Friday, March 26, 2010

Win Free Stuff (maybe, but it's worth a shot, right?)

As far as I am concerned, answering a few questions in exchange for the chance to win free yarn cannot possibly be a bad thing. So read on, click through, and take a few minutes to share your opinions with TNNA

Please complete the 2010 NeedleArts survey at The needlearts community needs your advice and opinions, whether you are a beginner or an expert! This survey is only conducted every few years. Your input is very important and will be included in a published national report.

Your answers are anonymous. No one will use your survey responses to market to you.

In return for your participation, you will receive valuable benefits:

* Gain a chance to win one of five $100 needlearts gift certificates.
* Ensure stores and suppliers provide what you want.
* Explore your needlearts interests.

Your valuable input will help the needlearts community, too:

* Advocate for more programs to support the needlearts, such as Helping Hands Needlearts Mentoring, Stitch N’ Pitch, and Stitching for Literacy.
* Help independent retailers and family-owned suppliers succeed by giving them the customer feedback they need.

As a thank-you for completing the survey, The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) is offering the chance to win one of five $100 needlearts store gift certificates. To enter the sweepstakes simply fill out the survey at and then click on “Sweepstakes Entry” on the page you see after submitting the survey.

The 10-minute survey asks about your experiences with the needlearts you enjoy: crocheting, cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting, or needlepoint. Let us know which types of projects you prefer, the kinds of new products you want, and what you’d like to see needlearts shops do better.

The survey is sponsored by The National NeedleArts Association, a business organization dedicated to supporting the needlearts community. Hart Business Research is conducting this survey for TNNA and compiling the results into a major national report, The State of Specialty Needlearts 2010. Please complete the survey right away at Survey closes April 19, 2010.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And Then There Were Two

It took me a minute to remember how these socks were born. We drove Girl to Indiana more than a year and a half ago to leave her at the mercies of a freshman dorm. I knit a lot along the way. I say "we" drove, but in truth Mr. Wonderful drove. My sole responsibility on road trips is to say things like "You missed that exit" and "Are we ever going to stop so I can pee?" and "You drive like crap." Generally at that point he references the fact that I never drive on road trips, and would I like to now. I decline and return to my knitting. I did once drive across South Carolina.
But about these socks. They didn't start as this colorway or this weight. They began as fingering weight socks in a colorway called Scottish Highlands. This is one of those "vision + yarn choice + stitch pattern = fail" moments in which I discover that while the concept is sound, something just isn't right. Maybe swatching for a pattern when you've just tearfully and forcibly dumped your youngest child and only daughter off at a college halfway across the country, cruelly wrenching her from home and Gerbil, isn't such a great idea. Maybe, based on circumstance, the poor Scottish Highland socks were doomed from the first moment the swatch was cast on. Maybe parenting is the hardest, worst, best, scariest, most painful, most rewarding job I've ever had. I stuffed the swatch to the bottom of the bin, grumbled, and moved on to something else - I don't remember what now. Denial is my favorite defense mechanism in yarn and in life. Stuff it to the bottom, forget about it and move on. It never happened.
Home again, just the two of us - an odd thing, feeling both empty and full at the same time, when has it ever been just the two of us? - I hauled the swatch out and began the quest of the yarn box. This is where I poke and dig and try to find something I think will work. My hands found a yarn. Wrong weight. Wrong colors. But perfect.The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock heavyweight; the colorway is Lunasea. I love them. These are wonderfully thick, warm socks suitable for cooler weather as a hiking sock or a house sock. I love thick wool socks in cold weather. The stitch pattern is quickly and readily memorized, and knitting them up is a relaxing and peaceful act. Well, I think it is. Mary Kubasek-Haber actually knit them. We could ask her. Regardless they are sort of phoenix socks; from the ashes of my stitch pattern denial and yarn angst rise these beautiful, simple, peaceful, methodical woolies. Come May, you can knit a pair for yourself - just snag a copy of Toe Up 2-at-a-Time Socks from your local library, yarn or book shop, and cast on.
If you are in the Boston area next weekend, please come and join us at The Wellesley Booksmith for a wonderful full-day knit-a-thon event. There will be presentations and demonstrations, signing of books, and general fibery goodness. I will be there, along with Gail Callahan, Kristin Nicholas, Judith Durant, Wren Ross, Jill Stover and Roseanna Means. 10% of proceeds of the charitable book fair will benefit Women of Means which seeks to provide ", patient-centered health care to women and children". Worthy. Also, anyone looking for a job? The need a nurse case manager. I'd apply but it would cut into my knitting time, I think.
I have also updated the 'where I'll be' thing in the sidebar (I think it may need it's own page soon) to include book signings at both the New Hampshire and Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festivals - Sunday (Mother's Day) in New Hampshire from 11am-2pm and Saturday in Massachusetts, same times. I will once again be signing books for Barb Parry at Foxfire Fiber booth. There will be books available at both events, and I look forward to seeing you there! I think a new sock book would make a lovely Mother's Day gift, don't you? (insert grin here!)
On the home front - apparently in spite of our best attempts at apicide (I made a word!), the bees are not only alive but thriving. We've done so much wrong and they still soldier on. We're taking it a little more seriously now. We're even going to add on a second hive this spring.I am hopeful that this will ensure honey in a quantity greater than a pint come fall.
Spring is springing - baby garlic is poking it's slender green top out to take a look around.I love garlic and I planted a couple of new varieties this year thanks to my Garlic and Arts Festival quest. What is not to love about two days of eating garlic raw? If you're in or near Western Mass in October, I cannot recommend this event highly enough.
I also found one tiny gray asparagus spear blinking against the light.These beds should have good yield this year, as it's their second in full production. We eat it like there's no tomorrow, so it will be nice to grow our own. I am hoping to have enough to freeze, which although so wrong will allow us to extend the season.
And then I found this one lone onion,overlooked in the fall harvest, too small for much of anything, but struggling to make a go of it. I pulled it, and added it to dinner - sauteed mushrooms and chard from last year's garden, plus the chopped sad little onion, a bit of garlic and some clarified butter. It was all quite excellent.
I am glad that winter is heading out trailing green growing things in it's wake. In four days spring will officially be here. In three Girl will be 22. About that denial thing...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You See Socks. I See People.

