Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where in the World Have I Been?

Well, certainly not in the blogging world, that's for sure. I'll just say that I've been busy--job hunting (or what passes for it), knitting, working, hiding out here at home...and, of course, at SAFF!

And, while I was gone, Blogger has made some, er, improvements, that I wasn't expecting. The result is these big blobs of white space. Sorry--maybe I'll learn to control them over time.

So, jumping immediately to what is most interesting, what about SAFF? Debra and I drove up to Asheville on Thursday afternoon. We got off to a little later start than I had planned due to my having a phone pre-interview with a recruiter that took a little longer than I thought it would. And the job is probably not a starter, but would be one of those amazing jobs that you just have to try for, even when you know you don't have a chance!

Of course I've been reading all the blogs and the Ravelry posts about SAFF and the first thing they tell you is that it's wayyyyyy smaller than Maryland Sheep & Wool. Well, thank goodness for that...I barely survived and my checkbook is still whimpering.

So, let's begin with the hotel. Not a good story--in fact, the only real disappointment of the weekend. Let me say from the start, Hampton Inn at the Airport - NOT GOOD. Well, the hotel was okay, but there was a little problem with the reservation and the manager refused to make it right. So we will not be staying there again. No, we will not. My recommendation is that you don't either.

But by Friday morning we had (mostly) put that behind us and were only mildly resentful, and we set off for the Ag Center. Lots of cars, even at 9 am. Lots of people. Right off the bat, we ran into Katey with Ravelry buttons (yay for Ravelry and yay for Katey). We had our buttons, we were ready to go down into the fray. We decided right away that we would not buy, we would only look.

(If you don't know who that dog is -- his name is Bob -- you better go right now to and sign up. Hurry!)

Debra was happy ...

SAFF is about 50/50, maybe 60/40 knitting/spinning. So that means a lot of fiber, some of it spun and plied and some of it as roving waiting to be spun, some of it just the way it came off the sheep (including vegetable matter and, ahem, other extraneous materials), and some of it still hanging out on the animal.

And Debra is at her happiest when surrounded by fiber. Any kind of fiber. You could put her down in a field of grass and she'd figure out some way to make it into yarn. So she was in her element. (In fact, she made a basket that might have come from a field of grass, damp grass at that.)

I, on the other hand, am a woman of much more discriminating tastes... I had no intention of buying willy-nilly. I went with a plan and intended to stick with it. And here's the way it worked:

THE PLAN: Buy nothing on Friday, look only. Buy enough Brooks Farm yarn for one vest. Buy some alpaca yarn. Buy some sort of roving so I can work on my spindling. NO NEW SOCK YARN. DEFINITELY NO NEW LACE YARN. Spend only cash.

THE IMPLEMENTATION: Bought immediately, continuously, and often. Bought the Brooks Farm - Acero -- photos later this week, along with a gorgeous pattern for a diamond vest. Bought sock yarn, bought lace yarn, bought roving of every description. Spent all the cash, wrote checks, used the debit card.

THE RESULT: Not altogether spot on, as the Brits would say.

The most amazing thing was the number of people we met that we knew. Well, Debra knew approximately 63% of the attendees--they were either knitters, spinners, or knitter/spinner wannabes. But even I knew a bunch of people. And if I didn't know them when I started, I did when I left.

Here are some of the Gainesville knitters I met while resting my tired back on Friday. Debra was taking a class and I was so happy to meet some friendly folks and even happier when they told me they were from just up the road in Gainesville (Georgia, that is).

And, of course, there were those Atlanta blogger girls -- Melissa and Claudia and Janice and Jane and The Real Diana and Kim Nickels of Knitch. And the lovely Debbi Light of The Whole Nine Yarns. And Nancy T (Sassafras on etsy) and Nancy W and Jean K and ... and ... and .... well, I can't even remember who else from the AKG. Almost forgot the boys--Lou and Brett and Steve and Doug, though they disappeared so fast I almost thought they were figments of my imagination. And those sassy south-of-Atlanta girls Jody and Kathy and Maggie and their friend Grace from Michigan.

Well, there's more news but I don't have time to tell it all--the trick or treaters are coming. (Just to whet your appetite, I took a great class and we visited a wonderful Asheville LYS. And, it goes without saying, that we played with animals, or attempted to.)

And ... drum roll, please ... Lily Chin comes to Atlanta tomorrow so it's a big week. She'll speak to the guild tomorrow night, then I have two classes with her, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Then a potluck at Whit's house. And there's lots of homework before the classes. My, oh my, by Sunday I'll be a quivering mass of fiber overload.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Cheerful Giver

No matter what our spiritual background, the concept of charity is a consistent theme for most of us. We recognize that there will always be some in our world who need our help, and many of us enjoy being able to help others out in some way. In my case, I donate in my own spiritual settings and as a child I enjoyed putting my coins into the "mite" box once a year, knowing that my mite (what the heck is a mite, anyway?) would go to help someone else. (We grew up quite poor and even as a child I recognized that we were lucky compared to others. That's what growing up in a big city like DC will do for you.) And, of course, I carried those ubiquitous Unicef cartons around at Halloween time. It gives us a good feeling to be able to help our fellow humans out. Many of us extend these charitable feelings to our pets by making donations to the local shelter or to national groups.

