Saturday, September 6, 2014

Facing Up To It and New Project Notes

Lately I've been enjoying summer and knitting at a somewhat leisurely pace as I'm still regaining my strength after chemotherapy, and my DH and I have been traveling and attending to home and garden tasks. Still, a cardigan has been completed, as well as half a dozen dishcloths, and I've enjoyed swatching some gorgeous Plucky Knitter Bulky yarn for a new pattern design, albeit in a relaxed fashion. 

So many ideas have been swatched up it's been hard to choose a favorite, but I've narrowed the choices down a little and am heading for the home stretch. 

In other news this summer, I've finally broken down and joined the legions of Facebook users (gasp!!). I've had the page for a little while now, but almost never logged on since I spend as little time as possible online and didn't want to add to the time already spent on my blog, Ravelry, Twitter, Craftsy and Pinterest. However, I've been posting for a couple of months, and although I'm still not much of a social media lover, I grudgingly admit Facebook has been a good way to keep in touch with people I know as well as make new fiber friends.

I'm keeping my options open with an official Robin Ulrich Studio page (although it has zero content right now) but I don't know if that idea will ever take off. For now I am sticking with a personal page, this is my current user profile photo.

I'll definitely still be writing detailed posts here, but I'm generally making smaller, more frequent posts on Facebook (although not always knitting-related!). Feel free to 'friend' me on Facebook if you wish, my user name is "Robin Ulrich" or you can click on the link above, or on the right side of this blog page.

Thanks for stopping by my virtual studio today, have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Island of Inspiration

Not long ago, a cousin kindly invited my husband and I to accompany him on a trip to Ireland, a place none of us had ever visited. Although our trip was short (just 4 full days), we packed in an amazing amount of activity and I came home fairly bursting with inspiration.  

Irish hospitality is legendary and one of the best parts of the trip were the Irish themselves, certainly some of the warmest, friendliest people in the world. Every person we interacted with made us feel welcome. 

A popular nickname for this land is the "Emerald Isle." With miles upon miles of brilliant green vegetation that label is apt, but Ireland also delights the eye in many other ways with rugged vistas, ancient ruins, peacefully grazing livestock (especially sheep), sparkling coastlines, quaint villages and beautiful cities.

We flew into Shannon airport and rented a car (a left-hand stick shift for driving on the left side of the road - yikes!!). My cousin, whom we affectionately refer to as "Colonel M" since he is a retired military officer, handled the driving. 

After loading up the car we headed north to Galway, on the coast, our first place to explore and a base from which to venture out on day trips.  

Galway is a fun, colorful city full of shops selling sweaters, blankets, hand and mill spun yarn, and other wool goods, as well as plenty of other things to inspire the imagination.


Each day we chose a different direction and final destination, stopping along the way to inspect anything we found interesting. Unfortunately, narrow, rock wall-lined roads and few parking places made it difficult to easily stop for photographs, so some beautiful views will have to remain only in my memory. However, I did manage to insist on stopping for scenic photos now and then. 

And in case you are wondering, yes, the grass really is that green and the sky really was that blue (we had four days of warm sunshine, apparently unheard of in Ireland)!


And for photos at a few historic sites as well...

Aughnanure Castle, a lovely place to visit.

 Boyle Abbey, where amazing restoration is ongoing.

Bunratty Castle, a well-restored site.

Foxford Woollen Mills, begun by Catholic nuns to provide work during the  famines of the 19th century, and where incredible blankets and scarves are still woven for sale. 

Kylemore Abbey, with a fantastic Victorian, walled garden.

Roundstone, a charming seaside town

Clonfert Cathedral, an early 12th century church filled with elaborate sandstone carvings.

And there were of course, lots of sheep!

Since my cousin planned the trip, visits to knitting sites were not a top priority, however, we couldn't help but be surrounded by wonderful things of interest to knitters and non-knitters alike.

If Ireland sounds like a place you'd like to visit, you might want to consider joining my friend Amy Detjen's Knitting Tour of Ireland coming up next month which will be packed with things both knitting and Irish. Amy is a superb knitting teacher, experienced in Irish travel, and a super fun person to hang out with, so you are sure to have a great time!

If you can't go this time around, you can follow her via her website, or join her Ravelry knitting travel group and keep up on plans for future trips.

I'm still absorbing everything we saw on our visit to this inspiring island nation, I think I feel a bout of cable knitting coming on...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another FO Off The Needles

My final (at least for now) Philodendra scarf, in Handmaiden Fine Yarn's Mini Maiden silk and wool blend yarn, is fresh off the needles. As usual, the unblocked finished object looks like a wadded up dish rag. Guess I'd better get blocking.

On another note, have I mentioned that knitters and crocheters are the best folks around? At least I think they are, especially after a very thoughtful new friend (one of three of us named Robin at Camp 1) from Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp sent me this lovely surprise in the mail today. 

