Springtime on the Mountain

Springtime weather on the mountain bears a distinct relationship to a Yo-Yo.  Officially the first day of Spring is March 20th, but it generally doesn’t start to feel very warm here until a bit later.

Our springtime teases us, we get a day with a few hours of warmer temperatures and then the temperatures plummet and we wake up to snow. Sometimes significant amounts of snow.

Bird tracks in the morning snow.
Bird tracks in the morning snow.

But I think the weather may be trending to more warm and rainy days than cold and snowy.


Kitty paw prints in the snow.
Kitty paw prints in the snow.

Last Thursday morning we woke up to a thin layer of snow, but by 9 a.m. it was melting. I went down the mountain a bit to Jamestown to see a friend. We went for a walk around her garden and in town.

Squills and a Daffodil ready to bloom.
Squills and a Daffodil ready to bloom.

The Squills are blooming in her garden. These are so pretty with their bright blue spiky flowers.

Fore foot and Back Foot print from a Black Bear running.
Fore foot and Back Foot print from a Black Bear running.

On our walk we discovered evidence that the bears are out of hibernation and starting to look for food after their long sleep.

Buds on the Aspen trees
Buds on the Aspen trees

Yesterday I heard the familiar whirl of hummingbird wings and today I noticed the aspen trees are beginning to bud. So true spring time has finally made it’s way to our mountain.

There will probably be a few more snow storms before summer arrives. But it is nice to enjoy the warmer days and seeing the world come back to life on the mountain.

Very soon I will be sitting out on my deck to crochet in the cool breeze while the hummingbirds zip around at the feeders.



I Love New York

Running a little late getting a blog post up this weekend.  I was having too much fun traveling last weekend and have spent the time since my return playing catch-up for work. So this post will be a bit longer than usual.

I took a flight into Newark airport Friday April 4th.  For whatever mysterious reason, the flight was 2 hours late leaving Denver. Fortunately I was prepared and had plenty of yarn projects along to crochet on, as well as books to read. Including a hat I was working on for my husband.

I was heading out to visit my dear friend Jan, who lives in New Jersey. As part of our weekend we had planned a Sunday trip into NYC to visit the Lion Brand Yarn Studio and the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya (home of the awesome sauce Japanese Stitch Dictionaries).

Jan had it all figured out for us. We would park her car at the train station near her house and take the NJ Transit to Penn Station, walk to Kinokuniya and meet Mary Beth Temple and my friend Maven there, then have a picnic lunch in the park across the street. Afterward Maven was going to introduce us to the adventure of taking the subway to travel to the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, where lots of my NY area friends would be meeting us for some fun time yarn shopping and visiting.

While I was having a delayed flight Jan hurt her foot very badly. Wasn’t broken but it was very swollen and painful to walk on. She managed to pick me up at the airport, but was having real doubts about the advisability of her going into NYC on Sunday.  She suggested that I go to NYC without her, but I didn’t want to do that. Afterall, I came out to NJ especially to spend time with her.

Jan and I have a joke from all our adventures together. We hit a snag in something, or I hit a snag in one of my genius ideas, and I say “I have a plan!” or as is sometimes needed it is, “Okay, Plan B (or C, etc…).” So I looked at Jan Friday evening once we were back at her house. “Plan B time”.

First of all we needed to help Jan’s foot. Fortunately I never travel without my Arnica Gel and my homeopathic Arnica tablets. Referencing the first aid formula for injury, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), I had Jan sit down and elevate her foot while I treated the bruised area with arnica gel then iced and bandaged the foot. We spent the rest of the evening visiting and crocheting, then got Jan tucked up with her foot elevated and newly iced.

By morning her foot was feeling a bit better but it was clear that she shouldn’t be tromping all over NYC on it. So it was time to investigate another way of doing things. I knew that Mary Beth was planning on driving into the city for Sunday, so I sent off a text message to let her know what was happening.

Mary Beth. being the awesome friend she is, said that she would be happy to come get us Sunday and drive us into the city. Of course Jan felt bad because she lives further south than Mary Beth, so it would be a lot of back tracking to come get us and return us home.

