Hello paintbrush, my old friend…

Today I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in more than a year.  I can’t begin to describe the mix of feelings that have gone through my head and heart.  I won’t even try to explain what has welled up.  I do recognize some of the old, grippy, needy feelings artists sometimes have.  Need for attention, need for recognition, need for accolades.  Those feelings I’ll leave out on the curb with tonight’s pork chop trimmings.  They just don’t serve me anymore.  They’re not up-lifting – and, for once in my life, I just want to paint for the sheer love of it.  Not because I’m trying to pay the bills with it.  Not because I’m trying to compete.

The other feelings I had today – the love for the scent of the paint, the brain connecting with the eyes in a way it can’t when I’m knitting.  The connectivity to place and moment.  Those are the things I love, and have missed.  The feeling of peaceful solitude.  There is something about landscape painting that feeds this need to just touch and appreciate place.  I guess it has something to do with being a military kid – something to do with moving around so much during my childhood.

Forgive me for the emotional blop…it’s just that I’m trying to process through this tangled mass of remembrances and emotions.  Here is the work I painted today.  Not a new image – I’ve painted this scene near my home before.  But a new painting.

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Yarntrepreneurship

I love knitting. I mean – it is an amazing thing, an incredibly creative, mathematical, colorful, tactile experience for sure. However, I’ve learned I love business, or entrepreneurship to be exact, just as much – for many of the same reasons. Both are problem solving adventures with amazing (and sometimes wicked) little surprises that seem to sneak up on you when you least expect them. Both result in something you can show you friends (or you mom, depending on the kind of knitting/business you’ve done – and depending on your mom…).

So, about a year and a few months ago I decided I wanted to open a yarn shop. My incredible partner didn’t bat an eye. She just said – Ok, I’m in! Truth be told, she is NOT a knitter – but she has a huge amount of small business building and ownership experience, and that makes her an awesome teammate.

We’re not the first to do this yarn shop thing – of course. We’re certainly also not the last who will embark on this adventure. But, for us it is a BIG DEAL. It is the sort of big deal that wakes us up at night, has had us laughing, me occasionally crying, and both of us excited to see what happens every single day since the inception of this idea – and our shop isn’t even open yet.

Of course when the yarn reps come calling with their gigantic suitcases of fiber in a mind blowing array of colors, textures, and weights, I enjoy it. My non-knitting partner does too. After all, what’s not to love about yarn? But the yarn is just part of this whopper of a constantly shifting puzzle.

Anyway, I hope you’ll join us on this journey as we build our company – http://www.CheersToEwe.com. I’ll be documenting the journey, writing about things occasionally, and sharing what this crazy ride brings in the way of adventure, challenges, and joy.

Yarny Connections

Yesterday I had the great fortune of meeting a new friend on Twitter. He’s a guy that happens to own ManKnits.com, and his name is Lewis.  I was thrilled to make his acquaintance not only because he’s another knitter, but because his approach to making yarn is really amazing – and the knitting world, like any other ecosystem, benefits from having guy knitters.  And teens.  And senior citizens…  When creative spaces are filled with variety, they become even more alive.  More creative.

So, I met Lewis, and decided to connect him with my friend Michael. Michael lives in Bangkok, Thailand. Louis is based in the UK. So, there we were, three knitters sitting at completely different points on the globe, chatting it up about things. Somewhere in all of that, I thought it would be really fun to swap yard with them. I had three skeins of yarn in my stash that were just sitting there.  And I haven’t quite figured out what to do with them. They were lovely, squishy, fairly thick, woolly yarns made of Jacobs Sheep wool.  I had gotten them from a farm in Virginia. At one point I had considered carrying the yarn in the shop I’m getting ready to open, but somewhere in the discussions with the lady who owned the farm the yarn came from, I realized there just wasn’t really super chemistry there. And while I really do want to carry Jacobs Sheep wool yarn, I figured that wasn’t to be my supplier.  That left me with three skeins I really wasn’t sure what to do with. But when these two guys popped onto Twitter yesterday, I realized I had a plan. What if I sent each of them one skein of yarn, and ask that they participate in the yard swap with me? Well I put the question to them, and they immediately agreed. So, today I went to the post office to put their packages in the mail.

