Jan and Andees’ Adventures in Charleston

Magnolia Blossom

My last post was all about the CGOA conference in Charleston, South Carolina. This post is all about Jan and I being tourists in Charleston. If you get the chance it is a city well worth visiting, though I would recommend visiting in the spring or autumn when the weather is not blistering hot.

When Jan and I were planning our trip to Charleston for the CGOA conference she recommended that we tack on a couple extra days for exploring the city. She had been there before when another close friend of hers had lived in the area.

Spanish Moss along the sidewalk outside our hotel.
Spanish Moss in the trees along the sidewalk outside our hotel.

The conference ended Saturday evening so we were leaving on Tuesday afternoon. That gave us 2 full days to explore and enjoy Charleston. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t going to cooperate with us on Sunday. The day didn’t see much sunshine as it was over cast and heavy rain all day long.

Instead we spent the day hanging out with other CGOA friends in the hotel atrium as they slowly began their leave-taking for flights and drives home. Both of us had crochet projects to work on. I even helped Jan with untangling a ball of yarn that had decided to misbehave on her earlier in the week.

Tracee and I

One of the few photos I took with a friend at the conference was this one of Tracee Fromm that Sunday before she left to catch her flight home.

It was fun to see our friends old and new. Some were actually leaving on Monday, so we were all enjoying a decompression day. That evening Jan and I walked over to Bonefish Grill one more time. After dinner we worked on getting a good start on packing up our suitcases.  Neither of us stayed up very late that night, as we both wanted to get an early start on touring the city the next day.

Visitor Center

After getting breakfast in the hotel we walked over to where we could catch an express bus to the visitor center in down-town Charleston. Our timing was great as a bus came about 3 minutes after we got there. Once we arrived at the visitor center we got some maps and picked up tickets for a carriage tour of the city.

Sea Grass Basket info at VC

I had been told by a Colorado friend that has family in South Carolina, to be sure to go by the Market to see the ladies weaving sweet grass baskets. In the Visitors Center was a display about these baskets as well as a lady weaving and selling her baskets right there.

Charleston has great transport for their city. Little Trolleys with routes that take you around to a number of the high points. Jan and I caught the one that would take us to the City Market where we could walk over to catch our carriage tour.

The folks at Old South Carriage had permitted the CGOA to yarn bomb one of their carriages during the week of the conference. Unfortunately Jan and I were too late to see that carriage, but we were able to get our discount on the tour package. When we got to the stable our names were added to the list and they told us our tour would be leaving in about 45 minutes.

Jan and I decided to go explore the City Market sometimes referred to as the Slave Market. We had overheard one of the Old South Carriage guides telling some other folks about the name “Slave Market”. It wasn’t where slaves were sold, it was where the slaves did the shopping for the households they worked in. In fact, the family that deeded the land to the city for the market to be built on, had stipulated that no human beings were to be bought or sold in the market or the land would revert back to the original family.

The Slave Market

The market is still a busy place of commerce with lots of shops and stalls selling everything you could think of. It is a roofed building that stretches along 4 blocks of the city and has streets on the north and south of it. Appropriately those streets are called North Market and South Market. The photo above is the west end of the market. I managed to take this photo during our carriage ride, you can see it was a bit wet as a light rain storm had rolled in.

Our Carriage

Jan and I explored the market for a little while, then headed back to the stable to begin our carriage tour.  This is our carriage, I hadn’t realized how far off the ground the carriage put us until we finished the tour and I took this photo. We actually boarded the carriage inside the stables where we walked up some steps and entered the carriage from a platform.

Our Tour Guide - Elliot

Our guide and the driver of the carriage was Elliot. He was very entertaining and informative about the history of Charleston and the buildings we were seeing.

Our Carriage Horse - Bill 2

This was our horse that pulled our carriage. His name is Bill 2, but he was called Bill by Elliot. He liked to splash the water from his trough, so I had to be quick to get this photo.  Part of the information Elliot shared with us was Bill’s history and capability. Basically being a carriage horse in Charleston is a pretty good gig for these horses. Our carriage fully loaded was actually one quarter of the weight that Bill could pull, and had pulled at the beginning of his life when working as a draft animal on a farm.

Loving all the winding trees

Our carriage tour took us around the area of the College of Charleston and then back along the Market. I was sort of inconsistent in my photo taking. Partly because being on the move made it trickier and sometimes there wasn’t a clear shot. I loved all the tree-lined streets.

Looking up at Oak branches

I especially enjoyed the moss-covered branches weaving overhead. The vegetation in the area is so different from what I am used to here on the mountain and even down in the plains of Colorado. There is a lushness that goes along with all that humidity you just don’t see here in the West.

Beautiful Iron Gate

Elliot told us that Charleston is considered the 2nd most well preserved city in the world. First place goes to Rome, Italy. He said since Rome has over 2000 years on them, 2nd place isn’t too shabby. Everywhere we looked during the tour, and afterward when Jan and I were exploring on our own, there were interesting things to see.  I particularly loved all the gorgeous ironwork gates.

