July 31, 2011

Sock Summit Day Two: Marketplace, Classes and a Flash Mob

Of course you do. This is Portland.

The Marketplace

It continues.

Friendly, excited women (...and even a few guys! I saw one in a class yesterday!! Right ON, Dude!!) running madly as though it were one of those department store sale scenes in a Looney Tunes Cartoon. You know, the "50's" ones, where the women, dressed in dresses, pumps, gloves and hats, are tossing aside their dignity to be the first one to tear the pantyhose from the sale table, clawing their way in to the middle of the crowd, crazily tossing out the ones they didn't mean to grab and plowing through to find their treasures.

Ok, no one was clawing. But it is getting crowded at the tables. I had a hard time getting in to the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth to get some medium weight Socks That Rock. (I think my class was not the only one singing the praises of this lovely yarn!) http://www.bluemoonfiberarts.com/newmoon/

This was hanging on a vendor booth, but applies to all of us!
 The books are beginning to dwindle and people are buying yarn at incredible rates. I saw folks yesterday with vivid, beautiful clear plastic draw string bags--floor to elbow high--showing their lovely contents to all who passed the hurrying shoppers. People could hardly contain their excitement about the yarns, "Oh! Did you see that?" one woman said to her companion, "I have GOT to get back to that booth!"

The excitement was anticipated, too. There were huge luggage-style pieces for sale, hanging out on display on the aisle ends of some of the booths, calling to the shoppers to buy more, as if to say, "Yes, you can check me as luggage on the plane."

And why wouldn't we go crazy? The smell of the freshly dyed yarns alone is enough to intoxicate. Add the colorways in vivid, bold variegations to nearly solid colors in enticingly rich hues will bring out the inner poet in anyone. Feel any one of these with your actual fingers, and, well, you're getting out your Visa.

One booth, Indigo Dragonfly, http://indigodragonfly.wordpress.com/available-yarn/mcn-sock/, took my heart yesterday, with their beautiful sock yarn. Not only was the quality high, but the titles of the yarn made me nearly pee my pants. No, really.

How about these:

"Never Go Up Against a Sicilian When Death is on the Line!"
"Captain Tightpants"
"And Then Buffy Staked Edward. The End."

That last yarn title can actually be found on a T-shirt online at http://www.jinx.com/. I may have to buy it. They also have the yarn and crossbones skull that says, "Yarrrrrrn!"

As yesterday, I couldn't help but listen in to some of the fun conversations.

1. One woman, speaking to her companions, lowered her voice almost to a whisper and said quietly, "....well..." looking around, "...you know, Jane...she doesn't really appreciate yarn..."

2. "Ok! That was the LAST skein I'm gonna buy!"

3. "It was amazing! At that last booth, they had this thing that you put in another thing, then it becomes this other thing. Then you put that thing in this other thing and it becomes another thing!"

I have no idea what that last one was all about...but I am going back for more.

My Class with Anne Hanson

I had a wonderful all day class with Anne Hanson yesterday. She is friendly, successful, incredibly knowledgeable and willing to share all these attributes with all of us.

I can't begin to say how much I learned from her--from design principles to marketing to business strategies and how to produce a quality pattern....it blows my mind.

There was so much information and I took so many notes that I felt like I was back in college. To complete this experience, all I have to do now is head to Starbucks, don my headphones and rewrite my notes. Today, I think I will.

She was very gracious, and complimentary about everyone's work. She was genuinely curious about our projects, which I think says this about her: she's chosen the right career. Nothing is more delightful than taking a class from someone who is passionate about their work.

Here is a link to Anne's blog. The green socks in this morning's entry are included in the Sock Museum at the Summit. http://knitspot.com/

And I get to do it all again today.

After lunch, I am heading to Chrissy Gardiner's class on desgin with variegated yarn. Can't wait to soak up more great information! Maybe she'll let me take a photo with her : )

Fiber Flash Mob

Step aside, Howie Mandel! You can have your surprise wedding proposal flash mob. We have a better one. A fibrous, joyous one. In the words of Linus speaking of the Great Pumpkin believers, we are "sincere." And sincerity makes for an honest--and excited--mob.