When I got to the post office I realized I had no idea what forms I needed to fill out to send one skein of yarn to England and one skein of yarn to Thailand. So I got up to the front of the line, and asked the postal worker what I should do. She told me I needed to fill out special forms, with all kinds of information on them, and then come back up to see her. I did so without any preparation for the comedy that would ensue.

When I got back up to the front of the line, I got the same postal worker, a lovely woman with a full wild an awesomely untamed head of hair, a beautiful smile, and the most funky fun pair of reading glasses I’ve ever seen, with red fronts and black and white Beetlejuice style stripes on the sides.  I gave her the two packages, each take shot, each now clearly labeled as to the recipients address information, and handed her the forms I filled out. And she started to put the information into the computer, she started to chuckle. Cheers to what?  Ewe. E-w-e.  Sorry, I think my hand writing must’ve been a little bit wonky right there.

She started filling the information in for one of the recipients and started to giggle. Man Knits? 

Yep I said, smiling broadly. It’s a great company with a great owner, and a really wonderful mission. And it’s a guy knitter! I love guy knitters. 

That’s so funny, she replied! You’re a woman with a company named after a female sheep, and you’re sending this to a guy with a knitting company that’s clearly named after, well, men.

Yep! I know.  It’s really fun.  

So, she asked, you’re sending them yarn?

Yep I’m sending each guy a skein of yarn. We agreed to swap yarn.

You know what yarn makes me think of, she asked. It makes me think of one of those end of the world movies.

Her comment freaked me out just a little bit and I started laughing. End of the world? Wow, I told her, thanks for making my yard and seem really scary! I laughed and said how do you figure?

You know, she said, like in that movie The Fifth Wave? I feel like yarn could be one of those things that if the world were coming to an end, people might be able to actually, you know, grab it, and use it, and maybe it would be the one thing that would, I don’t know, save the world!

OK, I said. That makes me feel better. So, now my yarn is super super important. Wow, my yard is going to save the world! I started laughing again and so did she.

Well, you know, she said. You just never know what that one thing is that’s going to save the world and those movies. Who knows?

I left the post office with a smile on my face, still chuckling to myself about the whole exchange that was just so funny to me. What a wonderful personality that lady had, and what a great thing she had said, to tell me that yarn – something so simple – could actually save the world? Well, while I don’t think that’s actually going to happen right now, I do think it’s really encouraging that a lady I didn’t know told me that something I’m sending to do two guys I’ve never met, who live in two different places on the globe could actually save us. 

Maybe it’s not actually the yarn that could save everyone, maybe it’s just the connections that yarn seems to have the power to create between people who’ve never met.

Who knows.

InVESTments in Knitting…

So, I am working my way through the second level of the Master Hand Knitter program offered by The Knitting Guild Association.  It is rigorous, to be sure, but it is also supremely enjoyable.  I have begun to notice how much I enjoy figuring out ways to accomplish my knitting goals, while still maintaining a firm grasp on the critical importance of craftsmanship.  Having come from a fine arts background, and having focused on the creation of abstract stuff (much of which caused friends and family to scratch their heads and then turn to deliver to me a quizzical look accompanied by a dense and rather uncomfortable silence), I realize the need for craftsmanship in every pursuit.  However, I notice in knitting – as in many other things – the need for hey-look-at-what-I-just-did accolades runs rampant.  It certainly has run rampant in my work at times, but I think the Master Hand Knitter program has really caused me to look at finishing work as just part of the overall process of creating a garment.  No longer do I view the weaving of yarn tails, and the proper sewing of seams as the devil’s work.  Now it’s just part and parcel of creating work using two sticks and some wooly yarn.