Time for a Plan D at this point.

“Mary Beth what is your address?” I put it into my handy-dandy GPS program on my phone (have I mentioned how much I love my phone?). Jan and I look at it and realize it is actually an easy drive for us to go to Mary Beth’s house. “Okay, how about we drive to you and park there? Then you can drive us into the city?”

The activities for Saturday were a trip to see our friend Pam who lives only 20 some minutes away from Jan. First we made a stop at a local Target store though. I needed supplies for a compression bandage for Jan that would fit inside her shoe.

Ghiradelli Chocolate

And we needed Chocolate. Ghiradelli’s new Intense Dark line is lovely, especially the Cabernet Matinee squares.  I discovered these on our family trip for Spring Break and they are my new favorite chocolate that is easily available commercially.

We had a great time at Pam’s house. Took about 35 minutes to get there because it was a beautiful out and everyone that had a car in New Jersey was on the roadways (okay, probably an exaggeration, but that is what it seemed like). Pam fed us a wonderful lunch then showed us some of the beautiful stuff she has been crocheting lately. She also showed us her gorgeous collection of crochet hooks. The antique steel hooks and their ingenious little cases and such were really amazing. I was having so much fun I didn’t take a single photo. After crocheting together for a while and visiting we headed back to Jan’s house. Fortunately the traffic had improved.

That evening Jan and I spent looking at her hook collection and listening to music while we crocheted and visited. Her foot was feeling better and looking much improved. We were very glad that we weren’t going to be walking all over NYC though, and confirmed with Mary Beth what time we would be arriving at her house the next morning.

The next morning we packed up a lunch and what we would need for the day, then got in the car and drove to Mary Beth’s house. My GPS on my phone was working great and we were on track, though we kept seeing signs saying we were headed for the George Washington Bridge. Jan was getting a bit worried because she knew we didn’t want to cross the bridge. Fortunately all worked out, turned out Mary Beth would be taking the George Washington Bridge into NYC when she drove us in.

MBT Driver Extraordinaire
Mary Beth Temple: NYC Driver Extraordinaire

At Mary Beth’s house we met Cinnamon, the attack angora rabbit. She was very cute, but wasn’t going to let us pet her. We also got to say hello to Mary Beth’s daughter and see her prom dress, then into the car and on our way to NYC.

We drove around in NYC for a bit and Mary Beth pointed out some of the sights to us. I tried to get a picture of the Empire State Building, but wasn’t quick enough. Soon we were at the Kinokuniya bookstore. Mary Beth dropped us off in front of the store and went to find parking for the car. We actually were there a bit before the store opened at 11 a.m. Just across the street was Bryant Park where we were planning to picnic later.

Once we were in the store we headed straight to the section with all the Crochet and Knit books.  The next 45 minutes sped by as Jan and I explore the books and tried to narrow our choices down. I was amazed at my self-control.

My new books

I ended up choosing only 3 books to purchase, I already have a pretty wonderful assortment of Japanese Stitch dictionaries at home, so that helped me to limit myself. Jan had quite a few that she wanted to get, and since her birthday is next month, I picked one of them to purchase for her as an early birthday gift.

Mary Beth visits the store regularly so she was set for books, but needed to find some stickers for her daughter, she kept wandering back to check on us. Then Maven joined us, she was exercising self-control and wasn’t looking at the books on this visit. Mary Beth showed us the Moleskine graph paper books she had found. She likes to use them for planning designs and likes them in a variety of colors.

3 Moleskin Sketch books

So I had to go investigate the options available. They even had the blank page ones I love, and in every size you could ask for. I chose a set of 3 19x25cm books with gray covers. I like to draw on the outside of them. They are the perfect size for when I travel, large enough to sketch in and slim enough to not add a ton of weight or bulk to my luggage.

Irrestible Earbudsclose up of Owls

I had my choices lined up and Jan had hers, it was time to head up to the cashiers to make our purchases. But then I saw these awesome ear buds. I have been needing to replace my old ear buds for my MP3 player, and who could resist these adorable hot pink little owl ear buds. I was going to, but Jan always helps me indulge. And they are so cool when I’m using them, sort of like jewelry.