Palmettos Everywhere

The palmetto trees were everywhere along with flowering trees that I can’t recall the name of. I do remember that the ones called “white” had pink and purple blossoms, which was very confusing and amusing. Elliot told as about how Ft. Sumter was originally built from Palmetto trunks. The thinking being that the sponginess of the trunks wouldn’t break under the impacts of canon balls. When the revolutionary war happened the theory was tested and proved true. The soldiers in the fort came out and gathered up the British canon balls and, “Very kindly returned them to the British ships.”

After our tour was over Jan and I headed back to do some real shopping at the City Market. I wanted to get some sweet grass baskets and find gifts for my boys. The day was heating up a bit and we made a stop at a stall that was selling fresh hand-made lemonade. It was delicious and entrancing to watch the lemonade being made. Jan had watermelon lemonade.

My new Vera Bradley bags

Different sections of the market were air-conditioned and in the first of these Jan and I spotted a little shop that had wonderful Vera Bradley bags and accessories. I fell in lust with this purple pattern as soon as I saw it. Turns out it was a brand new fabric release that week called “Lilac Tapestry”. The lady running the shop was very nice and was also a yarn wrangler.

Vera Bradley organizer open

Jan and I were discussing that the large bag would be great as a project bag, and the shop lady showed me the organizer that I could get when I spent $100 or more. I was hooked especially when she pointed out how well the organizer would work for holding stitch markers and all the other accoutrement that we yarn folk need.

There were lots of stalls selling tourist items in the market. I spotted a stall that had lots of different T-shirts and decided to get one for each of my boys, plus one for myself. I also wanted to find a piece of jewelry that had pineapples on it. Pineapples are the symbol of hospitality in South Carolina and they were the theme for our conference there.

Historic Charleston purchases

I finally found the pineapples I wanted at the Historic Charleston Foundation store. I really liked that the profit from these purchases would also help fund their organization. The pineapple ornament will look great on my Christmas tree this year and will remind me of the lovely city. The pendant and earrings were surprisingly light-weight and I loved the glimmering pau-shell that was used to make them. Last of all I purchased the small print of one of the beautiful ironwork gates in the city.

20s style SunHat

Then Jan and I decided we needed to finish up with the shopping part of our day and grab a late lunch. I still needed to purchase some sweet grass baskets so we headed back to my favorite shop we had found earlier. On the way there I was captivated by a stall that was selling hats. This bonnet style one made me think of 1920s style cloche hats, at $10 I couldn’t resist.

Sweet Grass Baskets

Finally we made it to the baskets again. I picked out a couple of small ones, some would be gifts for friends back home in Colorado. I loved a lot of the larger ones, but the price and the logistics of getting them back on the airplane kept me from adopting any. My favorite thing about them was the scent of the sweet grass and while I am writing this one sits on my desk holding paperclips and smelling sweet.

Low Country Bistro for Lunch

At this point Jan and I were definitely hungry so we went hunting for a local restaurant that would fit the bill. One of the very pleasant surprises on this trip was the number of restaurants that had lots of gluten-free options on their menus. We decided to go to the Low Country Bistro. Some other friends at the conference had eaten there and recommended it, and our Elliot from the carriage ride had too.

The air-conditioning when we walked in was quite welcome and our server kept us well supplied with cold drinks as we ate a delicious meal. My favorite part of my meal was the home-made potato chips. I did share with Jan, but it was a near thing.

Cobble stone street
Old cobblestone street

After lunch we decided to do some exploring before we needed to head back to our hotel. Jan wanted me to see Charleston’s version of “painted ladies” which they call “Rainbow Row”. The folks at the Historic Charleston shop got us headed in the right direction. I wasn’t really able to get a good photo of them, but I took lots of other photos as we walked around enjoying the city.

Anchor Gate

So many of the nooks and crannies in the city were intriguing like this gate to a little garden behind a building.

Doorway with lamps

The historic touches were fun too, like the working gas lamps that framed this impressive doorway.

Beautiful fountain and garden

I really loved this beautiful fountain with flowers in front of the Charleston Place Hotel. We had seen it while on our carriage tour and managed to stumble upon it again while walking around the city. I couldn’t tell you what street it was on though.

Waterfront Park - A restful place

We ended our day in Charleston at the Waterfront Park. A beautiful area with lots of shade and fountains.

Waterfront Park - Looking off the pier toward Ft Sumter

Jan and I walked out to the end of the pier to see Ft. Sumter better. That pink circle is around the island where I think it is located. It was difficult to really see and I hadn’t brought along binoculars.

Waterfront Park - Pathway

We began walking along the Waterfront park path where we could see some fountains.

Waterfront Park-Looking out of the Shade

Even in the shade we were very warm, but it was preferable to the bright sunshine. I did like the look of the contrast in this photo though.

