Still Life from Quimper

Still Life from Quimper
A shot of an almost-completed still life needlepoint

Welcome to my Blog

So very happy you came to visit. Now, pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and read on about adventures in needlework.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Preparing for The Mountain

So here it is, time to prepare for my annual visit with the Atlanta Knitting Guild to The Mountain Retreat center. It really, really is a gorgeous place, and if you look closely at the mountain on the right-hand side of the website's picture, you'll see the Lodge nestled among all the trees. That's where we sit and knit for a weekend. And the mountain from where this photo is taken is a nice hike from the retreat center. Up and down and through streams, but good exercise. Unless it's snowy and cold, and then we all sit and knit instead.

Let me explain something about The Mountain. When I first joined the Atlanta Knitting Guild way, way back in 1999, I was quite intimidated by the amount of knitting going on (remember, I had just bought a needlework shop and knew only the fundamentals of knitting!), and as I continued going to meetings and learning what yarns, techniques, and projects were out there, I also kept hearing the attendees saying, "I started this project at THE MOUNTAIN and . . . " and then they would stand up and show the most gorgeous sweaters, coats, shawls, and the like, that I had ever seen. Of course, I kept wondering, "What IS this Mountain thing, of which these members speak??" So I put on my adventurer's hat and went looking.

The Mountain is a beautiful, still, often snow-covered place in the Blue Ridge mountains of southern North Carolina. Near the part that touches Georgia, which means you drive for about 3 hours and then get to PLAY on twisty windy mountain roads (which is why I drive a Neon. It takes those curves at its top abilities, but it purrrs when it senses those turns!) before coming to a Place. This Place is now a preserved area (there's a particular name for this and I just can't remember it right now!), meaning it will remain wilderness and preserved until infinity.

The AKG began going to the Mountain during President's Day weekend oh, about 20 years or so ago, and it has become a tradition in my life to join in starting in 2001. In years past, it was a quiet place to get away from my shop for a brief time without my shopowner's hat, with the company of others, and Nature Herself in all of Her Winter Divinity. Now I just enjoy being one of the regulars who comes and brings projects and talks with others and watches The Mountain do its calm, quiet magic on their souls. As an old teacher of mine said, "Do everything by doing nothing at all."

Which means that I have 3 days (or so) of knitting - getting up on Friday, knitting all day Saturday and Sunday, then preparing to leave on Monday with a nice, slow, leisurely drive (after the twisty windy mountain roads!) through some small towns in North Georgia. I had the chance to visit some antique shops last year - Webmaster Bill received some antique hand planes, and I'm on the lookout for some replacement English Village soup bowls, but not too much! Also a visit to a music store, but alas, no supplies for my hammered dulcimer.

And in the past I've always had a project or 6 that were in transition or where I was stuck or that were just so big that I needed the inspiration from other knitters to continue. Webmaster Bill's white Irish Wool sweater from Blackwater Abbey Yarns was begun there (and NOT knit in the round - casting on 400 + stitches and having them twist was NOT what I needed to convince me to knit in the round at all costs!), his first cable-knit sweater was begun and finished there (including the mistake cover up on the yoke - a crocheted chain stitch looks a whole lot like a knit stitch from the front!), and my dear G's wedding shawl made with fine Wensleydale Longwool (this shade card, though outdated, shows Storm much better than any other site); in short, it was a place to begin or continue a thoroughly ambitious project with others who could attest to that project's ambition. Or my foolishness, I'm not sure which!

This year I don't feel too overwhelmed by any one project, so I've been gathering together some projects and some that need swatching, and making sure that I have needles, instructions, and gauge swatches all in the same place. My one ambitious project is the Russian lace shawl that I bought waaaay back in 2004 at the first Stitches South/TKGA knitting weekend, with my dear G by my side, and I began it in 2009. It is made of deep purple yarns in very, very tiny lace weight, and while I was taking pictures, Cerridwen decided she just haaad to help out:

Oh look, pretty, pretty, pretty yarn!

She says, hopefully! The technique is the other thing I love about this yarn (the first being the color). It involves an oft-repeated lace pattern (thank goodness I know now about lifelines!) to create the edges, with the jagged edges using a Russian bind-off to give a smooth edge. The straight edge becomes the inner row where a second color is added, and then the entire body is (I think) added from the edges to the center. The colors are below:

Starting with the bluish purple for the edges, then picking
up with the purple purple, and finally the body in the
reddish purple. Mmmmmmm.