Our picnic in Bryant Park

Next on our agenda was some food. We knew we were going to be tight on time during this visit, so we brought our lunches and planned to have a picnic at Bryant Park. We so lucked out because the weather was amazing. It was warm but not too hot and there was music happening at the park, though we had to chuckle at Mary Beth because some of the music was a bagpipe band (her daughter is a champion Irish Step Dancer).

The other Kelpie

One of the really neat things at the park was a display of the maquettes from a project in Scotland called “The Kelpies”. They were so graceful and wonderful to see and are only going to be exhibited at the park until April 22, 2014.  You can see more about the large installation in Falkirk Scotland and some photos of them in Bryant park at this website.

M J and I at Kelpie sculpture

Maven took a photo of Jan, Mary Beth and I in front of one of the Kelpies. Then it is time to head off to the Lion Brand Yarn Studio. I had been wanting to visit this store since it opened. Lion Brand is a sponsor at many of the CGOA events I attend and have been telling us about the shop since it opened.


Finally, we were there! And the display in the front window was the yarn Taj Mahal. We all took some photos of it then headed inside to explore the shop.

Jessie and me

I had been telling my friends in the NYC area that I would be at the shop 1p – 3p.  We got to the shop about 12:45p and one of the first people we see is my dear CGOA mentee, Jessie Rayot.

Me and my friends at LBYS

Then other friends kept showing up. In the end there were 9 of us. We all had a great time shopping for yarn and goodies at the shop, as well as meeting other yarn enthusiasts. We even saw Lily Chin who was teaching classes upstairs in the classroom that day. She was surprised at seeing all of us as well.

MBT and the Lovely Sarah

It was really wonderful to see my dear friend Sarah, who moved from Vancouver, WA to Brooklyn, NY last summer. She came to the shop with her daughter and almost 2 year old granddaughter.

Loot from LionBrand Shop

Jan and I were having a great time checking out all the yarn and other yarn implements. I managed to find a number of goodies that needed to be adopted. I purchased 3 different color balls of the Martha Stewart glitter ribbon yarn (sparkly) , 2 colors of the Wool Stainless Steel thread cones (more sparkly), and 2 hanks of the amazing bulky wool. I also got some nifty bamboo stitch pins (Jessie thought they would make good shawl pins and I was thinking they look like miniature knitting needles), a set of Hiya Hiya crochet hooks, and a cool South Hampton foldable tote.

Hiya Case Open

I’m very excited about my new set of Hiya Hiya hooks.  This set was amazingly affordable for as many hooks as it contains, as well as the beautiful case. The case even has room for tape measure, scissors and needles.

Tote Bag Open

And this really neat tote bag, it folds up such a handy size to travel with. But opens out into a very generous size. It will definitely be joining me on my trips this spring and summer.

As 3pm drew closer everyone prepared to say good-bye. We loaded up in Mary Beth’s car and settled down for the return trip to her house, then Jan and I hit the road for the return drive to her house. I got to drive for most of it as I am trying to get used to driving her car. This July I will be flying out to Newark again and we will be driving up to New Hampshire for the Knit and Crochet Show.

Monday was my last full day visiting Jan. We had an All-day Jammie day, playing with hooks, yarn and our new Japanese books.  I also got online and registered for the July Knit and Crochet Show. It’s always more fun picking out classes when Jan and I are plotting together.

Tuesday was a rainy drive to the airport. Fortunately I managed to get thru Newark airport security without too many delays or adventures. I had gotten to the airport with time to spare and was glad for it. While waiting for my flight to board there were 2 other crocheters at the gate, so we had fun talking about yarn and different crochet projects. Once the flight boarded I continued working on the hat for my husband and read my book.

After, what felt like a very long travel day I was back home and ready to crawl into my bed and sleep for about 10 hours. That was about 7 p.m. Colorado time, though my day had begun at 7 a.m. East Coast time (5 a.m. Colorado) so it was understandable that I needed some sleep.

