Designing a Knitworthy Vacation to Ireland

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My family has been talking about a trip to Ireland for a few years. Mom and Dad, us grown kids, plus the SOs.

I’m in research mode right now, trying to break down very large guide books into much smaller lists of things I want to see and do. So daunting at first, but once I grab onto a particular thread of interest, it all gets easier.

To the surprise of absolutely no one in my family, the first serious priority I’m researching is fiber and knitting related destinations. (Later I’ll look seriously into two other big priorities: music and picturesque ruins.)

Here’s my list so far:

  1. Galway School of Knitting: I hear they have classes. They don’t seem to have a website however.
  2. Aran Islands (of cabled sweater fame).
  3. The Sheep and Wool Heritage Centre – Leenane, Connemara
  4. National Museum of Country Life – County Mayo
  5. Foxford Woolen Mills – Country Mayo
  6. Studio Donegal –  Kilcar, County Donegal

Where should we visit? I know there must be scads of wonderful, wooly places to visit. I doubt we’ll get to visit them all, but I’d like to know which you think are the best.

Destashing is Good for the Soul

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I have a tendency to horde yarn. When I buy yarn, I invest it with possibilities: a story of what it will be someday. It’s hard to give up those stories.

So I tell myself a new story. The story of a woman discovered smothered in her guest room by her own stash. And all that yarn, once full of possibilities, is now full full of vomit and maggots. Useful to no one. Except, possibly, the maggots.

For the first time in my knitting life, I am doing a destash. I have carefully reviewed every hank and skein. Anything that doesn’t give me a spark of joy (followed by a blast of pattern ideas) I am going to jettison. This is yarn that, hopefully, will find purpose in someone else’s stash and someone else’s yarn stories.

Have a good life, my little woolies (and non-wooly brethren).

The Destash – Seriously good prices, folks, with shipping included (US only)

Take a gander. There are some nice yarns here looking for loving homes. Here is just  the top of the destash page. Trust me, there’s more.

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Lots and lots of spinning and knitting, plus wine

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I’m surprised how much spinning and knitting I managed to accomplish on my trip to California. In between hiking, wine tasting, sight-seeing, eating, and more wine tasting I managed to squeeze in plenty of quality fiber time.

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I nearly completed this mitten. I’m testing out some ideas for a mitten design.Have discovered I am going to have to tweak the flower motif at the top in order to get it to look right.

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A goodly portion of spinning accomplished on my trusty Akerworks spindle. Nearly ran out of fiber. Never thought I would make it through a whole ounce on this trip. I was almost wrong.

I completely neglected to take photos of myself spinning and knitting. My time was too taken up photographing all the fun places we visited and the merry times we spent together.

Can’t really blame me. We had a glorious time and tried some amazing wines.

For those who are interested, we visited the following wineries/tasting rooms: Benziger (Partners Tour totally worth it), Gundlach Bundschu, Frog’s Leap, Jessup Cellars, MacPhail, Lynmar Estate, Imagery, Regusci, and Darioush. There was no particular method to our selections. We picked places we had heard were good, places recommended by acquaintances, and places recommended by guide books and podcasts.

I would dearly love to go back and do it all again. Just give me a few months to finish up all this wine I bought. The UPS man asked me, after delivering the fourth box, “Is it all booze?”

Few Things are More Annoying Than Trying to Cast On While Flying Coach

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In just over a week, my mother, my sister and I will be traveling to California together for our first-ever Girls Trip. We have an itinerary all mapped that will take us to various hot spots in Sonoma and Napa where we plan to try lots of wine, squeeze in some hiking, and enjoy the mild spring weather.

Predictably, we’re also planning to hit one or two yarn stores. Yarns on First in Napa is officially on our itinerary. And I’m hoping we will “stumble upon” at least one other. I want to bring home some souvenir yarn to remind me of the trip. My sister doesn’t knit, but perhaps we can distract her with some chocolate. 

I’m trying to decide what types of fiber projects to bring along.