I left class freezing cold. Those of you who have ever taken an 8-hour corporate training class know what I mean. The type of cold that slowly freezes you, overcomes your bones from inactitivity and air conditioning.

I headed outside to the north side of the building at around 4:45pm to see if there were people out there yet for the 5:15pm mob. There were huge speakers set up facing away from traffic and what looked like a stage. But what about the crowd?

Not exactly a throng. There were a couple of people who were cold, like me, sitting face up to the sun.  But mostly there were just passers by, people getting ready to hit the light rail train that runs in front of the Convention Center, and a few knitters.

Boy did they throw me off.

The trickly began shortly after I arrived. Five minutes passed. More trickling. Then a little milling.

By 5:05pm, there were people unabashedly carrying around hanks of yarn, looking for something to happen, talking about their day and sitting down here and there.

Within the last ten minutes, there were so many people that you could hardly find a place to stand. People were excitedly talking and strangers to the Sock Summit were appearing, puzzled.

I was standing off to one side when a young woman and man approached from my left, "We heard something about a flash mob, " they said, pulling out a camera.

I explained a little bit to them about what was happening. They laughed. They thought it was awesome.

Then the two people from the instructional video appeared. One with a headset. They stood between the speakers, waiting for the music to start. I looked around. The very young and the very old stood side by side. This is what it's all about, I thought.

Then a young woman caught my attention. She was near me and I could hear her saying, "anyone not doing the flash mob have a skein of yarn I can borrow?" She was hurried as it was about to start. I had a skein of Blue Moon in my bag. I had purchased it for a design idea for a Harry Potter sock.

I called out, "I have one!" I planned on taking pictures instead of dancing. She came up to me and I handed her the yarn. She said, "Oh! But you're giving me 'Socks That Rock!' " We laughed at the idea that she might run off with it.

You're never to young for a fiber flash mob.
 Then I saw her name badge: Mary Potter. 

No way. It's a sign. I must complete this design idea.

Mary Potter moved to her place, and I took mine.

The huge speakers began to play "I Had the Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing and everyone screamed and cheered. Then the dancing started.

Earlier on, I heard a lot of people worried about their ability to do the choreography. But when it began, it was as though they had been practicing together for days.

Smoothly, joyfully, everyone turned, waved and moved in time. The crowd went wild. By the end, everyone was cheering and having a great time. At the end, everyone threw their yarn into the air, like so many high school grads tossing their hats into the air.

What a day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOUL_S6tVr8

You can see my idea for a knitting flash mob in my wishful thinking Portlandia script blog entries. Scroll down this page and check out "Popular Posts." There is a part II, not listed there, but can be found under "older blog entries."

We all had the same idea, apparently. And what an idea it turned out to be.

July 29, 2011

Yes, Virginia, Sock Summit is Real

I've been there and back: Day Two

Ok, so it's not day two for me--I've only been there today so far--but it IS day two for the event.

I dared to take crazy baby Amy Rose to the Convention Center this morning. I plopped her securely into her little red stroller in the underground parking garage, where her screams echoed nicely against the wide cement walls. I am certain that even people outside on the sidewalk paused for a moment, deciding whether or not they should dial 9-1-1.

In the end, Amy  succumbed and we headed into the building through the elevators. People attending the event were very nice today. In fact, you could watch all of us eyeballing each other in anticipation as we wandered in, everyone wondering which among the strangers were heading to the Summit. People would make eye contact, smile and shyly make a yarn joke. When the other suspected attendees laughed, the ice was broken and there was joy abounding as conversations erupted.

To be honest, it was pretty easy to separate the computer convention people from the Summit people. The computer folks definitely had their game faces on and seemed a little--well, I hate to say it, but....uptight.

The yarn girls were easy, friendly and gave body language that said, "I am so excited to be here, I can hardly stand it."  Also, they were mostly wearing lovely, amazing shawls, shawlettes, headbands, socks and other fabulous hand crafted knitwear. I will admit: this really gives it away.

Such set the tone of the day.

There were not too many people when I arrived. It was morning, and getting around was easy. The shopping was fantastic, the staff running the event was incredibly excited and helpful and there was fun free stuff to be had! Everything seemed to be going smoothly.

