Thursday, May 9th, 2013
We are so lucky to live and work here. Maine is a pretty place and every day we are surrounded by a large slice of transcendent beauty that not even poetry can do justice. I could tell you about the drizzly days that are a monochromatic silvery color or the sudden break in the clouds over the harbor, between the breakwater and the islands, that allows golden shafts of light to gild the surface of the water with tiny iridescent sparkles like fish scales. Or the lift on the heart and soul when you drive up Old County Road, hit the top of the hill and look out over the bay as you head down into Glen Cove…and you know without a doubt that you are blessed to be in this place, in this moment. Maybe my poetic skills are just not up to the task, but really, these words on this screen can not take the place of seeing it for yourself.
And, for a time, if you play your cards right, you can see it for yourself. We have several historic schooners moored in the harbor here, and they sometimes do knitting themed cruises. We here at OTR are partnering with the schooner J&E Riggin this summer to make four specialty knitting sailing adventures happen.
Doesn’t that look like fun? Or if that’s not quite your style, how about this…
I am actually teaching on the first cruise out this season. We’ll be covering embellishments in a class I call Gilding The Lily. Imagine, a short, focused workshop in the morning, then all the rest of the day to lounge around, hang out, trade inspirations or stories and knit.
Oh…and did I mention that Captain Annie Mahl is an exquisite chef with two published cookbooks? This will be my first time on the Riggin, but I have heard from others that the food is so good, you will eat ’til your sides creak.
There are friendly deck hands… some of whom are knitters…who play guitars and sing in the evenings. Then you’ll be gently lulled to sleep by the rhythm and swish of the ocean. Dreamy, right? And all in the context of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. What’s not to love?
Wind and weather depending, we may even get to explore some islands or secluded beaches. We may see seals or puffins or dolphins. You never know what might come out to greet us. But it’s certain that even long after you’ve returned to your ordinary life, at odd times, when everything seems cloudy or gray, these moments and these folks will break through like those golden sunbeams over steely water and lift your heart. Like knitting, it’s not just for a day, but if you do it right it can last a lifetime.
I can’t wait to get there, and I know I won’t want to leave. But when I do have to put my feet back on land, I’ll be headed to the Maine Fiber Frolic, and your ticket to the Frolic is included in your package. You can get all the particulars on the Riggin’s web site here. And you can read more about past trips here. When you call for your new reservation, be sure to mention Over The Rainbow Yarn. They’ll offer you 25% off a new reservation. Won’t you join me?
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Okay, you’ve all seen the news items about people who have a gozillion cats and the animal protection agencies raid them and gather up all the kitties and take them to shelters? And the people are invariable crying about how much they love their darlings? And you know…the thing is…no one sets out to become a crazy cat lady. No one swings in a hammock on some sunny afternoon when they’re ten years old and muses to themselves, “Gee, I think when I grow up I want to be a crazy cat lady. Yeah, that sounds like a great thing to do with my life.” No one looks at their collection of pets and thinks, “Oh, my goodness! I don’t have enough white to balance the black. And you know I don’t have a single ginger. Maybe I should go find one in the perfect shade or orange marmalade.” No one starts scouring their neighborhood looking for strays to build up their kitty population so they can enter some crazy cat lady olympics. There are no categories for “Most Cats Living Under One Roof” in the Guiness Book.
Now I’m not saying I have a problem. And I’m really not saying that you have a problem. But I want to introduce you to a few friends of mine.
This is my favorite winter shawl/stole/scarf thingy. I believe it is a basic Prayer Shawl Ministry pattern, and I believe the yarn is Manos del Uruguy in the Wildflower colorway…but I have no way of knowing. See, I found this most comforting of friends at our local Goodwill Thrift Store.
I also believe this is someone’s beginner project. It is full of beginner basic mistakes. The pattern is supposed to be a kind of garter/reverse garter basket weave. You know…k3, p3 over an odd multiple of 3. If you look closely, you can see where the knitter stopped in the middle of a row, then went the wrong way when she picked it back up again. There are places where the garter turns into stockinette, and there’s some random short rows here and there.
I saw it in the bin and my heart melted. Someone put a lot of work and love and, yes, probably prayers into this, and it ended up donated to Goodwill. Did the original knitter think it wasn’t good enough to give away? Did the recipient think it wasn’t good enough to keep? Or maybe it was well love by both the knitter and the recipient, but the recipient has passed on and it was just tossed in with the old, unwanted clothes by someone who didn’t understand what they were holding in their hands. No matter which way you look at it, it was imperative that I take it home with me and give it a life of usefulness and love. It now has pride of place on my Island of Misfit Knit Goods.
My urge doesn’t stop at finished objects. These are my newest pets. Don’t look for them in the store; they are both discontinued and these might be the last unused skeins in the world.
