31 January 2011

Program Ideas

As you may have noticed when I updated my profile information, I'm the 2011 VP of Programs for North Georgia Knitting Guild. When Gerri was on the nominating committee, she called and said something along the lines of, "Well, you know so many people, we thought you would be a really good fit for the job." Now why did she have to go and present a valid argument? Dare I say that so far, things have gone pretty well. I have all of 2011 programmed. A couple months are only tentative, but a good many are confirmed.

At the last meeting, Pat from Taming of the Ewe asked me about programs. She is a member of a small guild over in Alabama. Newer and smaller guilds often don't have a lot of resources to put towards programs. So what can you do?

I thought it would be helpful to post here some free or nearly-free guild program ideas. NGKG has a lot of talent, so we've had a number of programs in which someone shared her expertise with the group. And we have been able to afford the occasional outside speaker. But there are other programs that can be put together by combining the resources of the group.

Tabletop Techniques
For this program, the room is set with with several tables and one teacher at each table. Members move around the room, learning a new technique at each stop. Technique ideas: bobbles, buttonholes, edgings, life lines, short rows, an unusual cast-on or unusual cast-off.

Knitting Tips and Tricks
Each member submits her favorite knitting tip or trick. Then one person reads aloud the submissions. Later, a handout is available to help everyone remember all the wonderful ideas!

Charity Knitting
If your group donates objects to a favorite charity, this is a night for learning the patterns. This could also be a night to seam a blanket or do other finishing that might be necessary. You might even invite someone from the charity to come speak about the impact of the knitted items.

Knitting Competition
Knitters seems to be natural show and tell aficionados. A competition gives members a chance to really look closely at the best work of their fellow members. The competition could be judged by a small panel or by the entire membership. Secret ballots recommended.

UFO Night
This can take several forms. You can have an ER, in which people present stalled projects and the group can offer suggestions -- or possibly sympathy when a project must be euthanized in the frog pond. You can also swap stalled projects, as one person's "Ugh!" is another person's "Oooh!" And to prevent us from becoming too proud, you can have a disaster competition. Guild not responsible for camera lenses broken by viewing hideous knitting disasters!

Yarn Tasting or Needle Tasting
Sooner or later, we all develop opinions about yarns and needles. If members are willing to bring leftover scraps and to share their needles, you can set up tables and give everyone the opportunity to test drive yarns or needles that are new to them. This is also a good program for local shop involvement.

Knitter's Wish List
I've done a couple previous posts on unusual gifts for knitters. After awhile, we all have lots of yarn and needles. For this program, members bring unusual ideas for gifts for other knitters.

Christmas in July
This program is sort of the opposite of the wish list, as this is about knitting for other people. Each member would bring an example of a favorite gift she likes to knit, along with information about where to obtain the pattern.

Stash Busting
This is another program that can take several forms. One is a stash swap, where members can swap yarn. It can also be similar to Christmas in July, except that members would bring an example of a favorite stash-busting project. Members could also swap tips about how to store or organize stash. If you really want to share, have people bring pictures of their own stashes and then have everyone try to guess whose stash is whose.

Travel Knitting
This one can require some long-term preparation. Ask your members to pay attention as they travel. If they visit an exceptional yarn shop, write down the address, gps coordinates, and contact information. They should also provide an exterior photograph, if possible. Most importantly, they should contribute a small review explaining what is so special and wonderful about this particular place. A little care must be taken not to offend any local shops. Alternatively, a travel knitting program could be another opportunity to share pattern ideas; this time for items that are easy to knit in planes, trains, and automobiles.

Measuring Night
Members bring a measuring tape and a non-judgmental friend and get accurate measurements. Ugly truth -- you can't expect to knit to fit if you don't know your own true size.

Book Reviews
We used this as an emergency program for Atlanta Knitting Guild. Have about half a dozen members bring a book and a project that was inspired by the book. It is a great opportunity to share with your group which books you think really deserve some attention. You might also craft this program around the books in your own guild library.

