Monday, June 24, 2013

On Squam, part 2

Dear friends, I hope you had lovely weekends. What I expected to be a quiet, restful summer has turned into quite the frenzy, which comes along with unexpectedly becoming a studio manager for a new artist community. So before I forget what peace and quiet feels like, let me tell you about the classes I took at Squam.


I took two classes, both about knitting. It let me pretend that Squam was at least in part about "expanding my work skills" rather than just pure indulgence.


One of my classes was on the basics of Shetland lace, taught by the absolutely adorable Gudrun Johnston. She is amazingly sweet, and I seriously have the biggest crush on her.


I admit I don't know if I am sold on garter stitch lace patterns, but I learned a lot about traditional Shetland shawl construction and it gave me some new ideas about how to develop patterns. I really enjoyed this class, and find myself lamenting the lack of more hours in the day because there is so much I want to experiment with.


My other class was a shawl design class with Stephen West. While I am pretty familiar with shawl design using standard shapes, I was hoping to learn a bit about how to approach more unconventional design. By the way, Stephen is almost a foot and a half taller than me. He was crouching for this photo.


For the first half of the class, he went through how to set up a basic, top-down triangular shawl, which I was already very familiar with. But, to my delight, he asked us what we wanted to do for the second half of the class, so I asked him to talk about unconventional shapes.


He brought out a suitcase packed with several of his own designs, and went over some of the design concepts. We talked about ways to distort some of the more basic shapes, and the idea of knitting in multiple directions to achieve different shapes. I definitely came out of it with a new appreciation for being fearless in design and breaking the rules after understanding them.

And that was Squam, in a very tiny nutshell. I procrastinated on writing this final post because it meant accepting that it really is over and I have to wait a full year before going again.

Have you ever gone to Squam, or any other creative retreats?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Squam, Part 1

Thank you, everyone, for the sweet and supportive messages you sent me about our cat's passing. I am trying not to dwell, but rather accept and move on, so I decided it's time to write about Squam. I am in that strange post-Squam limbo, where I desperately want to cling to the "Squamness," but at the same time, even though I've only been back a week and a half, it feels like a lifetime ago.


Last fall, I went to my first Squam retreat and absolutely loved it. I loved the environment and the creativity, and knew I had found something special. So I went back this year for the spring retreat. I loved it even more. As much as the fall retreat was amazing, it wasn't quite as "niche" as the spring, with a mixed-media focus. The spring retreat is fiber oriented, with a heavy focus on knitting. This time, I wasn't the only one walking around with a couple of knitting projects in my bag at all times. This time I truly felt surrounded by my people.


Much like last year, I feel like it's impossible to wrap up the experience of Squam in one post. This is because there are two amazing overarching themes to Squam: the setting, and the classes. Squam Lake is beautiful, magical, and completely removed from "regular life." It's amazingly restorative to be in the woods yet surrounded by water, living with strangers who quickly become dear friends. That alone is transformative.


If you told me, in my daily life, that you were going to put me in a cabin with 9 other women I had never met, I would panic. The thought sounds truly terrifying. But at Squam, it's a wonderful thing. My cabin mates were amazing woman, each one so different and bringing something unique to the group. Friends for life.



And then there are the classes. The classes are fantastic and inspiring, and Elizabeth manages to bring in the most amazing teachers. I'll tell you all about the classes I took in the next Squam post.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saying Good-bye

I got back from Squam yesterday, and it has been a whirlwind of emotions. I expected to be sitting down today and writing about how wonderful Squam was - which it was. But this afternoon, we lost a beloved family member.


Fourteen years ago, after going to the movies with friends, I stepped out into the parking lot and found a tiny kitten. She was white with markings on her head and tail, super skittish, and covered in motor oil. We looked at each other, and I knew she would be coming home with me. I spent the next hour slowly making my way closer to her as she ran under several cars. Eventually she relaxed, and I quickly picked her up.


That night, we washed her off in the laundry sink, and introduced her to the other animals in our home. I told my mom we would find another home for her, but I knew that was a lie. My mom named her Baby. I called her Babushka. We saw her grow up into a healthy lady, deliver two litters, and become a crotchety old woman. Yesterday, her kidneys started failing, and today she closed her eyes for the last time.

I will tell you about Squam later. I am glad I had a great healing experience at Squam before coming home to this loss. But for tonight, I'm going to allow myself the tears. I love you, Babushka.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Squamward Bound

Squam Art Workshops 4

By the time this post goes live, I will be settling into my little cabin on the shores of Squam Lake for my second Squam art retreat. This is a much needed moment to take a little care of myself and nurture creativity.

Tell you all about it when I get back!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pattern Review: Another Gramps Cardigan

Pattern Review: Gramps Cardigan by Kate Oates

I made this cardigan in the 6 month-old size for a friend's baby shower last weekend. I was on kind of a tight timeline to take on a cable-intensive project, but I couldn't resist the adorableness.

I used Berroco Comfort DK, which is 50% Superfine Nylon, 50% Superfine Acrylic (my friend is vegan). The yarn is very soft, but I would call it a fingering weight rather than DK. It worked out fine (it made for a lighter fabric), but I wish the yarn had been truer to the labeled weight.


The pattern calls for 370 yards, but I ended up using less than 350 yards - maybe because of the yarn weight discrepancy. The gauge and finished dimensions were still correct. The pattern itself is lovely. I ended up modifying the cable pattern so that the cables would be mirrored on each side, rather than all going in the same direction.


The only complaint I have is that the pattern gives no clear indication of how to end the cables when you start the neckline decreases. It just tells you to follow the cable pattern for as long as possible, so it leaves you to kind of make it up.

The verdict: Love this project. The finished piece is super cute, and I will definitely make it again for future little ones. There's a grown-up version of this pattern too, but I don't know if it's quite as cute in the larger format.

Photo borrowed from Ravelry

What do you think? Should I made a full-sized version for myself?