To knit or not to knit, that is the question

After spending an entire weekend surrounded by knitters at Fling (more info here), I found that my interest in knitting constantly, all the time, was greatly increased.  Seeing how much I could get done when I actually knit for significant amounts of time was inspiring. I know, I know, novel idea, knit more minutes in the day and your projects get done faster!  Who knew?!?!  So now that I’m home and spending the majority of my time living that pesky thing called “real life” surrounded by non-knitting Muggles, I find myself questioning – when is it appropriate to pull out my project and knit a row or two?

Obviously, I have my go to knitting times – lunch hour at work, evening TV time, lazy weekend mornings or afternoons.  Those times are made for knitting.  Other appropriate knitting times, at least in my world, are while waiting for appointments (car maintenance, doctor, etc.), while hanging out and chatting with close family and friends at home (mine or theirs), and in the booth while I’m stage managing a show.

Let’s pause a moment to consider that last one.  In my spare time (ha!), I work as a stage manager for a number of local theatre companies.  Once rehearsals and tech are finished and a show is open, the stage manager is responsible for running the show and calling all the cues for the technical elements.  Many plays have plenty of downtime during the performance where the stage manager doesn’t have any cues to call.  However, she must still remain alert to what is happening onstage and backstage to deal with any unforeseen problems that may arise and to ensure that the actors are “behaving” and upholding the director’s vision.  During these times, I knit.  Some people may think this would distract me from the task at hand – the show – but other knitters like me will understand that it does the exact opposite and actually HELPS me focus and keeps my mind from wandering.  Usually I’m working on a simple garter or stockinette project where I don’t have to look at the knitting and it is easy to pick up and put down when I need to call a cue.  Socks are perfect for this! So I often get lots of prime knitting time in the booth, depending on the show of course.  There are some, namely musicals with 57,000 light cues, where I don’t have time to even sit down, much less knit a stitch!  But for the more laid back straight plays with just a handful of cues, I relish the uninterrupted time.

So those are the obvious appropriate knitting situations.  There are also obvious inappropriate knitting situations.  You should not knit, for example, while taking a shower, interviewing for a job, driving a car, riding a roller coaster, and any number of other situations where needles and yarn would interfere with the task you should be concentrating on or would be obviously rude to the other individuals around you.

What becomes difficult however, are those situations that fall into the grey area between completely appropriate and completely inappropriate.  As a perfect recent example from my own life, this past weekend I had a committee meeting for a local theatre board that I serve on.  It’s a small committee – 5 of us – and we were having our first meeting at the home of one of the members.  We had a lovely lunch at the start of the meeting and then began our discussion while still sitting around her dining room table.  I had brought my knitting with me thinking that perhaps it would be a good opportunity to get some work done on my Hitchhiker.  Again, similar to the knitting I choose for stage managing, Hitchhiker is all garter stitch that doesn’t require me to pay much attention so I would have been able to devote my full attention to our discussion.  But as the meeting went on, I did not pull out my knitting.  I thought about it, but then I wasn’t sure if it would be seen as rude.  Would the others think that I wasn’t as involved in our discussion?  Would they be distracted by my knitting?  Now, these ladies are all friends of mine, 3 of them very close friends who know that I knit and probably would not have minded in the slightest.  So, why then, did I not knit?  Honestly, I’m not really sure.  Embarrassment?  Fear of what they would think or say?  Fear of feeling uncomfortable?

I have a number of other meetings coming up over the next few months where I would love to be able to knit.  It is a large chunk of captive time where the only other thing I’m supposed to be doing is paying attention to what others are saying and contributing my own thoughts.  I can honestly do this much better with knitting because my mind won’t wander and daydream and I’ll be more relaxed due to the knitting.  But is it appropriate to knit in situations like this?

What do you all think?  I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on where it is ok and where it is not ok to knit.

Top 5 things about The Loopy Ewe Fall Fling

Fling ended four days ago and I’m still trying to wrap my head around how awesome it was. So here are the top 5 things about Fling (in no particular order).

1. Learning knitting techniques from actual real life humans.

I’m a completely self-taught knitter up to this point. YouTube video tutorials, blog posts, books, and the occasional knitting television show have been my teachers. To have the opportunity to sit in a room with an actual person providing instruction, who could look at my work and make corrections or give hands on advice was more amazing than I can even describe.