Auction or Raffle
If you need a fundraising event, an annual auction or raffle may be a good choice. Members donate yarn, needles, books, patterns, bags, and the like. You can have a full-up auction, a silent auction, a Chinese auction (raffle tickets and little cups), or a combination of these ideas.

Shop Night
The relationship between shops and guilds always seems to get sticky. Especially if there is a time of year when your local shops are clearing out old inventory, a shop night can be a nice way for members to become more familiar with what is available in the area. If any of your local shop owners attend TNNA, ask if someone would like to present a program on the new trends in fibers or fashion.

Holiday Party
Many groups find that December is too busy crazy a time for a serious program. Depending on your group, you may want a potluck event or a catered event. Some guilds will purchase a ham or other main course and have members contribute the rest of the feast. You may also wish to have a gift exchange.

26 January 2011

A quick spin

Artists sometimes talk about being blocked. There's writer's block, but other types of artists have similar experiences. At the moment, I'm being a lot more productive about spinning than knitting. Part of it is that the Knitting Needle Liberation Front needs to sweep through my house and rescue needles out of stalled projects and unfinished swatch experiments.

Sunday was a perfect day for spinning, as there were two football games. Cuddly Hubby and I were particularly keen to watch the Packers at the Bears. My friend Theresa had shown an interest last week in an orange blue-faced Leicester roving from Pagewood Farms. I was happy to spin that up for her.
Theresa wanted a thick yarn, but spinning thick is not all that easy. Spinning thick-ish and then plying seemed like a better plan. I pre-drafted the fibers during the first half of the game. During the second half, I spun using backward draw. I finished spinning just after the game ended -- about the time the interviews in the locker room started.
Today I plied the yarn during Knit Lit. I was trying to decide between chain-plying and cable-plying. When I played with it a little, it looked as if I wasn't going to get a lot of extra volume out of that fourth ply in the cable ply, and that all the extra twist might make it a thinner yarn. So I went with the Navajo plying.
Theresa will have to set the twist herself, either by steaming or soaking the skein. And I didn't have my good standing swift with me, so I'm not sure about the yardage. My guess is it would be between 50 and 75. Theresa hopes to make a hat and I'm very much looking forward to what she does. I haven't actually knit with any of my handspun yet, so this will be a first. And I have to admit, it came out so pretty, I would have been tempted to buy the other two rovings in the shop were in not that I just can't wear orange.

24 January 2011

A Productive Month

I'm pleased that 2011 seems to have gotten off to a good start. I have two patterns out in the world and under review. They may not make the cut, but at least I've gotten in a couple tries. I've received the materials for Level 2 of Master Knitter. I have more ideas on paper or in swatches than I have time to knit. Saturday I taught two workshops for Clicks & Sticks Knitting Guild -- my first time teaching all-day workshops for a guild. I've had good attendance at my classes this month at The Whole Nine Yarns. Next weekend I'll be teaching reversible traveling cables. The weekend after that I'll be at the South Carolina Knit Inn -- just hanging out, not teaching. We're even off to a good start with programs for North Georgia Knitting Guild. I have a tentative list for 2011, and most of the months are filled. I thought I might be stressed about being VP of Programs for this year, but I'm not. I'm managing to take most things at a steady but not frantic pace.

As we move into a new year, I tend to look around and see what is unfinished. There are quite a few swatches and half-finished experiments. I'm hoping to devote much of February to the Knitting Needle Liberation Front. I'm putting together some ideas about how to make the den more functional. And I've been doing some work in the studio as well. I've taken to leaving the spinning wheel set up in the middle of the room. This has turned out to be a surprisingly nice thing. For one, I can see the wheel clearly every time I pull up in front of our home. And as the studio is next to the kitchen, it has suddenly become very easy to just go spin for a few minutes while I wait for the tea kettle to boil or the microwave to zap dinner.