As part of the Master Hand Knitter’s level 2 work, knitters are asked to select a vest pattern and knit it.  I did that.  I was thrilled with the stipey green and blueness of the vest I created until I realized the armholes might threaten the blood supply to my model’s hands were he to wear it for too long.  My model happens to be my teenaged son – and while he is the epitome of awesomeness in my eyes, he is still a teenager who has to be allowed to roam our house without his limbs being unnecessarily bound by a wreck of a vest knitted with love (and wine) by his dear old mother.

That first vest, which also had issues including a gaping hole just at the very crux of the V at the base of the V-neck, will be kept and displayed.  After all, even I was able to put it on.  But the thing won’t be worn.  It’ll be a teaching tool.  A reminder that sometimes you screw up after a ton of work.  I guess the bottom line is that life often includes intersections with two signs:  Quit here and submit to my power, bitch…   and, the other sign:  Don’t fucking give up…

I chose the second of the two options.  And put my feet up…

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Now, I find myself with the makings of a second vest.  I’ve knitted the front and back.  I’ve sewn the pieces together at the shoulders.  I’m now preparing to do the ribbing work around the neck.

Suffice it to say I’m a little bit tenacious.  Like a pit bull.  Or, as some of my county kin would say….like a hair in a biscuit.

Here are the pics…

The green and blue vest was the first of the two…

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Never let it be said that teenagers can’t be super helpful and awesome – my teen guy was willing to put on that first vest at the risk of losing blood flow to his fingers…

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Second vest:  A few yarn tails.  Just a few…

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BLOCK PARTY!!!

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What I Am is What I Am…

Back in college – yes, this will TOTALLY date me – I listened to Edie Brickell (and the New Bohemians).  I seriously wondered if dogs could smile.  And I wasn’t aware of too many things, although like any college freshman, I am sure I thought I was aware of EVrything.

I recently dove full bore into my knitting, having made my way there after more than a decade of work as a visual artist.  It’s not that I’ve abandoned my art – it’s just that I was ready to claw my way through new challenges.

Today, I found my artwork hollering to me from across the creek of life while I was trying to pick colors for an argyle sock project for the Master Hand Knitter program.  I ended up selecting one of my paintings – here it is unencumbered by little jpegs of balls of yarn:

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The painting is oil on panel, and it depicts a schoolhouse in Montana that one of my family members actually matriculated from.  I decided to match the colors of the painting as best I could with Cascade’s Heritage sock yarn from JimmyBeans.com.  Here’s what I came up with:

The top image shows the sock yarns I have selected – and the bottom image shows the black and white version of the picture and the yarns.  This lets me look at the range of values I have picked, to make sure the socks don’t appear ‘flat’ from having too many colors in the same value area on the scale.  I picked six colors because I am not sure which of the browns I’ll go with just yet.

At any rate, the art (and knitting) adventure continues…  Guess once you’re an artist you remain one for life.

Cheers!

Your Challenge, Should You Choose To Accept It…

Well, I downloaded the instructions for Level 2 of the Master Hand Knitter program offered by The Knitting Guild Association.  I am excited about the work, but I come to this level with a healthy pile of scars resulting from self-inflicted wounds I amassed during the first level of the program.

You see, I’m admittedly very impatient.  I could have saved myself a TON of work the first time around if I’d planned my Master Hand Knitter work the way I planned out the sweater I posted about just recently.  Alas, I didn’t.  The result was that I found myself awash in a sea of swatches and projects and instructions and tiny details – all of it forming a total tsunami of information I found it hard to manage.

This time…? Different.  (I mean, well…hey…if you do things the same way over and over again, expecting different results, you might just be ready for a break and a glass of wine.)

This time I stepped far enough from my newly printed set of Level 2 instructions to get my head together before diving in. I also made sure my trifocal glasses were somewhere other than on my face so I couldn’t actually read the instructions in the first place.  The point of all of this is that zeal and impatience can look and function just like twins gremlins.