Robin wore the cutest T-shirt that she'd made herself by creating an iron-on transfer with this picture of an American Robin. When I admired it, she kindly offered to send me a transfer. Thank you for the adorable transfer Robin, I can't wait to make my own shirt!

And thanks to my readers for stopping by my virtual studio today - I wish you peace, blessings and many hours of happy stitching!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Knitting Camp Wrap Up

Warning - Long post with many photos ahead! 

I've just returned from a pilgrimage to knitters' heaven Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp in Marshfield, Wisconsin. 

I experienced so much in just four short days that it's hard to know where to begin in sharing it here, so I'll just start at the beginning. 

First of all 'camp' is somewhat of a misnomer now that the event is held at a very nice hotel and conference center. 41 years ago, the roots of camp went down when knitting innovator Elizabeth Zimmerman (Meg's mother) began teaching a weekend knitting course at an extension of the University of Wisconsin.

Since then, the gathering has evolved, with Meg now at the helm, and grown to include four sessions run over every weekend in July. 

Our session, Camp 1, began with a dinner on Thursday evening where we were welcomed by camp staff Amy Detjen and Heather Black, and Meg's son and Schoolhouse Press representative Cully Swansen. After dinner the doors to our classroom were thrown open and the stampede for seats was on. 

As we jostled our way through the mayhem to an open spot we were greeted by cute camp logo tote bags and other goodies, including folders that eventually were stuffed with all the notes and patterns given to us for class sessions.

Standing towards the back of the modified ring of tables in the photo below, Amy Detjen (in the fantastic purple ensemble), was available all day, every day for personal coaching of campers' projects. Amy has been Meg's assistant for many years, is herself a fantastic teacher, and can be counted on for her fun, enthusiastic attitude in addition to expert technical advice.

Video monitors throughout the room made for easy, close-up viewing of knitting and other details being shown by Meg during class, and Meg also had a monitor so she could see our view of her hands at work.

The classroom and adjacent marketplace were open all day and well into the evening hours, providing a gathering spot where many campers opted to return after dinner to hang out, knit and shop. 

The room was ringed with tables stacked high with piles of incredible  sweaters and other knits from Schoolhouse Press publications, many of them knit by Meg or Elizabeth Zimmerman. Campers were free to examine, try on and wear the knits at their leisure.  

You may recognize many of these knits as being the actual samples seen in various books, patterns and video recordings. Below is the famous Saddle-Shoulder Aran Cardigan. 

This garter stitch jacket design can be seen in the photo of Elizabeth with Barbara Walker and Mary Walker Phillips.



You can knit your own version of the jacket using the pattern from a recently published book of Elizabeth's garter stitch designs, Knit One Knit All. 

I loved the ingenious construction of Elizabeth's jacket in natural wool, seen here and in the photo at the top of this post. 

Yes, I tried this gorgeous jacket on (the sleeves were a good 3 inches too short for my monkey arms). Unfortunately, I was not struck with a flash of Elizabeth's knitting genius as I wore it, but it was thrilling to try it on all the same!

Schoolhouse Press staff stocked the marketplace with merchandise from their web store, and campers simply wandered through and selected what they wanted throughout the weekend, recorded it on a sheet of paper on an honor-system basis, then tallied up and paid for their purchases at checkout on Monday morning (welcome to the Midwest).

We drooled over gorgeous wheels of unspun Icelandic wool, 

 every color of Jamieson's Spindrift yarn imaginable, 

 and many other delights.

On Saturday, local vendors added their wares to the mix, including yarns from Sun Valley Fibers, Kimmet Croft Fibers and many others, as well as pottery from Jenny the Potter.

During three days of morning class, Meg instructed on such topics as the EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) for sweater construction, and stranded color work techniques.

Meg is a wonderful teacher and knows so much about knitting that it boggles the mind. 

Although there was a planned topic for every class, the format was loosely structured and we frequently digressed along whatever path the class wanted to travel, for instance, developing a right-leaning double decrease to mirror the SK2P double decrease, or the technique for working a Latvian braid like the one in this sweater.

We received loads of patterns, some from Schoolhouse Press books, others developed especially for camp, including hats, mittens, sweaters, vests and more. I can't wait to knit this beautiful hat from a camp hand-out.

Afternoons were presided over by Amy and featured 'show and tell' where campers shared their favorite knits as well as knitting challenges they've faced. We saw many gorgeous sweaters and shawls, and one camper shared this beautiful blanket in many colors of unspun Icelandic wool (pattern from Knitpicks).

The entire Schoolhouse Press staff did a wonderful job of making us feel welcome, answering questions and ensuring that things ran smoothly. 

Meg is such a kind and gracious lady, it was a huge pleasure to meet her and learn from her vast wealth of knitting knowledge.
Although it would be nice to be able to simply download her expertise into our brains, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to miss out on the fantastic learning experience and fun that was Knitting Camp. I was incredibly inspired by this camp and I already want to attend another one!

Elizabeth Zimmerman photos on pinterest