Tour de Fleece Progress – Day One

So Team Knitorious had an awesome kickoff party last night. In addition to consuming a metric tonne of food and a sizable quantity of sangria, we also spun quite a lot of yarn and taught at least one new spinner. That’s my favorite part – I love to bring new people to the craft!

Here’s my progress from last night – a nice bobbin full of BFL singles. I love to spin this stuff, it’s lovely.

Not a bad output considering I also had a glass of white sangria in hand most of the night.

Not a bad output considering I also had a glass of white sangria in hand most of the night.

And, for fun, a few pics of the festivities. I love these folks, as my friend Jean likes to say, they are my tribe.

Our Jean manning the drum carder.

Our Jean manning the drum carder.

Brady spinning up a storm on his new Majacraft wheel. I have serious wheel envy now.

Brady spinning up a storm on his new Majacraft wheel. I have serious wheel envy now.

SAMSUNG

Joy with a Turkish spindle. One of the best self-taught spinners I’ve ever met.

SAMSUNG

Donna (left) on her Louet and Melissa (right), our brand-new spinner, with a drop spindle. She is an amazingly quick study.

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Tour de Fleece

It’s that time once again! The Tour de France begins on Saturday and with it, the Tour de Fleece! It’s a fun concept – for every day that they “spin” on the Tour de France,  we spin along on our spinning wheels and spindles.

This will be my third TdF and I’m looking forward to it. My local group has created Team Knitorious and we’ll be spinning together and cheering each other on. One big advantage to participating in TdF is that it spurs you on to daily practice of the craft, which builds skills really fast.

We’re holding a kickoff party tomorrow night and we’ll be spinning daily throughout the next few weeks, taking rest days when the Tour De France riders rest. I’m also hoping we may have a few new spinners from our group, those that have wanted to learn but put off doing so. This would be a great chance to get started and build skills quickly.

I spent a little time last night “warming up” by refreshing my spindle skills in case we have any spindle-spinning newbies who want to get started. I think most of my spinning will be done on this “bike” however:

My Ladybug. I own several wheels but she is still my favorite.

My Ladybug. I own several wheels but she is still my favorite.

So here’s to a month of challenge and fun!

Down with DOMA (and Prop 8)

I don’t usually get into politics here on the blog. After all, my readers come from a lot of different backgrounds and they have a lot of different opinions. I try to respect that and not stir up controversy.

But today is a historic day and one that will have significant personal meaning for a number of people that are my friends and part of  my knitting community. Today the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, which is a huge step forward for marriage equality.

You might wonder why I care about this issue. After all, I’m a self-professed Christian and a pastor’s daughter. I’m straight and married. But that’s exactly why I care, and why so many other knitters care about it too. You see, to us, this is not an issue of religious belief or of ideology, it’s a civil rights issue that affects people in our community. It’s an issue of treating all people fairly, equally, and with compassion, no matter what their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else for that matter. As a married person, why should I care if my gay friend and his long-time partner marry? It does not harm my own marriage in the least, and truthfully, I’d be angling to be a bridesmaid because, well, they are both lovely people and I can trust him not to put me in a tangerine satin dress with puffy sleeves that makes my butt look big.

So, here’s to a huge step, America. Here’s to treating all people equally, even if it took us well over 200 years to figure it out.

Meeting the Yarn Harlot

I was privileged on Saturday to get to go “up the hill” to Conifer CO with a group of my favorite knitters to see one of my favorite knitting celebrities, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, also known as The Yarn Harlot.

For those of you who don’t knit, yes of course there is such as thing as a knitting celebrity. While knitting fans are a bit tamer than your typical Belieber, we are still passionate about our famous knitters.

Stephanie was a trooper, too. She admits to being a bit nervous when speaking publicly, and she also has trouble with altitude sickness, and since Conifer is higher altitude than Denver, that made it just a bit more difficult. But she was everything we would have expected – funny, interesting, self-deprecating, understanding of the particular quirks that make us knitters and why those quirks also make us awesome.

And of course, since it was knitters on a road trip, yarn shopping was in order, so we stopped by the lovely little local shop, the Knit Knook, which sponsored the event. Fun place with extremely nice people. Made me wish they were my local yarn shop.

We topped it off with dinner at a local rib joint when we got home.

This whole thing reminded me of why I knit – not because I need sweaters or socks, because as people often remind me, I can buy those. I knit for the community, for this lovely group of well-grounded, accepting, friendly people who listen when my days go badly, who love me even when I’m not at my best, and who know that I will do the same when they need it.

So here’s to the knitters, famous or not, and the amazing community we have built.

BTW, did you know that part of the reason we are this way is because of the chemical changes knitting makes in our brains? Seriously, it’s true – that was the topic of Stephanie’s talk – but I won’t spoil it by giving you the details in case you have a chance to catch her at a venue near you.

Edited to add: Reading Stephanie’s blog this afternoon, I was shocked to find that she lost a close member of her family the day before the talk. Her uncle Tupper died while she was on the plane to Colorado. She carried on despite this, and we had no idea this was going on. Our thoughts and condolences go out to her and her entire family.

Learning to Count

Okay, so full disclosure here. I have a degree in Mathematics and yet when it comes to knitting, there are times when I apparently cannot count.

Of course, I always discover these counting errors months later when I have put a project down, pick it back up, and prepare to start again. I keep good notes so I can always tell where I started off (unless I lose the notebook, that’s happened a few times and not to put it politely, I’m screwed).