Waterfront Park - Admiring Hidden Gardens

There were lots of beautiful gardens alongside buildings on the street beside the park pathway.

Waterfront Park - Pineapple Fountain

Of course I had to have a photo of the big Pineapple Fountain.

Waterfront Park -Kids Fountain

The whole Waterfront Park area seems to be designed with families in mind. This fountain in particular was popular with children running in and out of it. If I had been dressed appropriately for it I might have joined them as I was very hot at this point in our wanderings.

Crane Iron Gate

My last photo before we caught our trolley ride back to the Vistor Center was this lovely gate with a Crane on it. I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the highlights of Jan and I’s adventures in Charleston.

I’ve been a busy gal since my return to Colorado. The boys are headed back to school in less than 2 weeks and suddenly our summer break seems to be speeding by. I’m also getting ready for teaching at the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair in early September.

Finished Free Form Piece

As part of that I’ve been working on a Free Form Crochet art piece for the Fiber Arts Show that is on display in Mitchell, Nebraska for the month before the fair.

With all this stuff keeping me busy I’ve been having a difficult time getting back into my twice a week posting here on the blog. Hoping to correct that in the next week. Thanks for stopping by.


Palm Trees and Yarn – That Works!

Wednesday was my first full day back home from this year’s Winter TNNA Trade Show. And you all got to hear how that turned out. We are still having frequent moments of “sad” missing our Tango boy, but there are happy thoughts too.  Like how much fun I had at TNNA and how gorgeous San Diego, California was.

View of hotel pool area from the lounge.
View of hotel pool area from the lounge.

That was where the show was held. The TNNA Winter show has been in San Diego before, but I wasn’t able to attend that one. I really lucked out with the weather. It was below freezing and horizontal snow in the air when I caught my flight in Denver, when I landed in San Diego it was 60F and sunshine (with palm trees). A lovely change from home. Just the day before it had been pouring rain in San Diego, but I missed out on all that.

View out hotel window

Once again Karen Whooley and I roomed together. This was the view out our hotel window. Not too shabby? Right? We were staying at the Marriott Marquis right on the harbor.

The weather was nice the whole time I was there. Of course most of the time I was on the show floor inside the conference center checking out the yarns and new products, so I didn’t really get to enjoy the weather until I went outside to walk back to my hotel or go out to dinner with friends.

TNNA Goodies

I came home with a bunch of yarn and some nifty products. You’ll be hearing more about those in the coming weeks. But for now the above photo gives you a taste of everything that came home with me. I’m going to be a very busy designer and teacher in 2016.

I took 2 classes at the show this year, and will be sharing more about those later as well. I really love to take classes at TNNA even though they are usually at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. That is an hour of the day I would really prefer not to be attempting to absorb new information. But needs must.

Tuesday was all about packing up and traveling home. I had stayed a day longer than I usually do. I didn’t want the mad rush when the show ended on Monday to get the last bits of goodies packed and then make it to the airport in time for my flight. I think I may be staying that extra night from now on.

Beer Bottle

I got a good night’s sleep, then took my time organizing and packing all my stuff from the show as well as my dirty laundry. Even got some more visiting time with my good friend Tamara and we grabbed lunch together at the airport.  I liked her beer bottle so much I took its photo and she gave the bottle to me.

Mara with Hat

My flight home was very pleasant. I had fun seatmates, Raine and Mara, who were game for modeling my lovely cloche’ that I purchased in San Diego. I’ll have to get a good photo of me wearing it soon.

I’ll have more fun posts for you with details on the goodies I collected and the classes I took over the next few months. There is a lot happening this spring in my design and teaching work, so be sure to stop by again.



Having Fun at the Wool Market

Welcome sign in Vendor Barn entryway

This weekend was the Estes Park Wool Market, and this time I took my family with me.

Saturday, my friend Brenda was meeting us there with her husband and grown son.  Every time I go to the wool market and see all the fiber bearing animals, I keep trying to think of a way of having some of these critters at home. But I grew up on a farm and I know just how much work is involved.

Llamas - 3 amigos

One of our first stops was to watch the Sheepdog demonstration. Then we went to see the Llamas in their barn. The boys were delighted to meet 3 yearlings and their owner, Sandy of Lockwood Dreamstar, told them that llamas like to touch noses with you.

Llamas - Nose to Nose

The light was a bit low, so my photos were somewhat blurred.

llamas - Boys with black llama

This handsome fella was so soft. Sandy was very kind and educational about llamas and the boys were thrilled to get to pet a llama.

Sheep Shearing Demo

After our visit with the llamas we went to watch a sheep shearing demonstration. It was hard to hear the folks that were giving the demo because their sheep were being very noisy. It was lots of fun though to see how gently and quickly the shearer worked. At the end, the amount of fleece that came off each sheep was impressive. Most impressive was when the shearer told us that he could shear as many as 170 sheep in a day, and he had done as many as 262 on one of his busiest days.

