Sunday, June 11, 2006

SoXcessful SoXperience 2006!

***WARNING: Lengthy post! (But look - text AND pictures! Wonders never cease!)***


Last weekend I attended a wonderful event called SoXperience 2006 up at Caroden Farm, in Stanardsville, VA, which I learned of by reading Liz's post on the subject. Having never met in person prior to the event, but since we both lived in the greater Richmond area, Liz & I decided to ride up together and share a hotel room, so we could each then earmark more spendin’ money for yarn, (priorities, people!). And since I have a bazillion hotel points, lodging was free. Gotta love that.

On the way to our Harrisonburg hotel Friday afternoon, we pulled off I-64 and stopped in Charlottesville to visit a LYS, It’s a Stitch. I did not buy any yarn, but did purchase a couple of cute knitting-related greeting cards, as well as a handy pattern booklet called “Classic Socks for the Family”, with basic patterns sized for men, women and children and for fingering, sport and worsted weight yarns.

I love the sign they had near their cash register:

After a Red Lobster dinner in C'ville we got back on 64W and found ourselves in a moment of serendipity! While driving over Afton Mountain, we saw a black bear sitting on the hillside – my first ever bear sighting! We were driving too fast and my reflexes too slow to get a picture, (especially with my broken camera), unfortunately, but he appeared to be young, maybe a teenager, and was just sitting there calmly, perhaps munching on blackberries. I'm guessing that bears in the area aren't all that unusual, because I did notice during our travels various signs for places with "bear" in the name. Pretty cool.

We had no trouble finding our hotel once in Harrisonburg, but it sure felt weird for me to be back in that town. I graduated from JMU in 1987 and have not really been back in town since my younger brother graduated from there in 1989. Lots of college memories flooded back as we drove by the campus, which has really expanded since I was a student. Our family likes to take credit for the success of that school -- five of the six of us graduated from there. And three of my siblings also married JMU alums. My oldest nephew is also considering going there, which would be what Oprah calls a "full-circle moment". Great state school on a great campus in a great town - can't say enough good things about attending there. But I digress.

Once settled into our hotel room Friday evening, Liz modeled her fabulous Pomatomus sock:

Does her leg look like a manakin's?... ;-)

and then I leaned on her sock expertise to fix the dropped stitches on my Lorna’s Laces Magic Loop sock while I attempted to untangle some of her yarn. (Sorry Liz – didn’t get very far on that!)

Saturday was a beautiful, breezy, partly-cloudy day and made for a beautiful drive from Harrisonburg over the Blue Ridge Mountains and through the Shenandoah National Forest to Caroden Farm. We arrived mid-morning, and since I didn't have a class until after lunch, I sat in the "loafing tent", enjoyed the weather and knit a little. But I was more fascinated in watching the woman sitting in front of me creating bobbin lace:

Isn't that amazing and beautiful? We got to talking, and I mentioned that my grandmother used to make tatted lace, and this woman then proceeded to bring out some of her tatting and gave me a demonstration. Way cool. And we then started talking about knitting lace, and her first words were, "but knitting lace is so HARD!" And I'm thinking to myself, I'd still prefer two sticks and one piece of working yarn to a hundred bobbins and threads ANY day!

A little before noon, we had a wonderful bonus to the weekend by the arrival of Wendy Johnson, venerable author of the famed blog and newly published book. Wendy and good friend L-B came to Caroden Farm for a signing of aforementioned book:

Heidi-ho, Knitter! Who is that mysterious stranger hiding behind Wendy's book?

None other than L-B! And look at that beautiful "Wendy Knits" banner L-B made for the book tour. Gorgeous! (ArtYarns SuperMerino, fyi).

If you thought L-B was Wendy's alter-ego or imaginary friend, well now you know she's actual flesh and blood! And also a sweet lady with mad knitting skillz. I got a chance to see her latest Socks That Rock club project. Pretty! And Wendy's purple & black sock was gorgeous, even if the yarn did stain her fingers! Anyway, I took advantage of Wendy's presence by buying her book and getting it signed:

I started to read it last Saturday night and have enjoyed what I've read thus far. I found out that I carry my working yarn in the same manner as Wendy, so I feel slightly less amateurish somehow.