And it is funny how things work. One of my Mensa friends, Karen, had six small batts of wool roving that a friend brought her from New Zealand. Karen doesn't spin, just knit. So I invited her over in November to have a spinning lesson and see what she thinks of it. At the time, I hadn't been using the wheel all that much. Must of 2010 I was working on and off on Blue-tiful, a lovely skein that was a royal blue pain. I had spent a great deal of time hand carding blue sparkles into the roving. (Why didn't I get a drum carder?) Then I added even more sparkles at the wheel because I found that the sparkles tended to migrate as I spun, producing areas with a lot of bling and areas with none. It may be a beautiful yarn, but it was not a fun spin. Fortunately, with Karen coming for a lesson and bobbins filled, I was forced to finish Blue-tiful.

I don't have a big spinning stash, and that's just fine with me. Last summer, my friend Sue gave me a dark blue and gray batt. I wasn't all that impressed with it, as it looks as if someone took a Union and a Confederate jacket and ran them through the shredder. Those of you who have seen my stash know it is colorful. So Grant & Lee, as I named it, failed to woo me initially. But I needed something for teaching Karen. With a lack of spare spinning stash, I pulled out Grant & Lee. What it lacked in visual appeal it made up for in spin-ability. I quickly realized that I could spin it backward draw instead of forward draw. After Karen's lesson, I left the wheel sitting out in the middle of the studio. I found myself stealing spinning moments regularly. When it was time to ply, I figured I ought to learn how to Navajo (chain) ply. Granted, that's a technique usually used for multi-colored yarns. Grant & Lee certainly didn't need to be chain plied, but it gave me a chance to learn for later. I sat down at the wheel, thought about what I'd seen from both Debi Light at the shop and a Lucy Neatby class -- both of which were maybe two years ago -- and started. And I did it! Glee!

I finished Grant & Lee the first week of the month. (I think I was plying it when Atlanta Knitting Guild met in January.) I found I really enjoy backward draw. I like the fluffy quality of woolen yarns. And unlike worsted spinning, where you have to be more careful about when and where the twist enters the fiber, it seems to me that woolen spinning is more forgiving. You want some of the twist to run up into the fiber. And the fibers seem to grab onto themselves in a way that makes them spin a fairly consistent width. I felt so confident that I decided to spin a roving from Olive Ewe.
This particular roving was dyed like a rainbow. Alas, I think it wasn't completely light-fast, as when I opened up the roving the inside color seemed to be more intense than the outside color. I stripped the roving into three smaller rovings of equal weight. I spun the first roving as red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet. For the second roving, I tore off one-third of the red and moved it to the end. For the third roving, I tore off two-thirds of the red and moved it to the end. I then rewound all three bobbins so that I could access the red end. Finally, I plied from the red ends of all three. Unfortunately, I had spun the first one a little thinner than the other two, so the colors didn't mix quite as I had intended. Still, it is an interesting experiment, and one that I am certainly willing to try again.

10 January 2011

What They Don't Show on ESPN

What a difference a week makes. This time last week, we were in Miami, enjoying the Orange Bowl. Today we are snowed in at home, wondering when Atlanta will thaw enough to risk automobile travel.

The Cuddly Hubby and I celebrated the beginning of 2011 with a trip to the Orange Bowl. Cuddly Hubby got his undergraduate engineering degree at Stanford. As the Cardinal doesn't play on the east coast all that often, much less in a major bowl game, we decided to attend. Plus, there had been a lot of talk about bowl games not wanting a team like Stanford because they don't "travel well." Message heard and answered!