Then we headed to the Paco-Vicuna, Alpaca and Rabbit barn. There we got to see how an alpaca fleece is sorted out in preparation for spinning into yarn. Brenda caught up with us in this barn, but the boys still wanted to see the bunnies. Brenda and her family left us to our exploring and I arranged to meet her a little later at the Vendor Barn (where the yarn and lovely hand-dyed fibers live).

Shanas Bunnies

I stopped to visit with a lady that had 4 beautiful French Angora rabbits, she had examples of their fiber that she had brushed off them during the day. The boys were exploring further and they fell in love with a little French Angora bunny that was for sale. He was a lovely butterscotch color, and though I was tempted as well, I knew better. When I said “no” it was clear that we had waited too long to feed the boys their lunch, both of them were in tears and very upset.

After the bunny incident I sent all my men off to have lunch and go to the little amusement center across town; go-carts, miniature golf and a gigantic slide that you ride down on rugs. I headed to the Vendor Barn to meet up with Brenda. I tried to be good and resist purchasing any yarn. But there were some beautiful hand-dyed hanks that I couldn’t say no to. I have very little resistance when it comes to yarn.

Bonkers Yarn

This lovely yarn from Bonkers Hand-Dyed Yarn inspired me with it’s color. Don’t be surprised if my hair ends up some of these colors, I’m going to be taking this hank into my next appointment with my stylist and see what she comes up with. Traci the owner/artist always has a wonderful variety of yarns and fibers in her booth. You can visit her website at www.tracibunkers.com to see many of her wonderful products and artwork.

Galinas DVD

I saw a number of vendors there that I know. I was really excited to see Galina Khmeleva as I have been wanting to purchase her Orenburg Knitting DVD ever since I took her knitting class at the Knit & Crochet Show last summer. We had a lovely chat and I purchased the treasured DVD. You can also download her class on the Interweave website.

Jeny Originals Booth

Brenda and I stopped to explore the gorgeous colors of yarns at Jeny Originals, Yarns & Handwovens. Turns out she also has a shop in Laramie, Wyoming (one of my favorite towns) so the next time I am up there to visit I definitely need to stop by. One thing I really enjoyed is that the tags on her hanks are the her husband’s photos that she takes inspiration from for her colors.

Jeny Originals Yarn

I couldn’t resist these 2 hanks and I think they will become something very lovely. The multiple colored one is seacell/silk and incredibly soft, the other is 100% silk and seems to glow.

Lambspun Ladies

I said a quick hello to my friends at the Lambspun booth. I had a giggle because this is the 25th anniversary of the Estes Park Wool Market and Lambspun was one of 5 vendors that have been there every year. So they had a banner in their booth that said “25 year Survivor”. As I walked around the floor with Brenda we spotted the other 4 booths. If you have never gotten a chance to stop in to visit the Lampspun shop in Ft. Collins you really need to treat yourself. I think of it as the Ali Baba den of yarn.

My Sheep Shirt 1

Diana White from Wyoming Equality Fiber Works had some great artwork. I had to have this T-shirt that says “My Sheep Shirt” on it in letters formed by sheep. When I showed my family my purchases that evening both boys wanted their own sheep shirts so I began to think about going back to the Wool Market on Sunday.

SeaColors Yarn

My last yarn purchase of the day was at the SeaColors booth. This booth was full of wonderful soft squashy yarn in delicious muted colors. I purchased 2 hanks in a lovely rose-coral mixture. I’m thinking a nice transitional piece for spring-time. The softness and loft of this yarn will definitely lend itself to crocheted cables. You can learn more about Nanne and her farm and yarn at www.getwool.com.

skein earrings

My last stop of the day was a visit to my friends Ron and Theresa at the Buffalo Wool Company. I was resisting purchasing yarn there, since I have a couple skeins I’m working up a design for spring in already. But I had to have a pair of these adorable earrings that are tiny hanks of Buffalo Gold yarn on silver findings. The deal was sealed when I found a pair in magenta.

I had definitely done my bit for retail therapy and felt very virtuous since I had resisted purchasing a bag at one booth. The bags were beautifully constructed and colorful, my 2 weaknesses. They were priced reasonably for the quality, but I talked myself out of it. Next year if they are at the market again I may not be able to resist.

Sunday, my oldest son wanted to go back to the market to explore the Vendor Barn. He and I headed over to Estes Park after lunch. Once we got there we went over to the building where the “Sheep to Shawl” competition was happening. Across the way was the Children’s Tent and he wanted to try learning to spin with a drop spindle. He made about 5 feet of thick/thin yarn and had a good time. It was fun for me to have a review of spinning with the drop spindle too.

As we were heading back toward the Vendor Barn he wanted to say “hi” to the 3 young llamas again. We stop by for a little bit, but only 2 of them were in their stall, the 3rd one must have been in the arena being shown. We headed back down the path and decided to visit the bunnies again.