As always it was a wonderful time visiting with Jan and seeing the rest of my yarnie friends. I’ve definitely decided I really enjoyed my NYC adventure and I need to go there again in the not too distant future. It certainly is a city with a lot to offer, though I was continually amazed at how many people there were out and about. And that was on a Sunday, which is basically NYC Lite.

The Magic of Blocking

Hi there dear readers I have a nice surprise for you today.  You know how I love to block my crochet work (my knitting gets felted, cause well you know me and knitting). My friend, the talented Patty Lyons, is going to be presenting a live Webinar “Fantastic Finish: Blocking Techniques in Knitting”, Tuesday, April 8th at 1:00 pm, EST (If you can’t attend live, register and download it later!).

Image courtesy of Interweave Publishing
Image courtesy of Interweave Publishing

As Patty says “Why spend all that time stitching a garment, only to stop short of making it look great! Blocking is an essential part of finishing your garment off perfectly. Blocking evens out your stitches, sets your size, and in some cases can even mask your mistakes.”

Don’t be put off by the name, this class is very applicable to crochet fabric as well. You can find out more information on the webinar thru this link: Fantastic Finish Webinar.

To Get 15% off just click on the link to register and use the promo code:  PATTYLYONS15

Fair Isle Crochet with Karen Whooley

For those of you that have been following my blog for a while, you have read about Karen Whooley on here before. I was very fortunate when I signed up to become a CGOA Associate Professional (in 2009) that I got Karen as my mentor. It was a somewhat random pairing that turned out to be very fortuitous.  We have so much in common and get along great. I graduated from being Karen’s mentee, but she has become a good friend and colleague in the crochet business.

Title Card for Blog

Today I’m pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Karen’s new class with Craftsy.com, Fair Isle Crochet: Demystifying Colorwork. I’ve taken classes with Karen at the Knit & Crochet Show and the Crochet at Cama Retreat. She is an amazing teacher with a comprehensive understanding of her craft and endless kindness and patience in teaching it to others.

And Karen has provided a fabulous gift for you my dear readers, you can use this link: 50% off the fee for the Fair Isle Crochet at Craftsy.com

The wonderful Karen Whooley photo courtesy of Craftsy.com
The wonderful Karen Whooley
photo courtesy of Craftsy.com

I’ll definitely be taking this class at Craftsy myself very soon, but for this blog tour I wanted to interview Karen. It’s always fun to interview my friends in the industry because I learn about aspects of their crochet (or knitting) journey that I hadn’t known before. So without further fanfare, here is my interview with Karen:

When did you learn to crochet and who taught you?

I learned to crochet in 1974! My Italian Grandmother who was way ahead of her time thought my sister and I watched too much TV.  I was 7 years old when she put that hook in my hand. In 2 hours I had made a covered coat hanger with the traditional colors of the 70s – greens and golds.

Are you willing to tell us how long you’ve been crocheting? And if Yes, how long has it been?

This summer it will be 40 years! ACK!

How long have you been teaching Crochet?

I’ve been actively teaching crochet since about 1998 or 1999.  At first it was with smaller groups in the San Fransisco Bay area, then in 2000 my family moved to Washington state and I started teaching at local shops in 2001.  I started teaching on a national level in 2004!

Who were your first students?

My first students were friends in my neighborhood in California. When I got to WA, I took over teaching at a local store called Pacific Fabrics and Crafts from a fellow Guild member and designer who decided to retire. You may have heard her name, Bev Dillon

What inspires you to teach crochet?

I grew up in a teacher’s household.  My mom taught 1st grade for 9 years before I was born. Then she returned to teaching (the 3rd grade) once I got to High School. So teaching is in my blood!  But I specifically teach Crochet because it is a craft I want to see go on forever!

When I learned to crochet, my grandmother and I were the only two people I knew that crocheted.  In 1996, when I became a stay at home mom after the birth of my first child, I discovered the whole world of crochet out there on a Compuserve List-Serve group called Crochet Partners! (Am I dating myself?) But all those years of not knowing many people in the world that crocheted, when I was given the opportunity to teach… I did!

