The Marathon of Mindful Knitting

This week continues a marathon of mindful knitting.

One of the things that I do for a couple of different yarn companies and designers is test-knit. I’ve done it for years, and it’s one of the ways that I get yarn for my designs.

However, I don’t talk a lot about test-knitting because part of the process is protecting the “reveal” for the designer and company. Usually, I knit them mainly at home out of sight of prying eyes. For sure, you’ll never see a picture of a piece I’ve test-knitted on this website or anywhere in any of my social media feeds. I feel the sacred trust placed in me to protect their secrecy and give them accurate notes and feedback on the pattern. Therefore, since I can’t share pictures of the test-knit, I’ll be substituting pictures of my pets any time I feel a picture was warranted.

Asiago - the most interesting cat in the world
Imagine the beautiful knitting

All that being said, my latest test-knit is turning into a marathon.

A few years ago, I knitted the Doctor Who scarf – a seven foot long series of garter-stitch stripes. I knitted and knitted and knitted my way across the country on a road trip and finished it up soon after I returned. Since I could knit it without looking, the drive made the knitting go quickly. That project was even where I came up with the bright idea of weaving in two ends for every row I knitted. The Doctor Who scarf is a marathon of knitting.

Doctor Who Scarf
The Infamous Doctor Who Scarf

Or so I thought.

My latest test-knit is a true marathon. You see, as I knit this piece, I have to watch my stitches. I do get a little break on my purl-back rows. However, the pattern rows don’t give me any room. For some reason, my fingers can’t find the rhythm within the simple mesh pattern to allow me to look away for even a moment. Each stitch must be knitted mindfully.

I’m trying to be at peace with the process.

And each mindful stitch takes time.

I am a little over half-way, and I estimate that I am going to need to knit for at least six hours a day for the next six days to finish the piece by the deadline.

Cappy Napping
He looks so peaceful – like me when I’m knitting mindfully in the right way.

I’m knitting this piece all over the place: the shop, both knitting circles, dinner parties. Stephanie stopped me from knitting it at a poetry reading on Friday evening, and I am sorely regretting that decision now.

During the rest of the week, I will be knitting and knitting and knitting on this piece. I’ll be sitting with each stitch as I pull the yarn through each loop. I am being “in the moment.” I watch the piece, enjoying the feel of the yummy yarn, slipping and wrapping and looping and pulling.

At this point, I am just hoping the pace car doesn’t have to pick me up.

Mont St. Michel Socks

Mont St. Michel Socks

Today, the Deep Fall issue of Knitty launched with a very special inclusion: my own Mont St. Michel sock design!

Squeeeee!!!  I’m so excited.  I’ve been keeping this one so hidden and now I can’t wait for everyone to go look!

This design was inspired by the Harbor mini-skein set from Never Enough Thyme Yarns and my visit to Mont St. Michel back in 1999. When I approached Katie from Never Enough Thyme Yarns about creating a pattern, I had a pair of mismatched socks in mind.  However, as I contemplated the yarn, the sight of the night sky meeting the ocean and the ripples of drying sand on the parking area near Mont St. Michel kept reappearing in my mind’s eye. I couldn’t avoid it and finally gave in.

Happily enough (even though my favorite will continue to be the Harbor), I think that playing with other colorways from these lovely ladies will bring whimsy and joy to your knitting as you create this pair of soft and snuggly socks.

If you knit these up, please let me know and post your project for everyone to see on Ravelry!

Ooooooh!!!! I can’t wait to see them!

Everyone Needs Some Fun Knitting

Over the past three months, I held a Summer of Socks Knit-Along for Sew Steamboat. Not many people joined me (it was more of a “Knit Alone”) but I did fulfill my mission of getting three pairs of socks on my needles.

You see, I need some more socks.

Several of my handmade pairs developed holes over last year and I haven’t kept up with demand. Every time I thought about creating a new pair, or even when I actually cast one on, I couldn’t seem to finish them because I always had something else to knit.

I did finish one pair – the Monkey socks knit out of Malabrigo Sock in the colorway Archangel. Aren’t they lovely?

Monkey Socks
My finished Monkey Socks, June 2016

I only have one sock of each of the others: the Jaywalkers knit in Forever and the Time Travelers knit in Spud and Chloe Stripey Sock.

Jaywalker & Time Traveler
One sock of each pair. Not bad?

Time to finish up the final ones!

I’ve cast on the second Jaywalker, but the Time Traveler remains in a ball.

Potential Socks
Time to mine the potential!

As always, I have test-knitting projects and design projects to distract me, but this is now my fun knitting (because who doesn’t need a break from the work, work, work knitting?).

While I have other things that take me away from knitting (like reading and walking with the dogs – all knitting and nothing else makes LA a dull girl!), having a knitting project that has nothing to do with anything else work related keeps me sane. I work on these projects on Sunday mornings and take them with me on hikes and picnics. These are the projects which remind me why I took up knitting in the first place – the joy of finding a great pattern and the perfect yarn to go with it, following the directions and making my own choices along the way, watching the beauty unfold from my needles.