Alpaca/Angora yarn for a hat
Alpaca/Angora yarn for a hat

This time we talked to the same woman with the 4 rabbits I had met on Saturday. We asked lots of questions about having rabbits and the care they needed. We stopped at a table that was selling some angora blend yarns and my son picked out a hank of alpaca/angora that I promised to make a hat from for him. The color is nearly black, so it will be a definite labor of love.

Boys Sheep Shirts

Finally we made it to the Vendor Barn and headed over to Diana’s booth again. We picked out shirts for both boys. The white one with the bright colors is for my oldest son and the light gray one with purple is for my youngest.

We wandered around the vendor floor then. My son was attracted to the artwork and fascinated by the various drum carders. One nice woman at a booth demonstrated to him how they work.

Carl and Eileen of Bijou Basin

When we found ourselves at Carl and Eileen’s Bijou Basin booth they weren’t busy so we got to visit for awhile. Carl regaled us with stories about their Yak herd and their dogs. My son was completely enthralled and I was petting the yarn.

Allure Fiber Wash

I didn’t purchase any yarn from them this time, but I did get a couple bottles of their new fine fiber and fabric wash “Allure”.  A small bottle of the Woodland Mist scent, and a large bottle of the Fragrance Free. I’m really looking forward to trying this wash product. Unlike some scented products this one did not make me sneeze, and the fragrance free may be the first I’ve encountered that truly had no scent at all.

Theresa and Ron of Buffalo Wool Co.

Our last stop of the day was to visit Ron and Theresa at Buffalo Wool Company. I had forgotten to get a photo of them when I had stopped by the day before. We tried to get a photo of the 3 of us, but our photographer was a little short being he is only 12.

After all the fun with Ron and Theresa we headed out the door to drive home. The smell of the cinnamon roasted almonds was a big temptation though, so we got a little packet of those to share on the drive. On the drive home my son told me this had been an “Epic” day. I think I got some mom points and he is looking forward to next year’s Wool Market. Must run in the family.

The date for next year’s Wool Market is June 11th and 12th, so you might want to plan a visit to Estes Park to come play with fiber and have fun with friends. Estes Park is a beautiful place to visit and adding fiber and yarn to the visit makes it even better.



The Next Best Thing to a Hug

Eleonora Shawlette
Eleonora Shawlette

Sometimes we can’t be with those we love, but we can send our love to them. My favorite way of sending a package of love is in the form of a crocheted goodie. Usually it’s a shawl. They are marvelously useful and the closest to a warm hug that I can give when I can’t actually put my arms around a loved one.

Back View sample

My Eleonora Shawlette is a quick wrap project to crochet up. The shawlette size is made using just one ball of Berroco Boboli Lace yarn, but you can make it larger by using more yarn. The simple stitch pattern is easy to catch on to and makes a snuggly drapey fabric.

Eleonora Shawl

The pattern comes with instructions and charts for both the body of the shawlette and the lovely lace border. You can find the pattern in my Ravelry shop here.

I also wanted to share some links to wonderful shawl patterns that are available free from the blogs of my crochet designer friends. These lovely designs are available as free patterns because these designers have ads on their websites to help them make ends meet. I hope you enjoy checking out what they have available.



Tamara Kelly’s “Branching Out Shawlette” This is a terrific shawlette pattern that is interesting for experienced crocheters, yet simple enough that intrepid beginners can tackle it. If you want something different take a look at the other wrap patterns that Tamara has on offer at “Mooglyblog.com”.



Jessie Rayot’s “Juliette Shawl“. I think this design is so clever. I love that it is actually a sort of “poncho” that won’t go slipping off your shoulders and getting lost.  Jessie made her sample in a variety of lovely colors. If this particular shawl doesn’t catch your fancy, take a cruise around her blog “JessieAtHome.com” where she has lots of other lovely shawls and fun designs.



Kim Guzman’s “Butterfly Fling Wrap“. This beautiful wrap is an intermediate pattern and with the open stitch pattern is a perfect layer for warmer weather. I can totally see wearing this all scrunched up around my neck in the Fall and winter season as well, especially if made with an animal fiber blend like wool/silk. If this pattern isn’t quite the one for you, don’t worry, Kim has got loads of other beautiful wraps as well as garments to share with visitors to her blog, “CrochetKim.com”.

I hope everyone finds a shawl that is just right for making a “hug” for their loved ones.  It may be too late this year to make a shawl for mother’s day, but you can put it on your “To-Do list” for next year. I’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day this year with my boys at the Colorado Chocolate Festival on Saturday. I’ll have lots of photos and news about that for you this weekend.

A Yarn Fest Kind of Day

Welcome Sign

Well, I’m a bit behind again. Today I was at the Interweave Yarn Fest.