I got my pre-purchased knitting bag from the swag booth, some free emergency sock yarn and a sweater saving kit from Blue Moon Fiber Arts and put my name on a few email lists including Knit Purl here in Portland.

I learned that Blue Moon Fiber Arts and Knit Purl--among other companies, I have no doubt--have socks-of-the-month clubs. For around $200 for the year 2012, you can sign up to have new patterns and just-coming-out yarns sent to your home. Pretty cool! The folks at Knit Purl say they are very excited about next year as the theme will be "Masterpieces," as in fine art masterpieces.

I wandered up and down every aisle, checking out the sock museum where there are some wonderful examples of vintage patterns ranging from hundreds of years old, to new things today.

The socks at left caught my eye because my 22 year old daughter, Jolene, and I were just recently laughing about a T-shirt we found online sporting a skull made of yarn and stuck through with needles, skull and crossbone style that said, "Yarrrrrrn!!"

There are much finer historical examples than this, and I will try to get more pics tomorrow and Sunday of those.

Amy on how to shop:
"Cheese! Mommy, I want to give it to the lady!!!"
After the sock museum, Amy Rose and I headed out for more shopping. Amy kept yelling, "One, two, THREE!!!" and throwing her legs wide and into the air, trying to get me to tip the stroller back to which she would squeal, "Wheeeee!!!!" It was charming to people for a while, and some laughed or made fun comments about it, but I have a feeling that, as things became more crowded and Amy's leg tossing began hitting people, it was not quite as cute.

I decided I had better make any desired purchases today, during the week while the selection remained good and no one was throwing me out because my toddler was bruising people's shins. Besides, you never know about weekends at an event like this and I saw Shannon Okey's tweets about selling so much of her stuff already. I decided to act!

The lovely yarn at Hazel Knits
I purchased Ann Budd's Sock Knitting Master Class book and three beautiful skeins of superwash merino with nylon in amazing hand dyed color from Seattle Washington's "Hazel Knits."  I kept it low key, but I could have spent oh, so much more money! I would have needed a wheel barrow to carry out all the tantalizing things for sale that were calling my name.

The same yarn from the perspective of a
stroller--this is the same perspective that
gives toddlers an interesting view of people's

This leads me to my favorite moments in people watching.

Whenever I am at an event, be it the Clark County Fair, the mall or even just the grocery store, I can't help myself. I just have to watch behaviors and to eavesdrop. And I am never dissapointed with the things I notice or hear.

My faves:

1. A husband says to his wife in passing, "How are you going to get all this yarn you're buying into the suitcase?" She snorted, glared at him and walked stiffly ahead.

2. Two well dressed ladies ahead of me in the hallway entered the Marketplace first. They both stopped short. They looked around, taking it all in for a moment, then one said breathlessly, helplessly to the other, "Ohhhhhh...I can tell I am going to have to watch my spending today!"

3. A woman wandering the aisles, "Boy, am I glad most of these booths don't take credit cards!"

4. My favorite of the day was from myself. I have seen Stephanie Pearl-McPhee many times in photos, have read and loved much of her humorous and helpful writing. However...

I walked up to the information desk this morning and saw a woman standing alone behind the left side of the desk. I walked straight up to her, asked her for directions, said, "Thank you," as she was very helpful, then walked away. Then I slowly thought that this woman really seemed to know the map of the place as she gave me the exact number of the booth I was looking for. Then I further realized that it was her--Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

This would be similar to taking  a White House tour, running into a tall African-American man, and asking where the bathroom is.

If I see her again, I will be sure to thank her for this huge undertaking--humbly.

By the way, she is quite attractive and I think her photos never do her justice.

Well, what do we live for but to laugh at our neigbors and let them laugh at us in their turn? Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice.

I have no doubt tomorrow will hold more adventure and I plan on sharing it will all of you.

Till then, get your cozy on, no matter what the temperature!

Here are a few fun pictures from outside the Convention Center.

July 27, 2011

Finals Week

It feels like Finals Week to me. All the preparation, dreaming, planning and waiting that had led up to this Sock Summit weekend feels like it is coming down to a few final moments of intense anticipation, at once speeding toward me and at the same time, threatening to pass too soon.