This week, as I push hard to finish up a test-knit which is acting as if it enjoys making me scream in frustration, I am making sure to take the time occasionally to pick up my little Jaywalker sock and knit a couple of rows every once in a while. It’s my reward for being a good girl and getting my real knitting work done!

And now my current break is over.

Going to the Water…In the Mountains

Last week, I went to Yellowstone National Park for the first time. We’ve lived in this region for nineteen years and I’ve wanted to do this trip for the whole time, but it took the thought of moving for us to actually get in the car and make the drive.

Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River

For two days, we explored the park. I wanted to see everything! Magnificent mountains, glorious wildlife, the caldera of the supervolcano! However, I was most surprised by the amount of water there. Huge amounts of water!

When I thought of Yellowstone, of course I thought of Old Faithful, but mostly I thought of amazing wildlife and the supervolcano. Even though I live in the middle of the Rockies with rivers and creeks and lakes, I hadn’t associated Yellowstone with water.

Doh!

As we crested the pass on our way into the park, Lake Yellowstone came into view. The vast expanse of water stunned me. Continuing on our journey, waterfalls, rivers, mudpots, hot springs, and geysers dominated the landscape.

Lake Yellowstone
Lake Yellowstone

Just before our visit, I read a Facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert which talked about going to the water for healing (She wrote my current favorite nonfiction book, Big Magic). She ended the piece by saying “Just rest, and go to the water. It’s all gonna be alright. That’s what the water always tells me, anyhow. And I believe in the water.”

Suddenly, the surprise of Yellowstone’s gurgling mudpots and bubbling springs and ruffled rivers and amazingly giant lake came into focus. I knew that I was planning on starting this business back up upon my return, but I didn’t realize how intrinsic this trip was to my final healing process.

Two years ago (after working for myself for over a decade), I had lost all confidence in myself and my abilities. I felt like nothing I did made any difference and that my decisions were all wrong. If I picked left, I should have gone right. If I looked up, the interesting thing I should be looking for was on the ground.

Thus, I decided to take a job where someone else would tell me what to do and I would just do it. I wanted to be a minion.

I picked something that looked simple and mindless: gallery receptionist for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. I would be around art all day and chat with people as they walked through.

Upon applying for the job, I discovered that it was more than being a receptionist, but rather an administrative assistant with some bookkeeping. Still, other people would be making the decisions for me. They gave me the job and I embraced my new “minion” status.

Over the next two years, the Steamboat Springs Arts Council – from the president of the board to the people who just wandered into the gallery one day – took me in and encouraged me. They praised my actions, expressed their appreciation of my abilities, and embraced my decisions. They gave me a promotion and a lovely title (Art Ninja! or Finance & Administration) and their trust. I can’t count the number of times someone walked up the stairs to my little office (I left the gallery space pretty quickly as I’m mostly an introvert) and remarked positively about a decision I made or an action I’d taken.

Their encouragement bolstered me and gave me the confidence to take this next step – leaving the safety of a “job” and moving back into the joy and independence of working for myself.

Before I could really embrace my new journey fully however, I had to finish my healing. Thus, it was time to “go to the water.” I just never expected the water to be nestled in an ancient caldera in the middle of the Rockies.

Upper Falls Grand Canyon Yellowstone
The Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

As we picnicked by rivers and gazed wonderingly at waterfalls, my pain and fear and uncertainty melted and flowed away.

Artist Paintpots
Artist Paintpots

The mudpots bubbled and plopped, mirroring my well of creativity which will not be denied (no matter how hard I try). Old Faithful, that magnificent geyser, zipped into the air in a rush of heat and water and steam to end our outdoor adventure, comforting me with the idea that, even if I don’t have the talent and the creativity, consistency will always be appreciated.

And the lake. Lake Yellowstone. An expanse of water with springs underneath causing waves to brush up against the dark gray beaches. Sitting on a bench knitting, I watched people take pictures of each other with that beautiful backdrop while I allowed the silvery surface to seep into my soul and heal all those final little cracks.

Lake Yellowstone
Lake Yellowstone from the hotel

Water accompanied me through the entire trip back as lakes provided the foreground to my pictures of the Grand Teton mountain range and storms poured rain across the plain. Our Yampa River accompanied us as we drove back into town and led us back up to our little house.

I went to the water, and now my spirit is healed. I feel ready to explore my creativity and follow my inspiration and develop my business and embrace my customers and students and patrons of all sorts. I can finally go back out into the world and be a real person and hang out with friends.

Sigh. It’s good to be back.

An Explanation of the Knitter’s Almanac Project and Cry of Despair over the September Project

I just finished the initial reading of the September chapter of the Knitter’s Almanac – Nether Garments.

What the what?

Nether Garments are not a priority for me. Knitted tights. Well, I can see how they could be useful, and it’s good for me to stretch my mind and think of designing tights, but….

Yargh. Knitted tights. Perhaps knitted yoga pants? Maybe that would be better? Or maybe knitted tights just as a thing to wear under jeans or a skirt in the wintertime. Here I could totally use knitted tights to keep my legs warm on those frigid winter mornings when the thermometer refuses to ascend above zero, but going to Asheville, I just don’t know.