A small hospital in our area has a thrift store that helps with their funding. A couple times a year they have a $5 Bag Sale. You get a tall kitchen sized bag ad anything you can cram in there and still tie the bag shut, you get for $5. I went with a friend, not intending to get anything, but I saw these luscious skeins stuck in a back corner of the sale area and they looked so sad. Each color is enough to make a whole sweater. Somewhere in the land, some knitter or crocheter put these beauties in their stash with some definite intention. But they wound up donated to the thrift store and have been languishing on a shelf in a back room long enough to be a little dusty. I could no more resist them than a crazy cat lady could resist the entire litter of kittens that just got dropped off on the side of the road near some local farm. If yarn could have a tiny heartbreaking mew, I am sure I would have heard these darlings crying out in fear and confusion at being abandoned in such a lonely place…with no knitter to love them and help them reach their full potential. You see where I’m going with this…
I know I am not alone in having a large stash. I mean really large. I mean, “She who dies with the most yarn, wins,” right? Maybe I’m not alone in my urges to rescue lost or abandoned yarn or knit goods. I know that, just like no one sets out to be a crazy cat lady, I never intended to give shelter to quite so many skeins. But I can’t help it. And I have no intention of stopping, so I suppose I am relieved that there is no Yarn Control Officer in my town who would raid my home and confiscate my darlings. Beside, I found a great home for at least half of this latest batch. Kristin has taken the copper colored Softwist from Berocco to make a summer sweater. I may yet find a home for the white Isadora from Classic Elite.
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
If you know me, you may have heard me say that here at OTR we don’t support fiber apartheid. Unlike some places in the world, we class all fiber arts as equals. We invite, nay, encourage crocheters to come into the yarn shops and give their creativity the good stuff to work with.
I was reminded again this week that not everyone shares my view. A woman slinked in the door and scuttled along the walls, darting from shelf to shelf and taking fearful glances over both shoulders at every aisle intersection. Okay…maybe that’s an exaggeration. But she did seem a little uncomfortable and seemed to be avoiding my super friendly, cheerfully helpful Minions. She even blushed when one of the Minions asked her if she needed help. I got curious and sidled up to her. You know how I do it; I find a little bit of busy work that will take me to the part of the store where a shy person is trying to hide. I do a little bit of fussing with yarn on the shelves, or find a particularly dusty bit of floor in that part of the store that needs mopping right now. Carefully, slowly, so as not to startle anyone, I get closer to my
target, prey, quarry, new friend. When I get in proximity, I, oh, so casually begin an innocuous conversation. It might go something like this:
(swish, swish of the dust mop) ME: Please excuse me for dusting around you. It’s hard to keep up with the lint in a yarn shop, and we want everything to be tidy for you.
SHE: Hmm. Of course.
ME: That’s a very pretty scarf. (or sweater or hat or bag, etc) Did you make it yourself?
SHE: Yes. (or no, depending)
ME: (if she says “yes.”) It’s lovely. What is the yarn?
ME: (if she says “no.”) Well, you could. Do you knit or crochet?
See that? I don’t automatically assume she’s a knitter.
So this past week, a shy one came in and resisted all the Minions attempts to engage her. I went to the area where she was
skulking hiding perusing the shelves and began to put some yarn in a neater stack. I opened with one of my friendliest smiles and a comment on the beautiful blue and green hand paint she was fondling.
ME: That’s such a pretty color way. It always reminds me of oceans. Did you knit the hat you’re wearing?
Imagine my surprise when she blushed again, put down the yarn she was holding and leaned closer to whisper to me.
SHE: No, my mother knit it for me. I actually crochet. I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t be here. I just wanted to try something new and pretty that I can’t get at &*%#&$@’s (name of big box craft store withheld).
Seriously? Seriously! She apologized for coming into what she thought was a knitters sanctuary. I immediately showered her with compliments on her good taste, revealed that I am an out and proud crocheter…actually, I am bi-craftual. I showed her our section of crochet books and magazines and my current crochet projects which I leave, oh, so casually, on the front coffee table for all to see. I offered her a cup of tea and invited her to sit and hook a while. I gave her the schedule of our Stitch and Spin gatherings, assured her that she would not be the only crocheter there, and explained our “End Fiber Apartheid” philosophy.
She wound up with some gorgeous lace weight and left with her shoulders squared, her head held high and a smile on her face. And I’m on a campaign. Even if you think of yourself as a “only a knitter,” in solidarity with your crocheting sisters, consider these points:
Just like knitting, crochet has come a long, long way since the 70′s. We would none of us want our entire craft judged some of these beauties…
Fashions come and fashions go and we can all learn a lesson from the padded shoulder, drop waisted, Laura Ashley print dresses of the 80′s, and the less said about big hair perms the better.
