Friday, October 28, 2011

Friends and Knitters and The Beginning

It's amazing how something you love can change your life.

When I learned to knit in the late 90s, my grandmother handed me a ball of Lion Brand yarn and a long pair of straight aluminum needles. Armed with these two tools, I learned how to knit and purl...well, I attempted to learn. In the two years that followed, I made a few scarves, and 3.5 sweaters. And then I put my needles down. For a long time.

As most know, I knit periodically through the years: a baby blanket, a scarf, anything square or rectangular; but never anything "more".

After my daughter was born, everything changed. When Ramona was 7 or 8 months old we took a trip to Martha's Vineyard to visit my in-laws and something inside me said "bring some knitting". I started scouring the internet and discovered Knitty, and some knitter/bloggers like Stefanie Japel, Carrieoke and *Nonnahs. I felt a sense of excitement and decided to not only knit the sweater for my wee baby, but to keep going...knitting garments THAT FIT and learned new techniques like...yikes...CABLING! This led to socks and shawls and sweaters (mostly for myself). And then there was Ravelry!

I remember my friend, Alyssa, sent me an email that said "you have to sign up for this website! there's a waiting list but it says the list goes fast and you may only have to wait a few days to get on!". I kind of thought "wait, what? A knitting website with a waiting list? For reals?" So I looked into it and it asked for a user email to get on the list...and I panicked! I didn't want to use my "regular" email address. Was I going to be asked to set up a user name? These were tough decisions to make. Seriously...HARD. DECISIONS.

Seeing as I was doing most of my knitting on the train, the handle "choochooknits" seemed like the right fit. Yeah, some folks still wonder what it means, but once they hear about my commute on the train, well, it all falls into place.

Jump ahead several years. After my family, knitting is probably the next most important thing in my life. And when I said "knitting" I truly mean: friends, fibers, projects, patterns, etc. Because knitting has come to mean SO much more than just the actual act of working up yarn. It, quite literally, winds though my day-to-day existence to become the fabric of my life. I look at my project page on Ravelry and think "oh, I knit that on the train with my old knitting group and accidentally broke a dpn that day" or "I remember Gab seeing that I hadn't sewn my armhole closed as I was getting to head off to Rhinebeck S&W". Oh the times we've had.

I've made friends, both near and far...and while there are a few I've never met IRL, I consider them to be some of my closest friends in the world. And through these friends, I've met more knitter/friends and have been blessed by their kindness and though we had known each other forever.

As testament to the power of knitting and the bond of strangers-turned-friends, I'll end this post with a photo of The Rhinebeck 12 (minus Misa, who was taking the photo) newest group of FRIENDS. I love you all!

My awesome housemates!

(L to R: Michelle, Gab, Yvonne, Angela, Shameka, Deb, Kim, me, Kirsten and Meganne; awww, Stephanie was missing too!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's in a name?

I posted the following comment on twitter a few days ago:

Post Rhinebeck Sad: I miss calling people by their real first name and using screen name as last name. e.g. karen choochooknits

And this really got me to thinking about how much I kinda really love naming people in this fashion. Not only does it utilize the individual's REAL first name, but keeps them anonymous by using their chosen moniker (which usually indicates something about them) for their "last name".

Some examples...and a bunch others which need no further explanation:

Karen Choochooknits
Misa Craftivore
Marie Bklynhandspun
Michelle Boringknitter
Andrea KnittingBicycle
Laura MyHouseKey
Caro Splityarn
Deb StitchyMcYarnpants
Kirsten ThroughTheLoops
Sarah NotScarlett
Chawne CauchyComplete
Cathy Runnergirl713

Every single one of those names makes me smile to know their owner. Hooray for knitterly friends!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rhinebeck Recap

So, for those of us in the Northeast, and, to be honest, all over the country, the third weekend of October is generally treated as a, not for that Columbus dude...for the holiest of holies...RHINEBECK SHEEP AND WOOL FESTIVAL!!!

As most of you know, this was my first time staying the entire weekend - and gosh, what a blast it was!! The ever lovely Kim (yarnyoldkim) arranged for our house back in March (!!!) and it could not have been better for our large group. There was plenty of space for knitting and spinning...and finishing sweaters to be worn the next day! Oh, and don't forget the food...yum. While unable to partake in all things cheesy, the company of friends, old and new, certainly made the atmosphere perfect.

Our caravans of knitters all arrived on Friday night and a group of us went to a diner in Red Hook for dinner. While not exactly "homemade from scratch", it was a great time to chat with new friends and ease into the weekend festivities.

