In From the Cold

It was a rare sunny day—cold and crisp yesterday. I spent it scraping the dense moss off the roof of our shed and discovered the weather vane atop it had fallen. Probably knocked down by the unusually strong winds of late or perhaps the recent (standing dead) tree removal by our neighbors that I’m glad to see gone–else they crush my garage. Either way, it felt like some of the charm of our little home was lost and I was in the doldrums.

The shed is old, smells of gasoline (used to be mower storage, no doubt) and full of spiders. It’s also slated for demolition once we get around to it. So why clean the roof? It got me outside and though I probably should have demossed the grass, I was too lazy to drive to the island hardware store for lime.


I came in feeling cold with my hands unscrubbably dirty (no knitting for me!). I donned my George Hancock while pondering knitting another. What weighted me down was thinking of all the yarn I’ve purchased for things I want to make, meanwhile I’m still buried under my grandmother’s stash.

Yarn Collage
Just a fraction of the yarn from my stash

I’ve donated the bulk of it to various good causes, but there always seems to be more, and more, and more. And, in spite of having this load of yarn, I keep buying more, and more, and more yarn that I want, though not all my purchases have worked out. For example, a few years ago I bought 5000 (not a typo; 2 X 2500) yards of variegated lace weight yarn. What was I thinking!

Enter Stephen West—a warm, wonderful character if you’ve not had the pleasure. I’ve bumped into him in various knitting venues—not that he’d remember, or that it matters. The upshot is that he’s a force of nature and one cannot help but be buoyed just thinking about him and his knitting designs!

So what perks up a PNW gal on a gray Sunday? A free knitting pattern called Garter Squish for a warm blanket he describes as “eats delicious yarn in no time at all, leaving lots of empty space in your yarn box or cabinet or room to fill with new wooly acquisitions.”

I queued two of them—one for an easy-care acrylic throw and another for wool—all of the yarn from grandma’s stash.

I have drooled over this pattern for ages–since he first he published it. And now I see its immeasurable value—busting the winter blues, making yarn quickly and easily disappear, and creating warm wooly throws for our little house. Stay tuned for upcoming photos.

Who knows, I might just be able to use the lace weight yarn with his Marled Mania Leggings pattern.

So many problems solved!

The Commute from Heaven?

I have my challenges working a more than fulltime job in the city and living on an island. I don’t commute every day (which would be about 3-4 hours each way), I mainly just go home for three days and stay in the city for four days. If the internet was decent (a gripe for a different day) I would probably only go to the mainland for 24-to-48 hours at most and probably not every week. But it’s terrible—and that’s being generous.

This summer one of the Washington State Ferries, our newest, the Samish, had one of the two engines fail (they have for each direction). As a result, more than once, I got left high and dry with my reservation cancelled making everyone a standby passenger. 2560px-mv_samish_arriving_in_anacortes

And after watching my favorite airline, Kenmore Air, ferry the rich and famous off the island while I roasted in the standby lane at the ferry terminal for the second unexpected time in a month, this week I opted in for a treat—that’s right—to fly rather than drive. It’s about a 45-minute flight from South Lake Union in Seattle, though I used to travel via their headquarters in Kenmore. But since Kenmore Air always flies to Seattle to pick up passengers, there just isn’t a reason to drive 30 miles before getting on the plane. Besides, this week the hubby was already implanted, so he could pick me up at West Sound.

Kenmore Air landing at West Sound on Orcas Island

It was a foggy day, and unlike usual, I didn’t get to ride shotgun (a benefit of starting in Kenmore) so I didn’t get much of a view, but I did get some knitting done on my latest lurid pink version of Stefanie Japel’s Perfect Periwinkle Turtleneck Tube Vest

More on that to come…

Sunsets–its THE thing about West Beach

Everyone agrees—islanders and visitors alike—that the best sunsets on Orcas Island are seen from West Beach. People drive, walk, bicycle, jog, kayak, even hitchhike just to take in the view.

On a clear day, with no clouds, the sunsets are rather banal, but when there is weather—and in particular a forest fire on the mainland—the sky lights up with some of the most amazing colors.

I thought I’d just post a few of the memorable ones from summer until now.


Group vs. Guild

When I first moved (back) to the Pacific Northwest over 15 years ago one of the first things I did was look for a knitting group. It turned out to be a local guild (Carnation, WA). At the time I didn’t know the difference between a group and a guild. But I’ve had a recent “ah ha!” moment in the Orcas Island knitting scene and I’m looking to see if others would agree with my notions on the subject.

The Fiber Expo at the Mullins Center, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
The Fiber Expo at the Mullins Center, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

In my experience, guilds tend to meet regularly. They have fixed days/times (3rd Monday of the month). They have announcements and agendas. This could include a fiber tasting, class or lecture, picking and doing knit-a-longs or charity work, or just “good-to-knows” in the local fiber scene. And in some cases, not all, they belong to some sort of registry like TKGA. In Washington state, only one is listed (Seattle), but I know of at least 10 more—many very formal and extremely active despite their lack of association to larger body.