The knitting community is an especially generous group of people. The Yarn Harlot has raised thousands of dollars for Doctors Without Borders through Knitters Without Borders. Many support the Heifer Project. And recently many people have made personal donations to help a well known knitting designer with some personal needs created by a family health crisis. Groups like the one my sister is involved with at her church in Sedona make helmet liners and prayer shawls. All worthy causes.

For myself, I have a few pet (no pun intended) groups that I consistently knit for: Children in Common and the Helmet Liner Project. The Atlanta Knitting Guild supports a number of charities and the one I'm mostly closely involved with is the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, for which I'm the liaison for donations of clothing, household goods, etc. But we also knit for preemies, make stoma covers for laryngectomy patients, dress trauma bears for children in distress, etc., and I usually try to participate in those efforts, although sporadically. (My own efforts usually involve children--I can't stand the thought of a child in need--though I love the helmet liner project because it allows me to support our soldiers in the Middle East, while not always supporting the reason they're there.)

So why, oh why, please tell me why, am I ALWAYS surprised by finding myself up against a deadline for one of these groups? Inevitably, I suddenly realize that one group or another has set a deadline or a goal or an objective and I haven't done SQUAT. This means that I move from feeling pretty good about myself to feeling like a total dweeb with no redeeming qualities at all because I'm not ready. And the deal is, you're not just sending off a check, or clicking on Paypal--you actually have to KNIT something. There's actual action required.

So here I am again, in a state of frantic charitable knitting, knitting against a deadline, pushing myself, and hating the feeling of scrambling (again) to do the right thing.

Now there are people, and I know several, who ONLY do charity knitting. They knit pet beds for shelters or preemie hats or Hansen bandages and never knit a thing for themselves or their families. More power to them, but Mother Teresa I'm not, and I can't even feel guilty about that. Knitting for charity is an important part of my life, but it's a part, not the whole. I knit a variety of things, and that's the way that goes.

Anyway, for today I'm scrambling to get a pair of mittens off to Afghans for Afghans. Now, I remember (vaguely) hearing that AFA's big Fall push had a deadline sometime soon. That deadline now seems to be, and probably always has been, this coming Friday. And I've done nothing. And they're struggling to meet their goal of 80 cartons of knitted wool garments shipped before the debilitating winter. No time to make a big contribution--just rip off those mittens and get them in the mail. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

So three questions come to mind:

(1) Does it really matter? Will my one lonely pair of green mittens (made from some wonderful mallard green Naturespun) really make a dent in those 80 cartons? Will it make any difference at all if I don't make them?

(2) Is the Karma associated with doing something good for someone else destroyed by my not-mindful-at-all-because-I'm-so-frantic-for-heaven's-sake feelings of desperation and rushing?

(3) What the heck am I doing writing a blog when I could be knitting?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Uncle! A Letter to My Friends

Dear Knitting Enabler Friends (You All Know Who You Are):

Okay, now I’m officially swamped in knitalongs. Of course, I’m already behind a week in Secret of Chrysopolis (Clue 2 out yesterday). Secret of the Stole started yesterday and I’m not ready for that. And I just joined the Muir knitalong on Yahoo (it’s also running on Ravelry), run by Romi, intrepid designer and shawl pin maker.

(For those of you who like eye candy, here's the gorgeous feather pin that Romi made for the MS3 Swan Lake stole. And, in the interests of friendship, let me just say, "I've got something you don't have, nanny nanny boo boo!")

Now, we return you to our regularly scheduled rant:

Still working on Birch, about 15% of the diamonds made for my Tess vest (and Joyce has already had to help me through a crisis), I haven’t started my other MD Sheep & Wool vest yet, and my yarn came from Knitpicks (Wool of the Andes, Thyme color - gorgeous!) yesterday for the Enchanted Forest sweater (Vogue). Haven’t started any of the Jojoland yarn I bought from Needlenook. And, believe it or not, I’m going to Needlenook today to pick up my blue Melody for the bearclaw shawl Pat did and to Only Ewe and Cotton Too for some Suri Elegance (might end up being the Muir, might not).

Whoa!!!!! I’m out of control! I’m reading “Zen and the Art of Knitting” and “Mindful Knitting” and they both talk about knitting as a calming, meditative process that helps get you centered. (I desperately need some centering right now!) How can I be centered when I’m deep under a pile of yarn that wants to be knitted?

This is why I don’t spin, Debra. First, I’d have to build another room onto the house to hold the wheel and the roving and second, I’m already not working on my resume and finding a job—what would it be like if I was just sitting blissfully spinning all day?

Basically, girls, this is really all your fault. Pat created a monster with that first lace project at the Mountain. I was fine with socks. Then Ellen and Joyce and Whit started those me on those damned multidirectional scarves. Now I’ve got to do lace, and socks, and multidirectionals. On top of all that, I haven’t knit a sweater in years because I hate big projects—why am I now trying to knit vests and sweaters?

If I ever mention that freaking tent-sized Koigu coat, please just have me committed immediately and confiscate all pointy objects.

Overwhelm-edly, Me