On Saturday we all headed off to the festival around 8:30, in time for the gates to open at 9am. Some of us, me included, flew off to find the Jennie the Potter booth, while others split off to go to Sanquine Gryphon. When the potter group was finished, some of us were snagged by Caro and Stitchy to "volunteer" to model handknits for a Cooperative Press book. What a great way to start the morning! Then it was off to go see what was happening at Sanguine Gryphon ourselves. HO-LEE-CAN-NOLI!!! The line to pay was already 30 (??) people long! Lucky for us, Misa (Craftivore) was already on line, which gave the rest of us an opportunity to peruse the yarn and then join her. While we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting, Ann Weaver walked by with her husband, Chris, and the rest of our 2 hour wait blew by like the breeze! Ann was able to sell some of her new book, White Whale Vol 1, and I didn't realize, until I was going to bed that evening, that she listed my name in the book as a Sample Knitter. Oh, hooray, that was cool!

After S.G. we wandered here and there, looking at vendors and eventually jumped on line for Artichokes at 11:15...which was perfect timing because when we finished eating, it was time for the Ravelry meet-up! And there were SO many folks to hug and meet IRL!! I saw Cathy, Chawne, Maryse, Pam, Ysolda, Danielle, Heather, Jaya, Elspeth, Stacy, Andrea and so on and so on. Everywhere I turned...friends! The hugs were abundant and the smiles were wide.

From there I wandered with Gab-Fab to the food building for a little R&R...which was just in time for the rain storm where many of our friends got soaked! For the next hour or so, the food demonstration area became our "home base" as folks (mainly me) came and went to do quick meet ups or get food. During this time I was able to meet LibLiz (zomg, I wanted to stick her in my pocket and bring her home with me) and Marie (Courtney, Lilly and Caroline too!!). It's so nice to see people who you've swapped with and spoken to and emailed with for years.

The rest of the day is kind of a blur - there was yarn, books, food, walking. Then crash and burn at the house! Seeing as I had been fighting a cold since the week before, my allergies caught up with me and I had full-on sneezes and runny nose - blerg. I opted to change out of my festival clothes and into my pj's - and decided to stay home and have a pb&j for dinner (instead of going out). In the end, about half of us stayed home to knit, spin and rest while the others went over to Fork in the Road for a yummy meal. Afterward, some others hung out at our house and, after much torture, I finally gave in and accepted a drop-spindle lesson from Kirsten! Yes, I've gotten a taste of the dark side!! It was another late night and we fell into bed around 11pm.

Alas, Sunday inevitably arrived and our happy group started packing to leave for a few more hours of wandering at the fairgrounds and our drives home (from heaven)! My family came up for the day and I met up with them around lunch time. We made the usual food vendor visits, played a few kiddie games, and even got hot chocolate for the ride home. I also purchased some fiber from Into The Whirled since Kirsten was nice enough to loan me one of her drop spindles. Yeah, she's a great enabler!

I napped for a few hours after I got back home and tried to get as much sleep as possible. It's now the end of the work day on Monday and I am, truly, running on empty. Some say we're Rhinebeckoholics who have Rhinebeck overdosed. But the truth of the matter is - when you're with the people you love doing the craft you love, there is no other way to feel afterward, except sad and tired from the natural high.

Here are my Rhinebeck designs...and a couple other goodies :o)

Ramona - roar!

Owl sweater & cowl

Gale, Kirsten, Maryse


The kiddos at Rhinebeck

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Yes, another annual email about favorite event of the year!

This will be a year of Rhinebeck firsts...

  • For the first time, I'm staying the ENTIRE WEEKEND, not just making it a day trip with the family. I'm staying with an awesome group of knitters and am both nervous (new people) and excited (old friends) about it. I'm also planning on lots of fun and shenanigans (**coughKIMandYVONNEcough**) and being EXHAUSTED by the time Sunday rolls around.

  • For the first time, I'll be a SQUARE on the Rhinebeck BINGO board!!! Haven't heard of it or signed up...well Stitchy is running it and all the details can be found here!

  • For the first time, I'll be wearing TWO new sweaters at the festival...BOTH of my own design!!! Y'all remember Ramona, right? Well, picture her in Christmas Green! She's my current WIP so I don't have any pictures to share, but believe me...NOM! The other sweater is brand spanking new, is still blocking and I'm hoping to seam up the sleeves tonight or tomorrow. It's a comfy oversized sweater with some intarsia. The plan is to publish it this fall...just need to get it edited and photographed...hooray!

  • For the first time, something I knit will be published in a booklet, available for purchase at Rhinebeck! Ann Weaver is planning to release her newest booklet, "White Whale Vol 1" hot off the presses, while at the festival. If you see her - ask her about it!!! And make sure you ooh and ahh over the pretty rectangular shawl (orangy in color) - knit by yours truly

So is EVERYONE as excited as I am?!? Where are you staying? When will you be there? Pretty please, with sugar on top, say "hello" if you see me! I promise to deliver hugs and smiles :o)