Like Christmas Day for sock knitting fanatics.

I have only been a sock knitter since last January and, having taken to it with a mad and passionate fervor, I can't even express how much I am looking forward to this weekend. For me, it feels like some sort of culmination of everything I have learned and everything I hope to achieve in the future--a potential pivotal point during which I may learn things that will help decide how to move forward, and all in a place where important information is delivered by great minds in concentrated form just every other year in a powerful blast.

How awesome is that?

To prepare for this moment, I have been working very hard, mentally and physically. Not exactly like getting ready for a sports event (which I would never do, having failed the President's Physical Fitness Test every single year in my youth....if I never hear the phrase "bent arm hang" again it will be too soon...)  but more like studying  for finals.

I have considered my learning style and my current skills (which are not really much) and laid out my plan of attack from there.

I have read sock books containing design elements like those from the amazing Cookie A., not to mention what feels like a thousand stitchionaries by greats like Barbara Walker and the awesome group at Vogue.

I've been to the library, Barnes & Noble, and online frequently checking Amazon's used book prices (I got Jonelle Raffino's Socks A La Carte for $2!) in order to amass information to help me learn.

Knittingwise, I've tried out top-down and toe-up socks, short row, after thought and Dutch heels, heels with ornamentation and without, star toes and regular. I've made sure to memorize Kitchener stitch and whipped out the graph paper to try my hand at charting stitch patterns out of stitch dictionaries.

My husband has even gotten a pair of socks out of the deal--his first, ever!

Part of me believes I should be ashamed of this, considering I have given away so many socks as gifts to adult friends or as baby gifts, but I wasn't trying to avoid giving anyone socks, it's just the way the learning cookie crumbles.

I have learned this much in my short time as a knitter: our world is vast. When you learn on new technique or style, you realize quickly that within that avenue there are minute--and not so minute--details and thing you simply must learn in order to fully understand the bigger picture. Like sweaters: you may be able to knit the fabric, but can you seam it? block it? achieve even tension?

I have tailored my learning this way: I focus my knitting on what I think I need to learn next, not who will be the next recipient of socks. I figure that at some point, the gift part will get easier and my family will stop eyeballing me askance as if to say, "hey....how many pairs have you made for yourself??" with not so many words.

I believe this because I have met so many skilled and talented knitters who casually can whip out lovely and elaborate Christmas stockings for multiple grandchildren while simultanesously making felted clog slippers for a few other folks, all in the space of a couple of months.

While I can dream of that future--at least the faster knitting part--I still must hunker down and keep working on the basics of what I want to learn. I love math, for example, and for me, that means trying out design.

Graph paper, pencils and erasers couple with algebraic type story problems? That's for me.

It was really fun to try out the Fountains pattern, which I know is really tweaky, but will hopefully be a good learning experience for me and not too irritating for all of you.

Incidentally, I already have plans to smooth it out and add 2 more sizes.

I also worked out this piece thanks to Fleegle's blog and so many Ravelry helpers--thanks, guys!!

I am blown away by peoples' collecctive knowledge about computers and software. (note to self: obsess about that next...)I am still slow at it, but I am really hoping to have a much more polished Fountain pattern for everyone after the summit.

So, as the end of the waiting nears, we all will be finishing up our reading and our swatches and other details.

I hope you all have had a safe journey here if you had to travel and, if you are watching from afar, we are with you in spirit.

I am planning on taking lots of pics starting on Friday as I got the day off.

Anything in particular you all would like to see? Louise? I will try to take a pic of it!!

Happy Sock Knitting!


July 25, 2011

Sleeplessness and the Art of Forced Evolution

Why do we need to sleep, anyhow?

Why can't we be more like the _____________ (Insert your personally preferred highly evolved science fiction race here who have moved past needing to rest, thus becoming the most productive and technologically advanced culture in the universe)?

I recently heard someone on NPR radio talking about human evolution and floating a theory about American obesity. The theory went like this:

Millenia ago, when we were still foraging and hunting fiercely for our food--and largley living without what we needed nutritionally--our bodies adapted to the environment at that time. Today, we live a much easier lifestyle (duh) where food is readily available and we use our brains more on a day to day basis(allegedly--many serial TV watchers bring that curve down...) than our bodies. Soooo....