One of the few photos of friends at the Yarn Fest. Toni, Brenda, Me and Marcy
Toni, Brenda, Me and Marcy

Got to see lots of crochet friends, though once again did a terrible job of getting photos of everyone. The picture above, with the lovely Interweave ladies: Toni Rexroat and Marcy Smith and my good friend Brenda Bourg, was one of the few that I managed to get. I also got to see briefly Lily Chin, Darla Fanton, Marly Bird, Robyn Chachula.

Pile of Silk Yarn

Also had to adopt some beautiful yarn. Lovely silks and silk blends from RedFish Dyeworks. I’m going to be creating something luscious in this gorgeous stuff for sure. I was also enabling Brenda and she ended up buying some of the silk lace, can’t wait to see what she comes up with using it.

After the classes were out I snagged my dear friend Mary Beth Temple and we went off to dinner. Kind of blew away an entire day playing, but it was an inspiring mental health day.

Jan and Andee’s Yarn Retreat Adventure

The last weekend of Jan’s Colorado visit was the Longmont Yarn Shop Spring Renewal Retreat. This was the event that we had actually planned Jan’s whole visit around. This was my first yarn themed retreat and I was really looking forward to some relaxing with yarn and fiber loving friends.  People who understand when you say, “I have to pet this yarn.” or “The yarn was calling to me.”

Jan and I were also excited about getting some nice walks in. Jan wears a pedometer and is always good about getting me to go for walks when we get together. I got a pedometer too, in preparation for her visit, and am getting into the habit of paying attention to the number of steps I do each day. 10,000 minimum is the goal.

Friday, March 13th  we loaded up the car and were on our way by 9:30 that morning. We had decided, since the retreat was in Loveland, we would make a trip a bit further north and stop by the Lambspun yarn shop in Ft. Collins.

We ate our lunch outside on the patio and were seated beside this fountain.
We ate our lunch outside on the patio and were seated beside this fountain.

There is a wonderful little restaurant that shares the building with the yarn shop. We had our lunch there, then spent a lovely couple of hours exploring the shop and seeing if there was any yarn we needed to adopt.

Sweet little birdhouse in the gardens next to the restaurant patio.
Sweet little birdhouse in the gardens next to the restaurant patio.

Jan was actually shopping for yarn in large amounts for a couple of projects on her “to-do” list. She doesn’t have easy access to any yarn shops near her home. Partly because she works some long hours at her day job and can’t really drive at night. She was having a great time exploring the options, and we had fun searching for the perfect yarn.

The yarns I brought home
The yarns I brought home

For some reason we both kept being attracted to linen yarns. Blends and 100% linen. I got the 2 different yarns above to experiment with and Jan purchased some other yarn that was an interesting blend of linen and rayon. I was trying to be good about not purchasing yarn that I wouldn’t have time to work with this year.

Shirley, the shop owner, was working on a felting project using a blending board that really piqued my interest. I considered purchasing my own blending board but the price was a little out of the budget for this trip. I may put it on my list for Christmas this year as I think I would have a great time playing with it.

Finally we tore ourselves away and headed off to the Sunrise Ranch for our retreat.

I use the GPS on my phone thru Google Maps to navigate when traveling. There was an update not too long ago and the voice is now very robot like. Jan and I had been calling my GPS gal, Gina, last summer when we did our road-trip to Chain-Link. We decided Gina now sounds like she has become assimilated by the Borg (from Star Trek Next Generation). Fortunately, Borg Gina directed us to the ranch without any problems.

SR Sign at Entrance

The Sunrise Ranch is nestled in a beautiful valley with a lake to the south, gorgeous colorful red bluffs to the east and lots of wonderful options for hiking. We got checked in and did a little exploring and a short walk before dinner that evening.

SR First night goodies
The goodie bag and my yarn from the evening.

After dinner was the welcome meeting followed by a White Elephant yarn exchange. At the welcome meeting Gail and Jane from LYS distributed “goodie” bags with a water bottle, a bumper sticker,  a needle/hook inventory card (that has our shop dog “Kit” on it), and a little felt zipper bag.

SR Name Tags

The bags were identified with our name tags for the retreat and most everyone made yarn “necklaces” to wear their name tag on. Jan and I took photos of ours.

SR Yak Yarn

The other event for the evening was a White Elephant yarn exchange. I’d never participated in one before and it was great fun. My ribs were tender from laughing so hard. I ended up with some Yak yarn that I’d never seen before, so that will be fun to play with.

Saturday, March 14th was the first full day of the retreat and it was Pi-Day! That morning started bright and early with a yummy breakfast. Then Jan and I decided to go for a walk. My fellow teacher from the shop, Gretchen Hofer (whom I took my lace knitting class with), joined us.

SR Morning Lake

It was a beautiful morning and we all took lots of photographs. The one above was my favorite shot of the lake, it was so calm the water looked like a mirror.