Anyway, the adventure has begun, but this time I’m trying to remember WHY I’m doing this. Trust me when I tell you it’s not the sort of thing you do just to get that coveted pin.  It IS the sort of thing you do if you have a genuine interest in learning the hows and whys that can ultimately serve as the foundation to your future ahas and creative yahoos!

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The Sweater Diary

About three weeks ago I started working on the Aidez sweater by Berroco Design.  It is a really wonderful pattern – both in results and in the ease of knitting something that is really incredible to see and touch.  I ended up using KnitPicks.com’s Bare Cadena Natural – because I had a bunch on hand already.  So glad I did – the yarn is just as yummy as the knitting pattern!

I started off working on the back panel.  When I finished it, I couldn’t wait to pin it up just for a quick look.

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I worked the arms next – and apparently made some Facebook friends nervous when I posted a picture of a sleeve on just one of my legs.  I got a couple of notes asking how I’d broken my leg.  Ahhh – the joys of attempting-to-see-without-glasses after the age of 40 – or 45.  All of that said, here’s a snapshot of the sleeves on BOTH of my legs.  Several people mentioned they would make great leg warmers.  Hang on, let me cut my sweatshirt off and make it hang off of my right shoulder…

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So, I then did the left panel – for which the pattern was written.  I felt more confident starting there as the right panel is simply a reverse of the left.  I figured I wanted to get to know the left one before the whole reversal thing.

I finished the right panel this morning.  But I was dying to get a feel for the look of the finished product…so I pinned up the back and the left panel.  Makes me think this would make a really amazing sweater vest.IMG_1900.jpgIMG_1901 (1).jpg

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This whole sweater knitting process reminds me that knitting has so much to teach knitters about themselves – and about life in general.  Wading through the minutiae of patterns, making things understandable, tracking progress, undoing mistakes – and redoing the work that needs to be redone, all while maintaining the sort of composure that allows one to get through a knitting project with a bunch of pieces – kind of sounds like my life.  The only thing that remains for this project is for me to put all of the pieces together in a way that’s presentable and polished.

That’s one philosophical sweater…!

 

Book Love

Walking on the treadmill this morning, the words of the Clara Parkes book Knitlandia causing the minutes and miles to evaporate quickly (thank the gods of fitness), I felt myself becoming overwhelmingly grateful that Parkes has gifted readers with stories that infuse the sometimes rigid and self-conscious world of knitting with rich, warm humor.  If you haven’t read the book, grab it and get to it.  It makes exercise go by lightning quick – and in my world that’s nothing short of miraculous!

Hellraiser – If Pinhead Knitted

I’ll first admit I’ve never seen the movie Hellraiser.  It’s probably a good thing too…  I mean, seriously, his face – all those pins.  I just don’t know about that.  But, when I recently blocked the last watch I had to reknit for Level I of the Master Hand Knitter program (experience…?) offered by The Knitting Guild Association, I immediately thought of Pinhead.  Funny how a character from a movie I’ve never seen can invade my skullmeat in totally unexpected ways…

Here’s the photo that made me wonder:  If Pinhead were a knitter, what sorts of things would he knit?

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In an effort to move past the nightmare inducing blocking work, I started on another project.  I’m working through the Aidez sweater pattern offered for free by Berroco.  The sweater calls for some really yummy looking Berroco yarn, but I happened to have a few spongy, lofty center pull balls of KnitPicks.com’s Cadena in Natural.  I opted to go with what I had on hand (and order some more yarn of the same type in order to be able to work the whole pattern – after all, Pinhead probably wouldn’t be caught (half-)dead in a muscle shirt/sweater sort of getup, would he…?).

Here’s progress photo of my work on this project:

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The long and short of it is that it’s pretty funny to observe your mind’s wanderings when you’re working with fiber.  Oh, and after writing this, I looked up some information on the Pinhead character’s profile and evolution.  Just in case you’re interested, here’s a page of fun info: http://www.clivebarker.info/pinevolution.html.

Ok – guess I’d better get back to knitting!  Stay calm, knit on, and keep one eye open…