2. Learning two-handed Fair Isle.

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Mitt in progress

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Finished mitt

As a follow-up to number 1, one of the specific things I learned was two-handed Fair Isle knitting.  The class was taught by Susan B. Anderson, who I admit, I didn’t really know much about before Fling, but she is awesome!  Such a patient, kind, enthusiastic instructor – and her patterns, particularly her toys are adorable (check out the giraffe, elephant and dragon! She taught a class on making the dragon during Fling as well).  I might need to cast on some of them as Christmas gifts for the kids… but I digress, Fair Isle, right.  The class taught us the general technique of two-handed Fair Isle and more specifically how to apply this to a set of fingerless mitts.  Susan gave us the general pattern for the mitts and then plenty of options for corrugated ribbing, Latvian braids, and various Fair Isle charts that we could combine in any combination we wished.  Now I have not done a lot of designing when it comes to knitwear – ok, I haven’t done any – and I didn’t think I would be someone who would enjoy working without a defined pattern – but you know what?  I loved it!  It was so freeing to just decide what I wanted to do next and then see how it turned out.  Let’s just say that I am now officially hooked on Fair Isle – which is great because now I can tackle all of those lovely projects I have saved to my Ravelry favorites and queue (I’m talking to you Britta Cowl.  I got yarn for this while at Fling, so stay tuned 🙂 ).  I also think I might have awoken a bit of a designer in myself, so we’ll have to see what that leads to.  Here is a picture of my mitt in progress during class and then another of the finished product. Only one done so far, but the second will be cast on and finished this weekend so I can complete the pair.

3. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

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Stephanie took a picture with me and my sock!

Need I say anymore?  Not really, but I will.  I have been reading Stephanie’s blog for maybe 8 years now and have loved it, and her, from the very beginning.  The chance to get to hear one of her talks, take her class, and generally just breathe the same air as her – priceless.  Her talk on Thursday evening was about your brain on knitting.  She discussed the neurological changes that occur when we knit or even just think about knitting.  Fascinating stuff!  There is some really interesting research being done on this topic.  Makes me want to go find some of the studies and read up on it myself.

The class I took with her was her famous Knitting for Speed and Efficiency.  In this class, Stephanie provides a history of knitting, discusses some methods for improving your knitting speed in your own style, and then introduces you to lever knitting.  Lever knitting is the style that she knits and the style of knitting that was used for production knitting in Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere when people had to knit for a living.  The class definitely lives up to its hype.  Using the techniques she taught us to improve our speed in our own knitting style, I was able to increase my speed from 33 stitches per minute to 40 stitches per minute during the 3 hour class!  I’m looking forward to trying out the lever knitting some more.

4. Sheri, The Loopy Elves and Shopping at The Loopy Ewe in person

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I have arrived!

As someone who has been a loyal Loopy Groupie since 2008, the chance to visit the shop in person was a dream come true.  I have visited quite a few yarn shops in my time as a knitter, and Loopy has the best selection and is the most well-organized one by far.  Now part of this, I’m sure, is because they’re mainly an online shop, so they have to make it easy for the Elves to run to the shelves, grab stock for the orders, and pack them up to send them all over the world to us.  But Sheri has done a wonderful job of not making it feel like a warehouse.  It is warm and welcoming.  The shelves are packed with gorgeous colors, organized by weight and then by dyer.  Very easy to find what you’re looking for – and even some things you’re not.  I may have spent a little bit of money while I was there – perhaps I checked out twice – but anyways, moving on …

Sheri and her staff also did an exceptional job at organizing and running the Fling itself.  Everything ran smoothly, the accommodations were lovely.  We had a dessert reception on Thursday evening, lunch was provided on Friday and Saturday, and there were snacks every afternoon that stayed out until the knitting lounge closed at midnight.  Everyone was given a goody bag with free yarn (!), which we all had fun trading to get colors that we liked (still need to get a picture of this – will post to the blog later).  And then there were door prizes on Saturday evening.  I was lucky enough to win a skein of Fable Fibers Story in a one of a kind colorway (also don’t have a picture of this yet – promise to post it soon).

I can’t say enough good things about the customer service that I receive from Loopy with regards to my regular online orders – and they kicked it up another notch to show the 140 Fling attendees a fabulous time over the weekend.

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Wall of socks

5. Spending 4 days with people who “get me.”

I don’t really have that many people around me who knit, so it’s often a solitary activity for me.  Many of the people that I spent time with and talk to on a daily basis don’t know the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch and could care less about the fact that Wollmeise has added a new yarn base to their line up (oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that Claudia from Wollmeise was at Fling!! with her new yarn!!).  So getting the opportunity to spend such a large chunk of time with other knitters who “get me” was probably the best part of Fling.  From the time I arrived on Wednesday evening until I left the Denver airport on Sunday, I was surrounded by knitters.  We didn’t spend our entire time talking about knitting – we talked about life and our families, our favorite television shows, and just general chatter and jokes.  But through it all we had a common passion, a common vocabulary and experience that tied us together and made us instant friends.  The knitting lounge was always full of laughter and “ooohhhh what pattern is that?  That’s gorgeous!”  I don’t think I remember the last time I was in a gathering of people that big where everyone felt supportive of everyone else and was just there to have a good time and share our love of sticks and string.  Knitters are good people and I’m proud to be one!

Fling Plan

As I posted yesterday, later this week I’m headed to Denver for The Loopy Ewe Fall Fling.  Here’s a little more information about what I’ll be doing while I’m there.