Stephanie just looked at the book and said, “just make a teddy” like that is the perfect substitute for leggings. “You could make it out of silk.” Well, yes, I could. I could totally do that. However, the project for the month is leggings. That’s not a teddy.

Apparently, I haven’t explained the project well enough.

Since everything from before is gone, gone, gone (little sob and then setting back the shoulders and going forward), let me explain about my Knitter’s Almanac project.

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's AlmanacBack around this time last year, I started looking through my bookshelf and came across my unopened copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac. As I thought to myself (one more time), “I should really go through and knit my way through the book,” I realized that, by making it into a project for the blog, I could do just that.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of my plan, I’ll explain a little bit about Elizabeth Zimmermann for those of you who are unfamiliar. Elizabeth Zimmermann is a knitter, one who came onto the scene in the 50’s and helped American women embrace knitting with her friendly and accessible manner.

Elizabeth Zimmermann is to knitters as:

A. John Elway is to Broncos fans

B. Julia Child is to chefs

C. Laurence Olivier is to actors

D. All of the above

The answer is D, of course. Elizabeth Zimmermann’s influence scatters itself through book after book in the knitting world. Her books and videos are still consumed years after her death, and Meg Swansen, her daughter who picked up her knitting torch, is revered as a direct descendant of her gentle genius and business. Meg Swansen continues to write and disperse valuable knitting information and run Schoolhouse Press, the knitting and yarn company they formed together.

In 1974, Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote the Knitter’s Almanac, a book with knitting projects for each month of the year. Meant to inspire and challenge knitters, this book gives them new skills while providing them with new projects. I have only ever read one other of her books, Knitting Without Tears, and found it engaging and full of great information. When I read her words, I feel like anything she described could be accomplished easily.

Thus, I decided that my own project could be accomplished easily.

Hahahahaha!

The best way to go about the whole thing seemed to be to start with January and just work my way through the book as it comes. I continue to gather my texts as necessary for research. I continue to start each month by reading each chapter through and making notes on her projects and the techniques she teaches.

Then, I come up with a design which incorporates the techniques I learned and uses the project (or one of them) to inspire me.

Steph is back now asking for a knitted teddy.

I threw her out of the room.

She misses me today. It’s nice.

Back to the project….

At the beginning of the year, I planned to create a series of classes which focused on the different techniques that people could learn from the Knitter’s Almanac. However, the whole thing dissolved as I realized that I really couldn’t do that until next year when I had the skills completely under my belt. Plus, I need the whole year to develop each pattern and get them knitted since, along with this knitting and designing, I have actual designs and knitting projects which need to get launched as I move through this year.

So, all along the way, I’ve journaled and notated my progress sporadically on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve created patterns (or at least sketched a design with absolute measures and plans in place to complete them). I also write for a local independent paper called the Valley Voice where I’ve written an essay each month describing my progress.

At this point, I’ve decided that a knitter’s year is actually at least two years. The plan now has become that, at the end of 2016, I will have a basic outline of my journey. Through 2017, I will complete the book and the patterns which go along with it. Then, at the beginning of 2018, the book will be launched – someway, somehow!

Thus, I am forced to consider leggings or tights or pants and figure out a good design based on the ideas of the leggings from the September chapter of the Knitter’s Almanac.

Wish me luck.

Beginning Again

Today, I relaunch my blog after a two year absence.LA Bourgeois

Back in August 2014, Housewyfe.com went down due to hacking (bleah on hackers!).

All in all, that’s not so bad. I mean, really, that sort of thing happens every day. People pick themselves up, fix their security, and move on.

However, at the same time my day job picked up its pace and began to take over my time and efforts in a very real way. As I worked harder and harder on someone else’s vision, I found myself more and more unsettled and unhappy with that choice.

At the beginning of August this year, I left that job for several reasons including the fact that we’ll be moving across the country as soon as we sell our house here in Steamboat Springs. The most important reason, though, is the renewal of my dedication to my knitting design and writing.

Today, I am not only relaunching my blog; I am relaunching my business. I am running off the cliff with the hang glider of all of my knitting knowledge, business knowledge, and all of the tools both of those backgrounds bring with them.

My mission is to delight, inspire, and enable people to create beauty joyfully. I hope to do this for you as a knitter, as a reader, as a student, as a designer, and as an independent yarn company and/or local yarn store.

Beginning today, I’ll be sharing my knitting tips, tutorials, thoughts, process, and designs (as well as some special Housewyfe tips, tricks, and recipes) on this blog!

Watch this site over the next few weeks as I update all the pages to better show off my knitting designs and also more fully describe my available services as a knitting designer, writer, tech editor, teacher, and presenter.

I look forward to the love and the passion and the beauty and the delight of working this business.

I look forward to connecting with knitters and readers and other knitting designers, yarn makers, local yarn stores, and writers.

Mostly, I look forward to picking up where I left off – growing and learning and entertaining and connecting with everyone!

I’ve missed you! So glad to be back!