The NPR theorizer postulated that, temporarily, our bodies are reacting badly to this new environment instead of adapting to it, with negative things like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc., but eventually we are supposed to evolve to match the new surroundings.

It is a possibility that this man could have been really going out of his way to justify eating three meals a day at MacDonald's, but let's entertain his idea for a minute. If this could be so, that we really could become a race of people who can eat 100grams of fat and sugar per day and metabolize it just fine, then what about other issues like sleeping?

In our country, we value productivity and hard work. Yes,  we are a capitalisitc society and there are many negative factors that come with that, too, but let's focus on this in a neutral way for a minute. If speed and productivity are thought to be something akin to character virtues, and we Americans are so willing to sacrifice our sleep for them, why do we still need it?

All the time we hear about how the average person lives daily on about five hours of sleep, or something, and then we are encouraged to really try for eight hours instead.  Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about how much sleep we are missing. How about if, instead, we protest, forcing evolution to hurry up by sleeping less, not more.

I accidentally tried this last week by taking a two-year-old camping. She didn't sleep at night for 5 days. One night in particular, she finally slept at 5a.m. Does that make me and other parents of small children anti-sleep pioneers?

It might be interesting to pursue this non-sleep idea further. I heard once on public television that if you went for three days without sleep, you could start hallucinating. Cool! Then, instead of finishing three pairs of socks in that sleepless three day period, it might appear to you that you really knitted like 16. How cool would that be? And how many calories would you get to eat in order to stay up that long? It's a double whammy: helping speed up the evolution of sleeplessness AND sedentary living!

While none of this is really in the realm of possibility--or reality--it is fun to entertain the idea of needing less sleep.

Am I just trying to find a way to catch up on my swatch knitting for Sock Summit by saying that I am not going to sleep for the next two days and justify it while procrastinating right now by writing this blog post? Yes.

Yes I am.

July 23, 2011

Why Summer in the Northwest is Awesome

Roses in my own yard
Portland. The City of Roses. Among other names like Bridgetown, this name stands out for me above all. It represents our eternal "springlikeness" here west of the Cascade Mountains. We have a rainy climate, to be sure, but it's worth every drop. Here, when the sun shines, the humidity is low, the air smells clean and the flowers and trees are unbelievable against the blue skies.

For those of you who have never been here and are coming to attend Sock Summit next weekend, I just wanted to give you a tidbit of the treat you are in for.

I was downtown today doing a "photo shoot" for my husband, whose car was involved in an event at the Portland Art Museum, and I was really struck (as I so often am in summer) by the lovliness of our city and surroundings. Maybe I'm just feeling sentimental due to an "urgent" gall bladder removal I had to have last week, but I thought I'd share some photos and thoughts with you all.

Cars in the Park this weekend at the Art Museum

If you get a chance, head to the Park Blocks near the Multnomah County Library and the Portland Art Museum. There are, of course, lots of places to eat, but also huge, old trees towering over park benches, just perfect for shady knitting time. Sun more your style? Head to the Salmon Street Springs fountain on the waterfront where there are also many seats, all for knitting, of course!

There is also a GIANT rose garden in Washington Park--more seats, of course--with a fabulous view of Mt. Hood, which looks over Portland. Love gardens? There's another one: The Chinese Gardens on 3rd and Everett. And the Saturday Market will be going on all weekend during Sock Summit where there will be TONS of food and artsy fartsy stuff for sale. Henna tatoo, anyone?

We have lakes, mountains, rivers, the beach....even a shipwreck, if one is willing to drive an hour or two.

The Wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens

Wherever you go, I think you'll find a hospitable environment where people are happy to return a greeting on the street or give you directions. All pretty cozy and all of it in an atmosphere that often feels like a garden.

My fav flower bed on my side yard
I hope to meet some of you next weekend and visit. I am also willing to help anyone needing advice, if I can, too. We love our city, and I know you all will, too.

Incidentally, I drove past the Oregon Convention Center today and the Sock Summit banners are already up. Under the huge logo, they say, "Honk if you knit socks."