Classes

Here’s a interesting factoid about myself for you – I’m a self-taught knitter.  I’ve never taken a knitting class.  Everything I know I learned from online videos, online tutorials or books.  So I’m really excited about the chance to have in-person classes to learn some new techniques.  During Fling, I’ll be taking two classes:

  1. Knitting for Speed and Efficiency taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
  2. Fair Isle Fingerless Mitts taught by Susan B. Anderson

Stephanie’s class provides a short history of knitting and an introduction to lever, or Irish-cottage, knitting.  This is how Stephanie knits and it is crazy fast and consistent.  Check out this video to see her knit like the wind.  I’m excited to get some techniques and ideas on how to speed up my knitting.

Susan’s class will teach us how to do two-handed fair isle knitting to make a pair of fingerless mittens.  Fair Isle is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but just never had the courage.  I’m looking forward to adding this skill to my repertoire so that I can finally make some of the gorgeous patterns I have in my faves and queue on Ravelry.

Projects

Part of the fun of the knitting retreat is the chance to relax and hang out with other knitters for long periods of time.  Most of my knitting time is solo, so it will be nice to be surrounded by others who get it.  As I was thinking about what to pack for Fling, I realized that none of my current WIPs would work for the social knitting time.  They’re all either too complicated or require me to weigh the yarn to determine when it’s time to move on to a new section.  So… I had to cast on new things.  Second knitting factoid about me – I may have a problem with finishing things and suffer from a severe case of startitis most of the time.  But this time, officer, I promise, I have a good excuse!

Here is the yarn I’m taking for both classes and projects to work on (click on picture to make it bigger):

Fling yarn

1. Starting at the top with the navy blue and white yarn – this is Cascade 220 Superwash that I’ll be using for Susan’s Fair Isle class.

2. The green yarn in the lower right corner is Dream in Color Classy in the Happy Forest colorway which I’ll use in Stephanie’s class.  Ultimately, this yarn will become a Pine Forest Baby Blanket.

3. The multicolored yarn in the lower left corner is Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere in the Celebrating the Games colorway.  This was a special Loopy Ewe Celebrations color released in February to commemorate the Winter Olympic games.  I’ll be making a Favorite Scarf Ever with this skein.

4. The two smaller skeins on the left are Biscotte & Cie Felix in the Cupcake B colorway which I’ll use to make some Afterthought Heel socks.  Perfect for knitting during Stephanie’s talk on Thursday evening.

5. And finally, the skein in the middle is The Yarns of Richard Devrieze Peppino in the Agawa Canyon colorway.  This yarn was part of The Loopy Ewe’s March Giftables kit. I’ll be making a Hitchhiker with it.

So those are my class and knitting plans.  I also have plans for what yarns I want to buy during my shopping trip to Loopy, but those are changing daily, so no point in going into them now.  Rest assured, I will post after Fling with details on all of the goodies I picked up.

My dreams are coming true

My knitting dreams that is.

Later this week, I’m off to Denver, Colorado for The Loopy Ewe‘s Fall Fling.  This is an annual knitting retreat held by Loopy – four days of classes, shopping, knitting, and hanging out with my kind (knitters, that is).  Each year they hold a lottery because there are more people that want to attend than spots, and this year – my first time entering the lottery – I got lucky and snagged a coveted spot.  I found out that I was going to be able to attend earlier in the summer and was excited then, but now that it is just three days away, I can barely contain myself!

Here’s the thing: Loopy is the epitome of yarn shops!  They started as an online shop and still make most of their money through online sales, but they also have a brick and mortar store now in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  Never in my life have I experienced the level of customer service that they provide.  As an example, let’s say I place an order for yarn on a Tuesday afternoon around 1:00.  Usually within a hour or two, I get a notification that my order has been processed and is ready to ship.  Then usually just two days later, I have the “Box of Fun” sitting on my porch waiting for me when I get home from work.  Ok, so it’s not the immediate gratification of driving to a LYS and taking the yarn home right then, but seriously – two days from ordering and it has arrived all the way from Colorado – can’t beat that!  Plus they include Tootsie Rolls in each package 🙂

But even more incredible than their customer service are the fun ideas and community they’ve created.  Each summer they host Camp Loopy, a virtual camp with 3 knitting challenges and prizes.  And they just announced their new idea – Loopy Academy that starts this fall (more to come about my plans for that in a future blog post).

Anyways, I’ll stop singing their praises – just suffice it to say that I have drank the Kool-Aid and am a Loopy customer for life.  So the fact that in just a few short days I’ll be meeting the owner and standing in their store and spending the weekend with others who love them as much as I do is making me want to do a happy dance!

Add to all that the fact that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee – yes, the Yarn Harlot herself  – is going to be there giving a talk the first night and teaching classes. I was also lucky enough to get a spot in her Knitting for Speed and Efficiency class which I have heard about for years and dreamed about being able to attend.  I may faint from all of the excitement!

So I’ve spent the weekend getting together all of my supplies for classes and for projects to work on during the downtime.  Come back tomorrow and I’ll share the yarn and project ideas with you.  In the meantime, if you haven’t already, do yourself (but not your wallet) a favor and head over to The Loopy Ewe website to check them out.  If you’re a Ravelry member, check out the Loopy Groupies group for more fun!