My perfect Pi moment. 3.1415926
My perfect Pi moment. 3.141592653

Since it was Pi-day I was wearing my new T-shirt, Gretchen made sure we got a photo of me at 9:26 a.m. This Pi-day was extra special because the date allowed for more of the decimal places to be included. Normally for simple geometries you just use the first 2 places after the decimal: 3.14. There are of course many more decimal places to be expressed in Pi.

We all had fun on the walk, saw a pheasant take flight and even spotted a snake trail in the frost (though fortunately didn’t meet the snake). By the time we had returned to our room I had gotten my 10,000 steps in for the day already.

My show and tell projects
My show and tell projects

After lunch, everyone got together for Show and Tell. I brought my finished lace scarflette to show, as well as a cloche hat that I have been experimenting with. It was wonderful to see all the projects the other attendees brought to show and to hear the stories behind them.

SR Main Building

After dinner that evening we all gathered in the big Living Room area of the main building (called the Pavillion). Everyone had various projects they were working on, so folks had even brought their spinning wheels and looms.

Gail was working on a very interesting weaving piece that would be felted after she finished the weaving. It had big open spaces in it. It came out really neat. I may have to drag out my Cricket loom and give it a try.

Sunday, March 15th I was very excited because the morning activity was Needle felting and trying out the Zoom Looms.

SR Ndle Felt for Jan2

For the needle felting we were using the little felt bags that were in our goodie bags from the shop.  Jan wasn’t going to the morning activity so she gave me her little felt bag to play with. I decided I would make a design on it and give it back to her.

SR Ndle Felt for Jan1

It had been awhile since I had done any needle felting. I had forgotten how much I love playing with fiber this way. Gail and Jane had provided a wide assortment of yarns and roving in a variety of colors, so it was almost like painting.

I was also excited to try out the Zoom Looms. These are pin looms and I hadn’t ever worked with one before. I had seen them all over the place at TNNA a year ago and had wanted to play with one. So this was my chance. I really liked how quick it was to weave my little square. I’d been good about not getting a blending board, so I decided that I would be purchasing a Zoom Loom before the weekend was over.

My goodies purchased from the Vendor sale.
My goodies purchased from the Vendor sale.

After lunch was the Vendor sale. I purchased a Zoom Loom, some lovely handspun from our LYS spinning teacher, cute project bag and a beautiful shawl “stick”. Once Jan and I had finished our retail therapy we went for a photo walk near the Pavilion building.

SR Sculpt Pond and Labrth

We had both wanted to get a photo of the sculpture pond and when we got over there we spotted a brick labyrinth path in the lawn just past it.

SR Labrinth

We decided to walk the labyrinth and then finished our photography.  It was an unusually hot day for March, somewhere in the mid-80s, so we decided we would save our big walk for the evening once it had cooled off a little.

Valley view to the South
Valley view to the South
Valley view to the North
Valley view to the North

Jan, Gretchen and I went for our walk after dinner. We got some good photos of the valley and saw a wonderful noisy little creek while on the walk. Afterward we hung out in the Living Room visiting and playing with yarn for a little while, but we were both pretty tired so headed to our room.

Monday, March 16th was the last morning at the retreat. We got ourselves packed up and loaded the car right after breakfast. Our usual group went out for one last hike around the ranch. Then snuck in a little time crocheting and visiting with the other retreat attendees before it was time to leave.

Pretty little mosaic at entry way near pond.
Pretty little mosaic at entry way near pond.

Jan and I decided we had enjoyed having someone else plan and prepare meals, as well as doing the dishes, that we would make our re-entry to “real” life gentler by having lunch in Loveland at PF Changs. Borg Gina got us to the restaurant fine, but we had a little argument with her when it was time to drive back to Boulder.

Fortunately I knew most of the way I wanted to take and we headed home via the scenic route. When we got to Longmont we decided to go back up the mountain via the road thru Lyons, another town I haven’t been to since the flood. There were signs of the damage from the flood, but the canyon was still beautiful and Jan really enjoyed the drive.

Once we hauled all the stuff up from the car at the house, we ran a couple loads of laundry and played with our yarn and goodies from the retreat. We also started talking about what we would do for our “visit” trip next year.

Funny thing about the retreat weekend. I spent most of my crocheting time working on a very large experiment swatch. Unfortunately, after we got back home, I realized I really wasn’t happy with how it was working out. So I spent most of the evening unraveling the swatch and winding up the yarn. Such is the life of a designer.

Another Awesome TNNA Show

As some of you know, the first weekend of May (2-5th) was the TNNA Summer Trade Show in Indianapolis, IN. This is the show where all sorts of needleart craft vendors have booths that show their wonderful merchandise for the coming Fall/Winter season.

There is yarn, and tools, and yarn, and accessories, and yarn, and books, and yarn. Yeah, you can tell what I was paying the most attention to.

Most of the folks attending the show, besides the many vendors, are shop owners looking for the products they will be selling in their stores. So there really isn’t much to purchase there. It’s more a matter of talking to the various vendors about how a freelance crochet designer/teacher like myself can utilize their products. The main thing being designing with some of those lovely yarns.