So, I’ve finished the tough parts of the Brunello Cardigan from Knitty, which at least in my view was the never-ending lace around the lower edge. (Want to know how big your butt is? Knit a sweater that has lace all the way around the bottom and runs vertically so you pick off one stitch every other row).

I’m at the part that should be easy – the sleeves. Do a little decrease, a bit more of the lace from the front edges, and you’re done. Right?

Sadly, no. I get to the sleeves and the instructions are easy – take the stitches you set aside before, pick up another 12 under the arm and start knitting. Except, that when I count the results, I’m off. By 9 stitches, which in this context is a lot.

So, what to do? I can’t rip back, as this is a top-down sweater and I’ve since knit the waist, the bottom and the front edges. I can’t recount the center to figure out what I’ve done.  All I can do is recalculate the next few rows to a way out of this. Or, do what Lazy Mardee does, which is to quietly set the project aside and let Future Mardee handle it.  She’ll be annoyed but I guess we’ll just have to make her deal.

What about you? What would you do when faced with the evidence that despite years of education you never learned to count?

A Gift of Gratitude for Real Heroes

People in Colorado have a unique appreciation for firefighters, those people who head towards danger when the rest of us are running away, and the past week is no exception. In fact, in a unique show of appreciation, the residents of Black Forest and surrounding areas turned out at each shift change to thank their firefighters and cheer them on.

It was captured really well in this video from YouTube:

This sort of community spirit is key to helping people survive and thrive after a disaster of this sort. It’s been hard, I’m sure unspeakably hard for those in the midst of it, but people are banding together and focusing on caring for the folks that need it.

It’s heart-warming and speaks to the best in people, who step forward to help when things are bad. To those hundreds of volunteers who got in their cars to show up at animal shelters and scoop manure, clean crates and hug scared kitties. To those people who donated so many goods to help the firefighters that someone said the high school being used as an operations center looked like Wal-Mart. To those who continue to donate to the Red Cross, Care and Share Food Pantry, and the Humane Society, which is facing the daunting task of matching hundreds of rescued animals back to their owners.

I was talking with a former colleague the other day and she asked me about the fire. I gave her the regular update (# of homes lost, # of acres, % containment) and then mentioned how amazed I was by the spirit of the people in Colorado who are rising to the challenge and helping the evacuees, both people and animals. Her response was interesting. She said, “Yes, I know what you mean. After all, I’m from Boston and it is amazing to see people come together to support the bombing victims. We’re still raising funds to help them.”

So, here’s to the human spirit, to the desire to help, and most especially to those who rise up and act on those desires. And of course, to those amazing men and women who run towards danger when the rest of us are trying to flee. Where would we be without them?

In the Darkness…Comes the Light

Smoke hangs heavy over my community this morning as the homes and forests of our neighbors to the south continue to burn. Fire fighting resources are stretched with many fires burning across the American west, and the Black Forest fire in particular is proving difficult because there is no single defensible fire line, instead it’s like putting out a bunch of spot fires all over the area.

As of this morning, they have counted 92 homes gone and estimate the size of the fire as high as 8,000 acres. Last night, they were putting some of the southeast part of Douglas County (where we live) on pre-evacuation orders. (Not to panic my readers, we are in the northwest part of the county and therefore don’t believe our home is in any danger).

In case you’re wondering what a fire that size looks like, this photo from one of the local TV stations was published overnight:

Black Forest wildfire

But there is good news as well. It appears that early reports of the Community Center burning were incorrect and as a result, the nearby yarn shop and other businesses may still be standing. (At this point, they really don’t know and the fire has doubled back so it is not safe to go in yet). As they always do, the Red Cross arrived right away, set up evacuation shelters for people and their pets, and is feeding people. Fairgrounds and other facilities have been opened to provide shelter for horses and other farm animals. Humane Society of Pike’s Peak is also sheltering pets. There are still no reports of deaths or missing persons.

One of the more interesting parts of all this is how we, the citizens, have turned social media into a force for good by crowdsourcing help to people who need it. I saw a lot of this yesterday, people asking for assistance and others responding with information or resources to help. Some examples:

The owner of the yarn shop mentioned on Facebook that her brother was being forced to evacuate and had no way to take his llamas or horses. They were facing the difficult decision of opening the gates and hoping for the best. Several people immediately responded with options, and the animals were safely evacuated.

A call went out on social media from a family last night needing help to get 30 horses and 9 dogs to shelter. It was shared through our community by a local news source and I woke up this morning to find that they had managed to get everyone (dogs, people, horses) out safely.

People with space to shelter people or animals were opening up their homes and properties to help their neighbors, by posting online their availability and how to contact them.

Twitter is alive with news updates and people sharing information about the fire evacuations.

Some of it is more formal, too. Red Cross Safe and Well is reconnecting families that had to evacuate.  Humane Society of Pike’s Peak is sharing photos of dogs that were lost from their people during the evacuation. By sharing them across Facebook, hopefully we will find their owners and reunite them with their people. In the meantime, they are being well cared for.

We talk a lot in our culture about how technology and social media make us disconnected but it amazes me how much these tools bring things home and make them more personal – now, even though I can’t personally show up with truck and trailer, I can help a family find their lost dog. That’s a force for good in my mind. So here’s to the human spirit, to the folks who show up to help, and to the folks who help by spreading the word on their smartphones and computers.