed with…

Posted on | October 5, 2009 | 7 Comments

I’m currently obsessed with the idea of designing a lace shawl; or more accurately, shawlette. I never liked the fussiness of a full on shawl with stitch patterns upon stitch patterns and borders and edgings, etc, etc. But the recent adorable patterns put out by Gudrun, Ysolda, and Stephen West (who seems to be an exciting new addition to the knit design world; or am I just behind the times?) have gotten me excited about shawls again. I have a few ideas kicking around in my head, but I need to figure out how to work out the technical details of writing a lace shawl pattern. Although, I’ve knit my fair share of lace shawls from other people’s patterns, this is the first time I’m attempting to design one of my own. It’s like street directions. When I’m sitting in a car when someone else is driving, I wouldn’t be able to tell you how we got to where we went afterwards. It’s only when I get behind the wheel that I really know where someplace is. Of course, that little object on the right of the photo above is what I really should be working on. It’s close to being done. Really.

Pattern Writing again

Posted on | October 2, 2009 | 4 Comments

My posts seem to be getting repetitive…but I’m back to pattern writing. And again, because I let too much time elapse between when I knit the garment and when I’m writing the pattern, I’m having a little trouble remembering how I worked out one detail in the design. Unfortunately, since I sent back all leftover and extra yarn to the publisher, I had to rely on my little old swatch for yarn to work with. So, tink, tink, tink… back enough to get enough yarn to work out the detail.
Personally, I’d much rather start Melissa’s gorgeous Tatami with my first Sundara purchase!
I’ve been drooling over Jared’s Sundara yarn and project photos for years and I have to say she did not disappoint. This Slow Boat to Sardinia Sport Merino is beautiful, with shade upon shade of reds, browns, and rust. I can’t properly express the color complexities of this yarn and can’t wait to see how it’ll knit up.

But duty calls first. Grrrrrr….. :)

My (brief) DC adventure

Posted on | October 1, 2009 | 2 Comments

I can’t believe it’s already October! Where does the time go? I do look forward to this time of year, when the air turns chillier and the leaves change color; but seasons also remind me how quickly time passes. When I was a kid, the months dragged on interminably and summer seemed to last forever. But I digress…

I spent the last two days in DC. I haven’t been to DC since my parents took me on an educational trip there when I was 12. This time, I was there to interview at what I call a ‘grown up’ job. ‘Grown up’ mainly because it required me to wear clothes other than my usual uniform of an elastic waist long skirt, tank top and lightweight cardigan. Some of the Spiders took pity on me and helped me shop for appropriate interview clothes and gave me such helpful tips as – introduce myself with my jacket buttoned and then when I sit down, unbutton the jacket. Who knew?

My interview was Tuesday afternoon and my friend, Janis (who came for moral support), and I took the Amtrack down early that morning. The interview itself was relatively pleasant — 30 minutes sessions each with 5 different members of the group.

Afterwards, we met up with Tanis, who recently relocated to DC and who graciously allowed me to stay the night at her place, and her friend Elspeth, who is an excellent knitter and conservator at the Smithsonian (sounds like such a neat job!). We visited a cute yarn shop (Fibre Space) in Alexandria, VA; and then tucked into some very yummy burgers at the Burger Joint. Then we retired back to Tanis’ to watch Gattaca — I really miss her! — while her adorable pug, Mercury, curled up beside us and slept. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take any pictures throughout the day.

The next morning, I didn’t have too much time before my early afternoon train back to Jersey; so Tanis and I walked past the White House where she snapped a quick picture of me posing in front of it. We also walked to the Washington Memorial, but didn’t have time to go in. Then it was back to Jersey.


Ithaca, Part 2

Posted on | September 25, 2009 | 5 Comments

I finally finished writing up the pattern I posted about working on the other day and as a little reward/break for myself before beginning the next pattern (which should be much easier to write I hope!), I’ll post a few pictures of the remainder of my trip last weekend to Ithaca.
Any trip to Ithaca isn’t quite complete without a lunchtime visit to the Farmer’s Market, which is located by the water and occurs 3 times a week during the season. There’s yummy food, arts and crafts, and of course fruits and vegetables. Also represented are local winemakers, cheese artisans, florists, etc. I usually leave with a fresh supply of stationery, a satisfied belly, and a cup of Gimme Coffee.
Okay, it’s back to work for me!

Pattern Slog

Posted on | September 23, 2009 | 6 Comments

This is the not so exciting view from my desk today. My older laptop is providing me with some background noise in the form of Mulder and Scully (I just re-discovered the X-files and that seasons 1-6 are vastly superior to the later seasons); and I’m trying to work out some charts on my work laptop. The pattern repeat is large, making it hard to size up and down. I’m struggling a bit.

My favorite part of designing is thinking up a design; then challenging myself to work out the kinks to realize it in knitted form; then actually knitting up the sample. The pattern writing, while fun, can sometimes be a frustrating experience – especially if I foolishly let too much time elapse between the knitting and the writing…which is the case here.

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