  • My tiny little Akerworks spindle served me well on my last big trip, so I’ll definitely plan to pack that with some fiber for spinning. This spindle is the best possible travel spindle, in my opinion. Small, light-weight, collapsible, and completely indestructible (unless you were to run it over with a car).
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Spinning while leaning against a megalith near Carnac.

  • Perhaps I’ll also pack a simple pair of colorwork mittens to knit. Or a hat. Hmmm…whatever it is, I’d  better cast it on soon. Few things are more annoying than trying to cast on while flying coach.

I don’t want to get carried away. I must remind myself that I won’t have that much time for spinning and knitting. In an ideal world, I’ll be far too busy site-seeing and sipping pinot noir to have much time for my fiber.  I tell myself this so that I can talk myself out of packing a sweater project.

 

 

Bending Reality With My Yarn

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People knit for a lot of reasons. For creative expression. To make something useful or beautiful. And sometimes, to exert control over their life and environment.

I bend reality with my yarn.

I make time flow more swiftly.

I change wasted time into productive time.

While I hold my needles, I transform a hospital room into a sanctuary, not a beeping hell dimension.

I’ve never been so grateful to have an intricate lace project on the needles as I was two weeks ago.

I  understand now why so many lapsed knitters find themselves taking it up again when they are in the hospital . Sure, it helps beat the boredom, but it’s more than that. Knitting transforms a knitter’s experience of “place.” It changes your sense of locus of control from external to internal. One minute, you feel out-of-place, unmoored,  and anxious. Then you pick up your needles and, in just a few minutes, the rhythm and familiarity have calmed and soothed you. You have control again. Just a small bubble of control, but it’s yours.

Knitting doesn’t really change reality, it changes me.

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Not a Knitting Mozart

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At a recent knit night my friends and I were swapping knit-gossip about our favorite designers, including one designer who (according to hearsay) had been both knitting and designing for five years.

Now, I assume this designer spent at least a few minutes picking up the basics before launching her wildly successful pattern business. But still…

How do you jump from learning how to knit and follow other people’s visions to the level of understanding that allows you to realize your own visions? Not everyone is a knitting-Mozart, learning to knit and purl one day; the next, channeling the voice of God into their cables.

They say it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world class in any field. I’m not convinced one has to be world class in order to be good enough to be a designer. Still, it seems as if some level of mastery must be attained before you can properly understand what you’re doing…before you can extrapolate from what what you know and have experienced, to something you’ve never even seen.

When are your visions just “twiddling” or adding mods? And when are they something more? At what point does it become clear that your own vision and creativity are the driving force behind what you are creating? When are you no longer aping other fiber artists, but truly doing your own thing?

And at what point do you decide that your fibery, artistic vision is worthy to be formally documented and shared with others? There are very few gate keepers when it comes to knitting patterns these days. It only takes a few clicks of a mouse to publish a pattern on Ravelry. You don’t need to prove your pattern is original, well-written or even tested before releasing it into the wild. If you release it for free then people won’t even hold you accountable for its quality.

I don’t believe in publishing junk. So that option’s out.

Publishing a pattern requires a lot of self-confidence. If you’re not a knitting Mozart with celestial voices to guide you, it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there.  I’d like to do it someday, but I think I’ll be content to be a hardworking knitting Wagner. Wagner famously spent 26 years writing The Ring of the Nibelung. I hope it doesn’t take me that long.

 

 

 

 

Knitting Design Software

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Ok folks, I’m dipping my toes ever so slightly into knitwear design. Just for fun, at this point. I’ve created simple designs for myself before, but nothing complicated or, really, written down.

I’ve just completed a rough draft of instructions and a chart for a pair of colorwork mittens. For the charts, I used the spreadsheet software that comes with Libreoffice (a free MS Excel clone for Mac).

Having done this, I’m left with the earnest desire to see if there’s a better solution out there.

What do you like to use? Have you found knitting design software that has truly made your life easier? Do you have different software you use for different purposes?