Today a preview copy of Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks appeared on my doorstep. I was thrilled. I will admit that once again I cried. There's something powerful in this second book. Like a second baby, you're not walking in blind; you know what's up. It's going to be hard. It's going to be the worst, best work you've ever done. And when it's over you hope that you can stand back in awe of what's been created. And, for better or worse, most of you will see "me" in those pages.

But I know better. I see people. Lots of them.

I see Gwen Steege, Pam Art and Deb Balmuth at Storey who's dedication to the idea that an unknown author could sell books resulted in not one, but two of them. I see editor Kathy Brock, taking time to email me and make certain that the mundane wasn't - that it all made sense to the majority. I see the art director Mary Winkelman Velgos, hesitant that I might not like the design, but relived when I did. How could I not? Who wouldn't love it? You take my words, my intents, my plans and you make them so, so beautiful. I see photographer John Gruen, confused by all of the crazy sock knitters but willing to believe us when we said that this or that shot was truly vital. I see Dan and Amy and Alee working to market me and these little bundles of joy so that you all get a chance to take a look inside both of us. Thank you all so much.
I see Kathy Elkins who said I could when I said wasn't sure I could. And kept on insisting I could until I did. Twice. Thank you.

I see my tireless and dedicated sample knitters; Dena Childs, Tamara Stone-Snyder, Mary Kubasek-Haber, Mary-Alice Baker, Kristen Gonsalves, Rue Shanti and Barb Giguere. I see care and love in every stitch of these socks. As I turn the pages, your names call out to me from the images, reminding me of each of you in ways I am grateful to acknowledge. I see the time and effort you put forth for a mention on the last page of 169 pages, with all the thanks and love I can muster in words. And it isn't nearly enough.I see Tamara Stone-Snyder, my amazing and gifted technical editor, working her hardest to be sure that every word, every direction, every number and every nuance could be as clear and concise as it possibly could be. She put her blood into this book as surely as I did, and I am forever grateful for it.

I see my husband Gene, 20 years in and still hanging tough with a woman who's not exactly easy to handle. It takes a strong man to take on me and all I bring along.

So if you should chance to buy, rent, beg, borrow or (please, don't) steal a copy of Toes-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks I challenge you to look really really close. Find the people. Because they are in there, and without them, I would be nothing.

Thanks, guys. I love you.

Monday, March 08, 2010

When Gerbils Gave Names to Socks

Another sneak peek into Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks today!

When Malabrigo introduced a sock yarn that felt softer than a baby's butt and looked like...well...Malabrigo, what choice did I have?
(photo ©John Gruen)

Timing is everything. This yarn entered Webs through one door and almost literally went out another. There was a waiting list for the stuff. Nearly every color was gone before the bags were even open. And there was I, desperate for some of this yarn for this book and willing to take any not-back-ordered--not-sold-out color that might be available. The color I got was velvet grapes. And I love what I got! Because it's Malabrigo it does feel like velvet, and the color reminds me of my Aunt Blanche and Aunt Kay's ancient concord grape vines.

The patterns happened the way many patterns happen for me. I began a stockinette swatch and as I swatched and watched the colors move I decided that texture would be desired. I did a little more swatching with some knit and purl combinations and decided that a crenellation was called for. The knitting and the choosing of the pattern was pure pleasure.

The naming was not. I had lists of words associated with crenellations. Castle. Tower? Battlement? Parapet. Nothing seemed to fit. I was becoming pretty vocal in my desperation for a name for these socks, which I think by then I was calling "these bloody stinking socks", but maybe I am not remembering rightly. Girl was home for a break from school at the time, and I was whining really loudly and not very prettily about my inability to name this one last pair of socks. Her boyfriend, generally a quiet boy - he seems wary. I do not know why. Perhaps I give off a "get the heck away from my daughter" vibe? - said slowly, so as not to risk being pummeled for dating my daughter, "What about The Keep?" I started at him for a long moment. I thought. I debated. And then my mouth opened and I said "Gerbil. You are brilliant. Thank you." And that is how the socks pictured here came to be named by a Gerbil. And in the ensuing year I've adjusted to the presence of the Gerbil in my daughter's life. Well. Mostly.

The socks are, I think, lovelier in person than this picture shows. There's a lot of activity, lots of angular motion like a maze, making the whole naming by the Gerbil a bit ironic. I think gerbils can learn mazes, like mice, can't they?

In other book news, please join us on Thursday May 6th from 6-8pm at Webs to celebrate the launch of Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks. Registration is free, but sign-ups are required. Please contact Customer Service at 413-584-2225 or to register. Hope to see you there!