Items knitted by fellow guild members
Items knitted by fellow guild members
More Guild Knitted Items
More Guild Knitted Items

Groups, like the one I formed at work, are much informal. I go to my own about twice a month, but the weekly meeting stays on the calendar so people can show up even when I’m not there. But I don’t go out of my way to make sure there is a person in charge of the meeting. If no one shows, that’s okay too! When we’ve got a big group usually the talk turns to yarn, knit travels, our projects on needles and upcoming shop crawls.

Member of the Orcas Group Teaching Weaving
Member of the Orcas Group Teaching Weaving

Some guilds have both formal and informal meetings. For instance in Eastside Knitters (in Bellevue, WA) meet monthly as a guild and some of the same ladies (plus or minus a few others) gather once a week in the same building’s coffee shop for a “knit in”.

On WKIP (World Knit in Public Day) this year I was drinking a local cider and eating at my favorite pub, The Lower Tavern when a young lady asked me if I wanted to join the local knitting group on Thursday nights at Island Hoppin’ Brewery. Knitting and beer, what could be better? Although I haven’t gone yet, the owners, Nate and Becca regularly crab in the bay by our place, so one evening when they were at the beach pulling in crab pots, I asked them about it.

“Yeah. Sometimes people are knitting on the couches—but usually only in winter when there’s not much else to do.”

Definitely a group, not a guild.

What I finally did do this week (after missing several other opportunities) was go to another “knitting group” at Warm Valley Orchard hosted by Maria Nutt, one of the island shepherdesses. The talk was of animals/breeds, natural dyes, swapped fleeces with Australia, fairs where we can submit our work or man the exhibits/booths, etc.

My Warm Waffle Mitts and Hat on Display at the Expo
My Warm Waffle Mitts and Hat on Display at the Expo

While there was some trading of tips and handing around of objects (mostly hand dyed and spun wool), but for the most part—it was about the business of fiber, though most, like me, are knitting for themselves, friends and family. And next week, when Maria is away, one of the other ladies who she’s known for 20 years will be opening the studio for the gathering. I didn’t ask if they were a guild, but if they aren’t I’ll be surprised. It’s too bad I spend most Tuesday nights on the mainland, otherwise they could count on me every week!

Riding the Klahowya "Island Hopper" ferry from Friday Harbor back to orcas Island
Riding the Klahowya “Island Hopper” Ferry from Friday Harbor back to Orcas Island

Definitely part of a guild, not a group. In fact, the San Juan Island Textile Guild, of which I am now a member.

And though I can’t make most of the weekday meetings I was able to participate that next weekend in the San Juan Island Craft & Fiber Arts Expo—manning the Knitting and Crochet table to teach people if they had an interest.

So there’s my thoughts on the differences. Both are lovely and have their place and I really like ones that straddle the line best.

What’s your preference? Do you participate in both or are you mostly an online group member?

Moving Day–Round 1

My favorite perch on the beach
My favorite perch at West Beach

I came into work this morning to find boxes. This after having to unpack boxes this weekend at the new place on Orcas. I had a lovely time on the island and I think that what I really wanted was just to stay there—not come back to “reality” of work, politics, life in the city.

It’s a funny thing, I’ve always loved living on the urban side of the pond. Though I feel a change taking place now that I have a home on the island. I feel a bit “displaced” in my city home.

As I stared at the pile of boxes–that were not going to unpack themselves–and the dirty desk (courtesy of the office movers), I knew it was stiff upper lip time, despite not feeling that way. In fact, the only things stiff were my back and shoulders from lifting boxes and weeding the garden. 

That's my buoy!
That’s my buoy! Atta buoy!! It’s a buoy!!! The one far right is the one for my house.
Mount Baker catching the last rays of sunlight after the rest of the hills are in twilight
Mount Baker catching the last rays of sunlight after the rest of the hills are in twilight

I found it a bit lonely out there, but connected with a couple of friends who I will hopefully get to know better as I spend more time at my little slice of heaven at West Beach.

There was not much time for knitting at the house. I did get some done on the ferry and I was thankful for the plentiful natural light on the ferry rides–both ways. I’d been struggling with a Kitchner stitched shoulder seam–seven tries with no success, though I’ve done it several times before–including the other shoulder! Thankfully, on the way over from Anacortes I had it in the bag first (re)try.

A bit of "cancer" on the Hyak ferry between Orcas Island and Anacortes
A bit of “cancer” on the Hyak ferry between Orcas Island and Anacortes

Though the weather and time was lovely, it was tiring too—all the cleaning, packing, unpacking, weeding, etc. only then to have to turn around, come back, go to work and unpack my office after an unnecessary office move which will, in turn, make my job harder.

Water, bars and decking aboard the Hyak on the way to Anacortes from Orcas Island
Water, bars and decking aboard the Hyak on the way to Anacortes from Orcas Island

Still, the scenery was lovely getting to and from the new place as well as while I was there. I got some really great shots—both artsy and not. I also finished a book I was reading in the quiet hours Sunday morning.

The Phoenix moored near the ferry terminal on Orcas Island
The Phoenix moored near the ferry terminal on Orcas Island

The thing I need to remember is that this is temporary and that someday I will rise like a phoenix.