And the mayor, Sam Adams, declared July 25-31 Sock Knitting Week, see the Sock Summit website for that, it's pretty awesome.

Get ready for some fun!

July 9, 2011

Sock Summit Entry #2: Knitting, Gardening and Two Year Olds

"Where have you been???? Is this going to be one of those deals where I find a blog I like and then the blogger just quits?"

You may have asked yourself this question. Or not. Perhaps you are leaning more toward the "What? You haven't had an entry for a while? Huh. I didn't notice..." camp.

Either way, here I am. On with it!! We have Sock Summit to get ready for!!!

It is true that I have a very busy life, and have had my fair share of summer distractions. I have been in my garden and taking every opportunity to photograph my 2-year-old daughter in every possible outdoor, rare and sunny setting, but more true than these things is this: I have a challenge with procrastination. You know, the little voice in your head that says, it's only been a day. A week... nine years since you last attended to your responsibilities. Things will take care of themselves. Of course, if you treated your pets this way, they wouldn't last long. I have had many a dead fish in my life.

My salvation, this time, came in the form of a new, outdoor knitting area on my covered front porch. Spurred by comfort and middle age, my husband and I purchased a loveseat and rocking chair--replete with sturdy cushions for aging spines--for the new living space.

In my new, eastern-facing knitting outdoor paradise, I can enjoy many of my roses and the lovely Oregon summer breezes. It has been more alluring than any cake claiming to be "better than sex," or twentysomething vampire actor could ever aspire to be.

In short, I think I have found what heaven must be like.

And, truth be told, since then I have been knitting like a fiend. With the speed of a bride chasing her newly altered wedding dress that has been snatched right out her hands by the wind in the strip mall parking lot, blowing rapidly away from her and ever near to certain oil stain from that leaky car that just left a fresh puddle nearby.  Knitting with the motivation of a man in some weird, Creep Show scenario who, if he kept on knitting, would never ever have to ask for directions again. Like...well, you get the point. I have been productive in spite of myself.

I completed two sock patterns:

The above pattern is "Autumn in Oregon," by Chrissy Gardener (available on Ravelry in downloads). You saw this one in progress previously.

This pattern is fun to knit--and believe me, it can be hard to keep my attention. The pattern changes are delightful and the whimsical cuff is really neat-o, too. It does requre a little sewing and must be knitted separately, then attached to the top of the body of the sock before proceeding onward and downward.

But wait! The other version of this sock, "Spring in Oregon," the toe-up counterpart to the Autumn sock, is even better.

The cuff is cleverly designed to be attached at the end, after completing the rest of the sock. It is attached right away at the beginning to the body by a SSK, then knitting away from the body and back toward it, each time repeating the SSK.

Oooohs and aaaahhhs...

I love it and here it is:

And the back shot, which is very important. I will tell you why momentarily:

Notice the really cool teardrop sort of pattern up the back here?

Well, on the first set of socks, the Autumn version, I had a brain-chart-fart and did not follow the chart correctly, resulting in much fewer teardrops. (see prev post)

It worked out ok, but was annoying to me that something so simple was missed. I suppose I have made them my own!

I still plan to make a few more types of whole socks, and some separate heels I have not tried, along with my homework for the summit design class: multiple swatches of intended patterns.

I have purchased a couple more stitchinonaries and really scoured them for patterns. I marked several in each book, then realized something. The swatches cannot be knitted like a square. For accuracy, they surely must be knitted in the round.

So....I am working on that now, using Betsy McCarthy's method for this. I also realized that many stitchionaries do not provide charts, which make this task easier--e.g., the symbols tell you what to do either purl-side or knit-side. Wrong side or right side.

So, I have decided to create my own charts when necessary for ease of understanding while making said swatches so as to (hopefully) avoid any more chart-farts, or pattern faux pas, as the case may be.

I do have a little surprise for you in the way of my own attempt at a design, just for the Sock Summit. I hope to make it avaible here soon (and on Ravelry) just as soon as I get the pattern written. I know I am a novice, but this is one way I learn.

Here is a sneak peek:

"The Fountains of Portland"
Happy Knitting!!

Much more blogging to come!!