And before you mock granny squares, ever, ever again, consider this… With color sensibility and an eye for complexity and style akin to Gustav Klimt…
Or maybe this… With a cross between Jackson Pollack and the French Impressionists…
These pieces make the leap to fiber art…with emphasis on art.
And if it’s fashion you’re after, there are some great designs finally showing up for crocheters. How about this?
It’s enough to make you want to take up a hook.
Hear me now, and hear me loud…Crocheter’s of the world, be out and be proud!
All you fiber artists out there, if you have a crocheting friend who is still closeted, still ghetto-ized to the big box craft store, still apologizing for wanting something more, tell them we’re here for them. And it wouldn’t hurt you to try a little hooking, too. We’re here to help.
Sunday, April 21st, 2013
This may be a bad week to talk about bombing. Of any kind. But while our hearts go out to the people of Boston and the victims of the marathon bombing, that very incident makes me want to look around me and appreciate the beauty of my world, especially the human made kind. Maybe it’s just a personal quirk, but whenever I am faced with the difficult or the ugly, the uncomfortable or the sad, the angry or the shocking, the only thing that keeps me from becoming overwhelmed is to make a gratitude list.
I am grateful for my health (yes, I am getting over my cold) and my body’s ability to heal itself. I am grateful for the abiding love of a good man and my love right back to him. I am grateful for a wonderful child who fills me with pride and laughter every day. I am grateful for parents and siblings who are alive and well, and some of my favorite people on the planet. I am grateful for friends who keep me in their hearts and who stay in my heart even when we don’t see as much of each other as we could wish. I am grateful for satisfying work and the people who share it with me. I am grateful that the sun is shining today and that Spring seems to have finally made up its mind to stay in residence…though, fickle flirt that she is, I may yet be fooled on that score. My list could go on and on and on but the thing it all boils down to is joy. I am grateful for the things that fill me with joy. Serendipity, whimsy, bits of beauty where and when I least expected it delighting me and reminding me of all I have to be grateful for.
Today I got to witness first hand another kind of bombing. It is a direct contradiction to the Boston bombing and touched all my joy buttons. The Mid-Coast Yarn Ninjas finally got to celebrate spring and bring some beauty to our fair city.
(Forgive the blurring; these gals want to remain somewhat anonymous. They don’t really do commissions and they want the focus to stay on the installations rather than on them, personally)
In a world where things can go very badly very quickly, seemingly randomly, I am grateful that there are flowers. And in some places, those flowers are made by human hands and placed with love in places where they will bring joy. Yesterday, this was a fence at a neighborhood playground. Now it is a bit of public art intended to delight random strangers.
A network of people came together to make this happen. Some folks knit or crocheted the flowers while others made leaves and stems. Still others did the actual installation. Like Spring, there is an evanescent quality to this beautiful thing. It won’t last. We all know it won’t last. But while it’s here, it stirs the soul. And even while I know these little treasures will be gone some day, I’ll remember watching these lovely folks, on their knees in the dirt, making magical imaginary flowers grow before my eyes.
And long after they are gone, the lovely folks and their lovely flowers, when the world grows dark and I feel afraid or vexed, I’ll be able to add them to my gratitude list. For the celebration of Spring, for the radical act of beauty, for the physical manifestation of whimsy, however brief, I thank you Ninjas. Remember Keats? He was right; a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
I have a cold. I mean I have a cold like I haven’t had a cold in a long time. Lungs on fire, dry, painful cough, drippy nose and deep, deep fatigue. So what am I doing here? I find I can’t stay away for more than a couple of days at a time. I start to worry and wonder what kind of fun y’all are having without me. Oh, and I left all my knitting and crochet projects here so I had nothing to work on while I suffered on the couch. So I’m here for a little while and then I’ll go home and try to take better care of myself.
And while I’m here…
Here is a pretty little sweater knit by our very own Gig McMorrow. It’s Cascade Pacific Chunky in a lovely shade of deep purple with soft creamy stripes.
It’s super soft and warm, but my favorite part is that she started by making the buttons…
…then matched them to the yarn.
So clever, and so sweet!
I am still plugging away on my knit wire bracelet. I really love these things and we’re thinking seriously about having a workshop sometime this summer.
There are a few tricks, but it’s not difficult at all. And what a great accessory for summer.
We got some new mittens in for the Mid-Coast Mitten Tree.
I think that brings our tally so far to 16 pairs. That’s a great start! Just keep us in mind while you’re looking for quick summer projects, or stash busters. Remember, the only requirement is that they be green.
I think I’ll go home now and fix myself a cup of that nasty but compelling chinese medicine tea my naturopath gave me, and pray for some sleep without coughing.