After a yummy tuna salad on pita lunch Saturday, I took my first class of the weekend - "Beginner Baby Socks on Double-Pointed Needles", taught by shop-owner Caroline herself. The class was three hours, and I actually stayed a bit past that, just so I could get to a good stopping point before we left. I am so glad I took this class -- it was just the right amount of instruction for me to overcome my fear of both DPNs and sock knitting. Later that evening I finished my sock, and was so proud that I was able to graft the toe via kitchener's stitch ALL BY MYSELF, without once having to ask Liz a question. Yay me! I've posted this picture before, but for completeness sake, I'll post it here again:

Once completed, I immediately cast on for a second sock and got a few rounds of the cuff done before we went to sleep. This past week, as I was shaping the heel gusset on the second sock, I realized that on my first sock when shaping the gusset I forgot to knit a round of just plain knits between each of the decrease rounds, so my second sock has a much more "shapely" heel and is therefore not a match for the first. That's okay, because after I finished the second sock, I immediately cast on for a third, to match the second! That way, I can give the matching pair away and keep my first one as a souvenier of the weekend and a memento of my very first completed sock!

After leaving Caroden Farm Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed the beautiful drive back to Harrisonburg (approx. 40 minute away). Liz and I both decided that we'd love to live in the area, although for me, it would require a husband or a whole lotta money to lure me away from my hometown. (Slim chance of either happening, so looks like I'm staying put!) Once back in H'burg, we ate dinner at Appleby's and then stopped in the nearby Books-a-Million because I had a consuming urge to buy Debbie Stoller's latest Stitch 'n Bitch crochet book, aka The Happy Hooker. (I really want to learn how to crochet - Grandma's lessons when I was a kid just didn't stick.) While perusing their Needlecraft aisle, I also found a really cool embroidery kit, which I purchased because of recent inspiration from the WeeWonderfuls blog. (Grandma also embroidered, but never showed me how.)

Books I acquired last weekend.

Not in picture but also purchased at Caroden Farm is the Magic Loop booklet I've been meaning to buy for awhile, since I've been using that method on my Lorna's Laces sock.

Sunday was another pretty, cool and breezy day. Liz wasn't feeling well so we got a late start, but no matter -- our morning class was an easy and free one - learning the Turkish Cast-On for toe-up socks. They'd allotted two hours for this class, when in fact it really only required 5 minutes to learn that cast-on via DPNs and one long circular (Magic Loop). And so we had extra time to practice, chat with other knitters, eat lunch, shop, and play with the farm kittens, "Click" and "Clack". Also during lunch, shop-owner Caroline's husband Dan gave us all a treat by bringing a newborn lamb to our tent. As they explained, apparently one of their rams can fly, because they thought they were all done with lambing for the year and had separated the ewes and rams. One smart fella got through the fence somehow and knocked up a young ewe who wasn't slated for breeding this year. Caroline and Dan named the newborn "SoX", in honor of the weekend's events.

Dan, SoX and grandson Nate. View more SoX pictures here.

One of the other classes being offered that weekend was on Mitered Socks. That was a little too advanced for my skill level, but I did get to see some examples knitted by instructor Melissa, Caroline's daughter:

Completed sock knit and modeled by Melissa

Sock-in-progress, knit with Koigu KPPM -- isn't it gorgeous? Reminds me of tapestry fabric.

After lunch Sunday, we took our last class of the weekend, entitled "Too Kool" - a Kool-Aid yarn dyeing class. That was a lot of fun but very messy! Caroline's poor microwave bit the dust so she had to carry our yarn back and forth from the tent to the house. They were very generous with supplies -- each of us received two mini skeins, a ball and a large skein to dye. I decided to dye one of my mini-skeins with stripes of blue and green Kool-Aid, and the other mini-skein with stripes of blue and green food coloring. See if you can tell the difference:

Drying in the sun on left - food coloring; right - Kool-Aid

Skeined, top - food coloring; bottom - Kool-Aid

As you can see, the colors were fairly similar, although I think the food coloring is more brilliantly saturated, and I'd probably use that again in the future.

I also dyed my ball of yarn by dipping one end in a blue cup (at that stage in the day it was a mixture of Kool-Aid and food coloring), and the other end in a green cup:

This should knit up as a cool striped something

After all the blue and green, I was ready to try other colors for the big skein, but was at a loss as to what colors to use. I finally decided to try for red and purple stripes, but somehow it turned into orange with just some purpley ends. I thought it was a total loss, but it came out of the microwave looking not half bad. Here it is skeined up:

Still a little tangled - this'll be fun to wind into a ball!

At some point I want to knit a swatch of all of these to see how they look knitted up. I have decided that, as fun as this class was, I think I would rather leave the yarn dyeing to the professionals. I would do it again as a fun event with kids or friends, but have no desire to do it on a regular basis at home, for myself. Too messy.

