Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh, Portland, Oh, Oregon,oh Yarn

A front window at the Yarn Garden "sippery" href="http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/3772/620/1600/portland%20002.jpg"> Alex & Richard

My daughter goes to school in Portland, Oregon, so her dad and I went to visit her a few weekends ago. We love Portland, but, then again, we're foodies, we like good wine and we love Alex - so of course we love Portland. That said, Portland loves knitting. They must have at least 8 stores now with a new one just about to open.

While there, I had a chance to visit 3 stores. Mabel's Knittery, Yarn Garden and Knit & Purl. The first two blend food with wine and have an established coffee shop or bar area in the store. Yarn Garden (www.yarngarden.net)is gigantic and the store, which is a series of linked stores and storefronts, basically takes up a city block. The Coffee Shop (aka "The Sippery") is located in the end shop and it's large, airy and lovely. Tables(end, coffee, work,etc.) plus couches and chairs are sprinkled throughtout the room. The work table is surrounded by chairs and located toward the back of the room so that a class can be conducted while another small group sits up front (see photo up top) Sophisticated finished projects decorate the walls (including China Dreams - the Kaffe Fassett beauty) and and the front window of the coffee shop has clothes line strung across with hundreds of finished hats clothespinned on the line. The other "stores" that comprise Yarn Garden carry every national and international brand you can think of, plus local brands, as well. It's very impressive. The store at the other end of the line-up is just for patterns, books and instructions. You could get lost there for 5 days and never be hungry for food or inspiration. It's a resource dedicated just to knitting.

That said, I LOVED Mabel's for very different reasons. (www.mabelscafe.com) The atmosphere is authentic old time charming and while it's not as large as the yarn garden and it doesn't have as many yarns and accessories to offer, it's more my cup of tea - or coffee, if you will. The lighting is low, so seeing yarn in any kind of accurate light can only be done by going outside - but the spirit is good and the owner, Cait, is completely committed to her neighborhood - you can feel it. Besides, the place is named after her mom (Mabel) and I have a Mabel in my family, too. I saw things there that spoke to a certain kind of inventiveness and love of the craft that I did not see anywhere else. One is not better than the other. It depends on the knitter's frame of mind.

Knit & Purl is elegant, sophisticated and cool. (www.knit-purl.com) It's fairly new and totally lovely and warm without being "cute". There's a no-nonsense but friendly feel to the place. I thought the new owner was wonderful in her enthusiasm and she's a real knitter. All of the proprietors I met obviously loved the craft and that makes an enormous difference.

I then got the best treat (for me). I spent a morning with the neat people who own Lantern Moon. (www.lanternmoon.com) That's the company that imports all the wonderful knitting related baskets, needles and silks from Vietnam. They are doing a healthy business thanks to their commitment to the people of Vietnam, quality products and good design. I had the best time in the world. All I can say is check them out on line if you want to see their neat products. You'll probably recognize them since they are in many of the better knitting stores and there's lots of them these days - knitting stores that is.

On the needles, Catherline Lowe's wonderful short row muffler (fall 2003 - Vogue Knitting) and a new little Manos de Uruguay number in Stria. Yes, I know, I know. The Falkenberg is waiting. So am I - for the heat to break. Look up top to see the two goofies that I really went to Portland to be with. I like them a lot - even if they don't knit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Projects from the field, the subway and the lake

As promised, here are some shots of my summertime knitting. Immediately above, please see my version of Clapotis. I swore I wouldn't do this thing. I shrank from the repetitive quality of it. I said, 'Give me a break, I see them coming and going.' And I did. So much so, that I grew to really like the way it looked - no matter the material. Besides, I needed a "subway" project, and since I have a stash that threatens to move me out of house and home, I have access to a lot of raw material. So, to quote my favorite wise man, "In, I gave."

This is variation #333,333 (no doubt). Trust me, I have seen far prettier and far more luxurious, but this is my version, using some lovely discontinued yarn that bills itself as a wool boucle - and I think I'll hold on to it unless one of my daughters ask for it.

Next on the docket and above Clapotis: a little number from Scarf Style that I whipped up out of Imagine. This year's passion (for me) is all forms of red/orange/sienna/saffron. (The price goes up as the names become more sophisticated.) I highly recommend this pattern if you ever want an alternative to chinese water torture. Some of you (1 or 2) might remember this from my posting about being stuck on the side of the road. This was my companion knitting. The thing I worked on for a few hours while waiting for the tow trucks(s) to come to my rescue. It's finally done with - and none too soon. I was considering strangling myself with it due to the sheer boredom of the pattern. To jazz it up a bit, I decided to use a little black/gold material I got at fiber trends in san francisco. I am keeping this one, too. Come winter, it will look smashing wound around my neck 3 or 20 times, a la a clown's ruff. I've learned to love it much as one would a child that never moves out of the house - ever.

Above that is my second version of a simple lace scarf that I found on Knitty. I have now made it twice. This version is made with classic elite's lush - a lovely soft yarn that is half angora. It sheds almost as much as the rabbit that got rid of it to begin with. That one I think I'll give away! (I made its predecessor out of elsebeth lavold's silk and wool -and a lovely knitting time was had.)

So, enough with these scarves already. In first place, at the top, please see something "new" that I think I can really sink my needles into: Hanne Falkenberg's pattern, Mermaid. Don't look for it anytime soon. I have never done a Falkenberg before but I met a woman who has done over 20 of them and she said it was the most satisfying knitting she's ever done. We'll see - but I think it might be some time before you do. I'll keep you "posted".

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Summertime & the knitting is Easy

Summer in the City can mean a lot of things: heat, short tempers and shorter skirts, cold drinks, colder indoor temps, alternating with hot outdoor ones. It's not an easy-season for even us die-hard New York souls. Some people say that the thought of knitting makes them cringe at this time of year. When you hear that, however, you know that you're not in the presence of a hard-core knitter.

I personally like to knit during the dog days. Linen, cotton, a little silk - these are soothing alternatives to wool and heavy fibers. It's also a great time to knock off some holiday gifts. Peronally, I'm addicted to scarf knitting. So much so that I'm considering joining the scarf style knit-a-long. I have already done at least 3 or 4 scarfs from this fabulous book, and I anticipate, with delight, the delivery of wrap style http://www.interweave.com/knit/books/Wrap_Style.asp

Of course, another thing that makes this season bearable is the thought of getting away from it regularly - especially now. WE're lucky enough to do this regularly. Kayaking has become my new passion and knitting and kayaking is about as good as it gets. This is the idea: Find a nice quiet lake - no motorboats, a few philosophical fisher types perhaps, but no kids, no real beaches, just a lot of cozy little inlets. Pack up your water bottle and sun screen and stick one of your simple summer projects in a basket. Then early, early in the morning - about 7 or 8 get thee to a lake (northwestern ct or the berkshires works very nicely) and slip your boat into the water. Paddle out a ways, stow the paddle and let nature take its course. These are just a few of the many pictures I have taken. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera for the deer eating water lilies shot, or the chipmunk race that I witnessed. Nonetheless, I think these might capture the true tranquility of a lazy summer morning. Tomorrow I hope to post shots of the knitting accomplished.