Jill and Tabs on the inbound flight

I took a flight out of Denver on Friday and it must have been the TNNA flight. My friends and fellow designers Jill Wright and Tabetha Hendricks were seated across the aisle from me and one of my seat mates was a yarn company sales rep. The TNNA show is more of a working show, everyone is in and out of meetings so it is sometimes just a quick hug with friends. It was fun to have some time to visit with Jill and Tabs on the flight.

Seattle Skyline Chocolate Bar Karen brought.
Seattle Skyline Chocolate Bar Karen brought.

I was rooming at the Hyatt with Karen Whooley.  We had a great time catching up between meetings and inspiring each other. We also each brought chocolate to share. I brought my usual assortment of Chocolove bars, with extra “Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate” ones to give to Mary Beth and Karen.  Karen brought a wonderful sculpted bar from Dilettante Chocolates. They are a family-owned company from Seattle that has children in school with Karen’s.

Every time I go to a TNNA show I am always a bit overwhelmed. There is so much to see and everywhere you look there is color and exciting yarn. Sometimes I think I get a bit lightheaded from all the yarn fumes.  I always go with an eye toward a particular goal for my business. This time it was to reach out to more of yarn companies there and see about using their products in my upcoming indie published designs.

I am particularly drawn to the hand-dyed yarns. The colors are always so wonderful and get my brain ticking over.  I also spoke to many of the yarn companies about US made yarns. Some companies are really working on having products that are all domestic, sheep-to-skein production of yarn. Something I am strongly in favor of as it creates jobs in our local economies. As well as being better for the environment since the yarn isn’t being shipped across the planet to get to it’s end users.

Pile of Yarn

Some of the yarn companies were kind enough to provide me with a skein or two of their products to swatch with for my designs. Fortunately I left room in my suitcase to bring those home with me. Keep a watch here on the blog as I’ll be letting everyone know when I have patterns coming out using these yarns.

In the tools department I was very excited to see that Clover has steel hooks now in their Amour line of crochet hooks. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Steel hook” it is usually referring to the tiny hooks used for crocheting with very fine thread. Those hooks can be the culprit for many hand injuries for crocheters, because they are tiny and steel is a very cold conductive metal.

Clover Amour Steel hook

Clover now has 7 different sizes of steel hooks, ranging from Size 0/1.75mm to Size 12/.6mm. I got a Size 8/.9mm to test drive. So I’ll be writing more about these wonderful new hooks very soon.

Thera-glovesSupport Glove

One of the companies that I was excited to see at the show was American Orthopedic Appliance Group with their many styles of “Thera-Gloves”. They were kind enough to share a sample pair of their “Designer Series” gloves with me that I will be doing a more in-depth review of later this summer. They have a variety of styles of therapeutic support gloves that you can see at their website: http://www.thera-glove.com.

Speaking of hands, I’m always looking for lotions to use on my hands. Colorado is a dry climate and my hands tend to really show it.  Back in January I made a trip to Ft. Collins with one of my friends to visit the LambSpun Yarn Shop. They had nifty “lotion bars”.

They looked like soap and it was suggested that you put them in a soap dish as a way to have them available to use. I really like the formulation, but there is no way putting the bar on a soap dish will work at my house. There are boys, dogs, and a cat. Too many opportunities for something undesirable to happen to the lotion bar. Not to mention I am on the go a lot and want to be able to take my lotion with me.

Milk and Honey lotion bar

It was great to find the Milk & Honey products at the show. Davin makes these lovely lotion bars and packages them in a tin that can fit very nicely in my project bag. She had the lotion bars in 3 different scents and I loved how they are molded in a shape. The little tin in the photo is some of her “Anywhere Balm”  that is lavender/mint. This is a great lip balm and is also now living in my project bag.

By the end of Monday at the show both Karen and I were exhausted. Fortunately our flight wasn’t until 8 p.m. that evening. We went back to the hotel and had a late lunch at the restaurant, which revived us a little. Then it was time to retrieve our bags and take a taxi to the airport. As we were doing that we both got messages that our flight was delayed. We were flying out of Indianapolis on the same flight, but Karen would have to switch to another plane in Denver to complete her journey home to Seattle.

Tired but Happy. Selfie of Us at Airport.
Tired but Happy. Selfie of Us at Airport.

We headed off to the airport and decided to see what the airline folks could do about Karen’s flight. She ended up having to take a different route home. So we said good-bye at the airport when it was time for her flight. As it was, we both got to our respective homes very late that night.

The next morning I slept in late and then spent the rest of  the day unpacking from the trip and making lots of notes about my meetings from TNNA. A week later I am still feeling inspired and excited about the yarns and products I saw there.  I’ll let you know more as I test out some products and swatch with the yarns. Looks like I’m going to be even busier this year.



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