We left Caroden Farm shortly after the class finished, and headed back home by way of Charlottesville, where we met Krista, another new knit-blogger friend. Thanks to Krista's lead, we were able to squeeze in a visit to The Needle Lady, which is in a renovated courtyard-type area of downtown C'ville. Having bought much yarn at Caroden, I refrained from buying more, but was sorely tempted by the ArtYarns SuperMerino they had in a variegated turquoise colorway that you just know strikes right to my core. I've fallen in love with this yarn, after having seen Liz' clapotis and L-B's banner, both made with it. I've since found that yarn cheaper on kpixie, although it's sold out in my colorway, unfortunately. No hurry. I have enough yarn. More than enough. Case in point, my yarn purchases from the weekend:

Cotton sale yarns from Caroden's dollar bin. Score! All for dishcloths, probably.

My new sock yarn stash. Top: Cascade Fixation, Lorna's Laces, Trekking XXL; Bottom: Koigu KPPM

The turquoise Cascade Fixation will be for socks for me, eventually - being hot-natured, I'm not much into wool socks, (or wool anything), so am wanting to try cotton. The Lorna's Laces came from Krista -- she swapped me that yarn for the Socks That Rock that I picked up for her at Maryland Sheep & Wool. Liz found that particular colorway of Trekking XXL in the Caroden shop and led me right to it. Thanks, Liz! And that Koigu purchase was a direct result of seeing Melissa's mitered sock knit with it. I now understand why people swoon and fight over that yarn.

After we left the Needle Lady the three of us ate at a fabulous nearby restaurant called The Downtown Grille. Yum and yummer. After dinner Liz & I were back on the road to Richmond, where she dropped me home.

I got an email last week from Caroline at Caroden, asking for feedback from the weekend. My reply was quite lengthy and all positive. In it I summarized why I felt the weekend was a complete success for me:

1) The beautiful location
2) The lovely weather (out of their control, but it did help!)
3) The animals - especially getting to meet little Soxie, but also having Click and Clack around
4) The warmth and graciousness of Caroline, her family and her staff
5) Their lovely yarn shop, and especially all of the sock yarn, (Richmond has 5 yarn stores and none have as extensive a sock yarn selection)
6) The added bonus of having Wendy there signing books
7) The outrageously inexpensive tuition (don't change that!)
8) The great lunches provided
9) Meeting and chatting with the other knitters there
10) Learning to knit socks on DPNs!!!
11) Learning a great new cast-on
12) Getting a chance to try Kool-Aid yarn dyeing

For all of those reasons, I would highly recommend this weekend to anyone, and will surely try my best to attend it again next year. It was wonderful.

In her email, Caroline also gave an update on SoX the lamb: "Little Soxie is doing fine and racing around the fields now. He weighed in at 13 pounds the day after he was born. What fun!"



emmy said...

What a lovely narrative on a wonderful weekend.Thank you for sharing. I am with you 100% on the dyeing thing. Way too much work and messy. Although I have ended up liking my Kool Aid skein and may have to make one similar for myself.

Liz said...

Wow! You summed it all up so perfectly. I think I'll just post my pictures and send my readers over here for the details :)

I showed Jason the sign from It's A Stitch and he nearly choked on his drink. I need one of those, hehe. And it's a no go on getting him to move up that way. darn!

And as for the yarn...YOu didn't untangle much but you worked some kind of magic on it. Once I sat down with it, it only took about an hour to finish untangling and there weren't any more big knots to deal with. So you did help quite a bit, Thanks!

Suzanne said...

WOW! What a weekend! sounds like as much fun as our MD adventure only with MUCH MORE KNITTING and less shopping. I like yarn shopping but I love knitting!

I hope I get to meet Beth sometime--I love reading her blog and comment all the time.

And check it! you captured the elusive L-B on film!

Krista said...

Great sum up of the weekend, Mary Glad we got to met for dinner and a visit to The Needle Lady!

Kendra said...

I was brought to your blog by the comment you left at WendyKnits. I'm also a JMU alum; I got my 2 degrees there in 1988 and 1989. Looks like the weekend was a lot of fun!

L-B said...

Naughty Mary, posting my picture! But it was great to finally meet you,too! :-)

Lee said...

Hi. Luv your blog. I really liked the lace tatting. Back in Puerto Rico, my grandmother used to make lace like this. It was called "Mundillo" the two L's sounding like a y. Though many people in my family used to do it unfortunately I didn't learn. But I want to. I am trying to find one like the one in the pic. Any help? Love the pics.