Did your mom give you advice on teaching when you started teaching crochet?

Mom didn’t so much give me tips as much as my watching her in action in the classroom. Though growing up, she did tell me stories about how nervous she was that first year of teaching, not so much with the students but dealing with the parents. She just pushed through and got over the stage fright.

When I was working full-time as a System Support Engineer for a Company that developed Software for Dental Offices, however, I was asked to teach classes to our field personnel on the system.  I was put in a class to help me get comfortable with that.

What inspired you to explore Fair Isle techniques in Crochet?

When I was a teenager, I had this beautiful bulky knit fair isle sweater. It just fascinated me.  At the time, I didn’t know how to knit, but I was dying to learn so I could make my own sweaters using the Fair Isle motifs. It wasnt until I was 37 when I learned to knit, and then a couple of years later I learned stranded knitting. It was at that point I knew I could replicate fair Isle knitting in crochet!  So after lots of trial and error (which I talk about in the class with samples!) I hit upon what I felt was the best replication I could get of Fair Isle stranded Knitting in crochet.

You knit and crochet, do you find Fair Isle easier in crochet or knitting?

Well, honestly it depends. Because I have been crocheting longer than knitting, I find it easier to crochet but knitting isn’t hard. The difference for me is that in knitting I have all those live stitches with the potential of dropping one or more.  In crochet that isn’t a factor. Because both charts are the same and are read the same way, either one works for me and depending on the look I am going for, I will swap out one for the other.

I love the hat in the promotional photos for the class, was there a particular inspiration for that design?

Mostly it was that I wanted something that looked like a traditional Fair Isle knit hat.  After pouring through Fair Isle motif dictionaries, I put together some of my favorites.  I chose traditional greens and greys of the Shetland Islands and there was my hat!

The hat looks like something that would appeal to the teenagers in your house, are there requests being put in for hats from your family? 

Funny you should ask. That hat is my 15-year-old daughter’s favorite piece from the class. Teal green is her favorite color.  But she doesn’t want me to make it now as summer is coming.  Probably for next year!

I know you must be really excited about offering classes thru Craftsy.com, what do you like the best about this style of teaching?

I think what I like the most is that the class is there forever. Students have the class to go back to for help or just to remind them of some part of Fair Isle Crochet they may have forgotten. The Computer geek in me loves the platform. The fact that they can take notes right on the video for themselves is just amazing. And those notes are there for them to access forever too!

I also love the fact that I can reach students all over the world!  I don’t have that opportunity with teaching live. Lots of times I’ve gotten emails from potential students telling me that they cannot attend an event because it is just too far or too costly. They want to know if I am ever coming to their area. That isn’t always going to happen, so this way they can actually have me teach them in their living room! Or office, or even on the couch next to them!

Do you have a preference of designing or teaching?

That is a hard question because I love them both.  Because of the way I was taught to crochet, by a non-English speaking grandmother, the techie in me loves the challenge of creating something from scratch. But there is something about that light bulb moment students get that gives me great satisfaction. It’s like a visual confirmation that the craft will continue.

Do you dream about crochet? About yarn?

Oh gosh, all the time!  Some of my best design concepts come from dreams! Sometimes when a particular pattern is not working out, I get the solution in a dream. I cannot tell you how often that happens.  In dreams and on the treadmill walking.  Those are my two go to places when I need to work out something in crochet (or knit too!).

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today Karen, I was wondering if you have any final words of encouragement for those that might be intimidated by Fair Isle and this class?

Thanks Andee for having me!

For those of you who may be intimidated by colorwork, this is definitely the class for you! During the class I break down every piece of the pattern, along with having tips in there for you. I have already had students who bought my Fair Isle books, only to be intimidated by all the color changing, send me photos of their swatches from the class. They are excited about how I walked them through the process.

The cool thing about these Craftsy classes is the platform. The “Pause” and “30 second repeat” options allow you to go back and see once again what I just showed you. And you can do that as many times as you need until you get the idea down.  You can also ask me a question at any time, and I will be answering! So don’t be afraid to try it!  I’m there to help along the way!