I know I have enough yarn; I just hope I'm using the correct colors for the correct section! It will be a bear to rip out. Wool and silk is sooo soft to knit and wear, too. Will have to have a special outfit when this shawl is finally done. And really, I haven't knit much more than when I put it away a year ago after being at the Mountain. I'll need to take some time this weekend to pick it up and become familiar with the pattern again. Strangely enough, I like working on this shawl in the late afternoons and evenings. The concentration I have to go through keeps my mind sharp.

I also have a requisite sock started, and my Rayon yarn by Blue Heron that I discovered I had knit too big. So I had to rip it out and start over. Eeeew. And also the center-pull balls had collapsed in the middle (well, the one I had started from) and I had a great big knotty mess that the ladies at my Tuesday evening knitting group helped me untangle. With the help of some Blue Moon, of course! I've begun knitting this sweater again, at a much smaller size (my gauge was going to make it become a sack, not a svelte sweater), but here is the pattern that really brings out the yarn's color and texture:

Pretty, sparkly, but oooh so easily tangled!

I don't know if you can see it, but there are diagonal little lace openings all along it. Anyway, the only rows that have a lace pattern are R3 and R9, so it's a lot of knitting with only 2 rows in a 12 row repeat of having to stop and think. Until you get into the shaping, which I should have started immediately but because I was watching something interesting on TV . . . it will be at R16 instead of R5 when the waist decrease begins. I think that's what I want, too, because I much prefer long-waisted garments to crop tops. It's a boob thing.

And then there are two more projects that I will just be swatching and trying out patterns for. Three more things - I almost forgot. One is Webmaster Bill's next sweater:

Yes, yes, that IS Barbara Walker's book behind this yummy, thick, brown yarn. I have picked out a bunch of cable patterns, WB has winnowed them down a bit, and with a big swift and ball winder at The Mountain I'll be able to find the perfect pattern for this yarn. I'm looking for a big cable down the front, and once I find the best one, I'll begin to knit a Percentage Sweater, a la Elizabeth Zimmerman and Jacqueline McFee, for WB to thank him for all the times he's put up with my meltdowns over every computer thing that has gone wrong for me at home late at night when I KNOW I shouldn't be computing, but . . . ! You get the picture. And because this yarn is just too yummy, and I HAD to buy something at a shop during the Shop Hop, and and and . . .

Then there is a Cotton Fleece cardigan that I'll be swatching, also knitting as a Percentage Sweater, but flat because I'm not cutting my knitting yet! I've always envisioned Cotton Fleece by Brown Sheep as a cardigan project yarn - it's almost too heavy for Atlanta summers because of the wool mixed in with the cotton, but is perfect as the cardigan that you keep at the office when the AC is waaay too high in the summer. The colors I've chosen for this project are Deep Maroon and Candy Apple. The sweater itself will be Candy Apple, and the edges (I hope!) will be Deep Maroon. I bought this yarn when I bought the yarn for my Beach Sweater 2 years ago in Asheville at Earth Guild shop, and while my Beach Sweater was a priority, I totally fell in love with these two deep, rich, complementary colors. I think some sort of K5 P2 rib pattern will work well - this yarn will stretch and not stretch back into shape, and I don't want to wear a sack at work. A rib pattern will compensate for that stretch; I just have to find the right one, and find the right needles so that my ever-loose gauge doesn't compound the problem. My hope, too, is that I can knit the border in seed stitch for some texture, and just have a single large button at the neck. I mean, who really buttons their cardigans all the way up??

And then finally, a Fair Isle Vest pattern by Classic Elite yarns. I had bought some Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn back in 2003? 2004? at the Gainesville shop on my way with The Other Susan to The Mountain. The colors were just gorgeous, and this was one of the times that I decided I HAD to buy the yarn or I would regret it forever. Fortunately, Carrie at Sheepish had a complementary color last year along with the pattern, so I bought her out of that color and I finally have a use for this gorgeous yarn! All nice fall colors (sorry, no pictures or links - they're all wound into balls and I don't want to go looking!) with a deep, rich greyish blue to tie them all together. Again, this is a swatching project that might, just might, result in beginning said project. But we'll see.

My list is written, I have the directions to The Mountain on my Desktop ready to print, and next week I have the time off. I really hope I haven't forgotten anything (must review needles!!) before I set off. I'm really looking forward to next weekend!