We made this a quick run to Miami from Atlanta. We drove to Kissimmee, Florida on New Year's Day. We left heavy rain in Georgia, which meant slower conditions on I-75. I had consoled myself that the slower speed would translate into better fuel efficiency, but then we encountered a major traffic snarl around Macon due to a bad traffic accident. On Sunday we drove the rest of the way to Miami, once again getting stuck in a traffic backup on the Florida Turnpike. We also got lost on our way to our hotel. And we got lost again on our way to the rally in South Beach. A helpful travel note: it costs close to $20 in tolls each way to drive the length of the Florida Turnpike, but as access is much more limited than I-95 and the route is more direct, the price can be worth the time saved.

Once we got ourselves parked and out and about at South Beach, the aggravation was rewarded. It was a fine evening. We sat outdoors and dined on local seafood. We got the NFL scores update. (Hurray, Falcons!) We admired the Art Deco architecture. We enjoyed a rally on the beach featuring bands from both universities. We walked in the sand. We followed The One, the Only, the Truly Incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band as they ran up and down Ocean Drive, pausing to play a tune or two at each intersection. It was a great date night!

We slept in on game day, then ate a big lunch and headed to the stadium. Although it cost a few bucks, we did go into the fan experience. It was a good way to spend the pre-game if you weren't tailgating. There was a small Ferris wheel and some activities such as mechanical bull riding. (We watched the bull riding.) We both liked the photo ops -- one with an ESPN booth set-up and another with the Orange Bowl trophy! We got to watch the bands perform again. And there was a tent with memorabilia from over seventy years of Orange Bowl games. That just whets my interest in the new College Football Hall of Fame which should open here in Atlanta in 2013.

The game experience was great! First off, lots of Stanford people heeded the call to please travel well. Cuddly Hubby ran into several friends from his bright college days with the Stanford band. So in some ways, it was like an all-class reunion. And I now understand why Miami gets to host the Super Bowl so much. Sun Life Stadium is very nice. The view to the field is completely unobstructed, so there isn't a bad seat in the house. And the large ramps make it easy for crowds to flow in and out. The first half of the game was close, with a 13 to 12 score at halftime. I was a little concerned about Stanford limping along on a one-point lead. Mistakes were made in the first half. But both the Stanford offense and defense came out strong in the second half. Final score: Stanford 40, Virginia Tech 12. And do note here that although Andrew Luck and the offense get a lot of the glory, the defense did a great job making sure that missed extra points, an interception, and a safety did not upset Stanford's game.

We hung around after the game for the presentation of the trophy. Stanford finished the season 12-1, with only the loss to unbeaten Oregon. Along the way they beat USC (for which the other eight Pac 10 teams give thanks), won back the axe from Cal, won a trip to Miami for themselves and the band, and won a lovely crystal fruit bowl with oranges. We stayed after the trophy presentation to listen to the band play, because the band always rocks! When they were done, we reluctantly headed outside.

We happened to come to an area where the team buses were parked. Some people were waiting. Cuddly Hubby suggested we join them. It turns out many of these people were the families of the players. As the players came out in their warm-up suits, they would sometimes stop to exchange greetings with their families. These are the truly beautiful moments you don't see on ESPN. Most of these young men will never play professional football. I'm sure their parents were thrilled they could get a top quality education at Stanford in exchange for playing good football. The joy they shared with their families is the special joy for which English does not have an adequate word. It is the joy of working hard for a long time, and actually succeeding beyond your dreams. It was a privilege to see it and be near it, and then to wave good-bye to the champions as the buses pulled away.

It was about 2 AM when we got back to our hotel. Check-out was 11 AM. We slept some -- it was hard to fall asleep after so much excitement. We got up, checked out, grabbed some sandwiches, and drove home, good traffic and weather with us and fuel efficiency not withstanding. We left the hotel about 11:30 AM and got home just after 10 PM. As we got back to Atlanta, I reflected on what a lovely "date weekend" we had, and how truly blessed life can sometimes be. To Coach Harbaugh, the Stanford football team, the Stanford band, and the many behind-the-scenes organizers: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for a warm and wonderful way to welcome a new year! May everyone have moments in their lives as joyful as the ones we witnessed on Monday night.