the traveling needles

and ... they're off! (again)

My goodness, where did the autumn go?

Crazy busy over here in both casa akabini North (PT) and South (Bainbridge). I have a newfound respect for all of you who work full-time at day jobs. Phew! Not much time left over in the day (nor energy) to blog, or work out, or cook ...

So the self-care routine has taken a bit of a hammering (though I do love having the stationary bike in the condo so I *could* work out in the evenings), and the blogging and Ravelry updates even more so. Sigh. Never enough time for all the fun one could have!

But now the holiday shopping season is offically launched, and the holiday samples are (nearly) all knit up and hanging in the shop – stop by and take a look, if you're local! I'm really proud of all the pretty knits we made this year. And if you're not local, we have lots of goodies on the website, too!

And now, as the Boy would say - 'Next thing!': we're off in a week (ONE week! eek!) on our Danube cruise, and I am SO excited.

Packing, packing, packing - don't you all pack your knitting first? Clothes, schmothes - you can buy underwear over there, right?

The only nerve-wracking thing is the teaching packing. Will I remember everything? What if someone wants to learn (X) and I don't have it on hand? Teaching travel paranoia - we've seen it before around here.

So what am I doing sitting around here yakking? Gotta go make some handouts!
Boy and I will try to post every day, since Viking River Cruises has promised us free wifi on board!
See you in Europe... 

well, *that* was fun!

The Rockettes, representing in our booth at TNNA a few weeks ago...

It was amazing to see it all come together, after spending the last months of last year visualizing and knitting and writing and planning.

Thanks to all the great shops who came by, and asked questions, and were willing to give Unpatterns a shot. I hope your customers love working with them, and make lots of glorious sweaters with them!

We're all back home now, even the Rockettes.... They're in the backyard, trying to organize a neighborhood barbecue. (They got so used to that Southern California weather, I kinda hate to break it to them that it's January.)

What's next? The six new Pullover Unpatterns are launching in the first days of February. Madam's coming up next week, and will help me ship them out to shops, and the Prime Minister will be uploading them to Patternfish at the rate of one a day or so for that first week in February. Thanks to all of you for your patience as I put them together – I'm taking some time to make sure they're as error-free as possible, so you'll have more fun knitting with them!

In the meantime, I'm due some couch time: think I'll knit myself one of these, and then one of these.

blame it on the monkeys

No, not the ones on my back, but the ones in the barrel. The ones that life sometimes gets to be more fun than...?

It is really sad when life throws so many fun events your way, in such rapid succession, that you can't find the time to blog about the fun events that life has thrown you.

So, in order to get you all up to speed and appropriately envious...

The junket to Victoria, already documented here, was just the beginning.

Then there were a few days at home. Just enough time to dig out from underneath the pile of e-mails and administrative stuff that had piled up in my absence. Then it was off to another retreat, this one right in my hometown!

Fred the Buddha supervises the view from my little monastic cell.

It was quite a hoot to rent a room and sleep over less than a mile from my house. But in past years, I've always dropped in on this event as a day-tripper, and felt torn between home and the action. This time, I could just hang out and not worry that I was missing any of the action!

[The main hang-out room was only ever this quiet at 6 a.m.]:

It was such fun to play tourist in my own little town.
There were dewy morning walks through the forest:

And then popping out for a postcard view:

The spinners at the retreat offered their wise and kind advice, and with a little extra time on my new wheel, I got another great 2-ply skein of handspun complete! I'm in love with this colorway.

[When I got home, it got a bath.]

I can't decide what to knit out of these precious few yards. Any of you handspinners out there have any great patterns for a scarf or cowl out of variegated 2-ply?

In the meantime, I think I'll just wear it around like this:


In our last episode, our fearless Sisterhood had taken Victoria by storm!

(By storm, not with storm, fortunately. We were quite lucky with the weather, considering it was late October!)

After landing off the Victoria Clipper and fortifying ourselves with an Irish Pub lunch, we scattered to the four winds for some shopping expeditions before reconnoitering in the luxurious corner suite of D&E to celebrate E's birthday a few days early.

[No snaps of the chocolate cake, as it was already being devourered by the time I got my camera out and ready. Chocolate waits for no woman! But reports came in that they had gotten E's name right - a point of contention and humor in previous years. Phew!]

The next day's highlight was - what else? Tea at the Empress.
The girls get dolled up for the occasion:

The Empress herself got dolled up for us, too! See the red ivy against the brick? Stunning.
High tea hit the four major food groups, too: Caffeine, Chocolate, Sugar, and Cream.

Watch your fingers and toes! We was hungry!

Some of us had worked up an appetite by getting in our roadwork of a morning... a gaggle of us went out for a 4-mile walk or run first thing. Virtue has its own rewards, in the form of lovely views:

And some man-made wonders, too:

Of course, there was yarn shopping - when would there not be yarn shopping? The Beehive took great care of us, as we swarmed in and swooned over all the Handmaiden and Fleece Artist in one place (yet another way it pays to be Canadian, eh?). E and C and Tropical Girl fell in love with some colorwork mittens, and the staff were kind enough to unpack a box of them that had just come off the truck. Tropical Girl even got some with her favorite shade of teal in it! Can't wait to see how those all come out.

I fell down just a wee bit... No skinned knees in the mohair department this time.

Left: 2 skeins Berocco "Sundae", a bulky, burly-yet-soft concoction at 2 sts/1" that will become something holiday-ish for Boy. (No spoilers!)

Right: 2 skeins Fleece Artist "WoolieSilk 3ply," in lovely browny-greeny shades. Destined for some sort of linen-stitch cowl, plus a beaded beanie from the new Churchmouse Classics pattern!


All that yarn fondling makes a girl kinda pooped. Time for a pick-me-up:

And then, in true akabini form, I found a great breakfast place on our last day.
Complete with knitted tea cozies!

And all too soon, it was time to head back home....
With the added bi† of drama of some weather out to sea. There were rumors that the boat might be cancelled, but our valiant steed forged on despite the wind and rain, and we made it home safe and sound late Friday night.

Thanks to the Clipper for our safe passage!

We are home a little lighter in the wallet, but also a little lighter in our hearts for all the great times and giggles. Anything worth doing is even more worthwhile with good friends – and I'd go to the ends of the earth bo†h for and with these ladies.

Knit on, Sisters!


A good adventure:

a) Starts at ungodly hours of the morning, with a view...

... and a new project.

b) Add a passel of great friends:

(Look at how they're sitting there, so well behaved.)
(Yeah, right.)

c) Whisk all of the above off to foreign climes:

(That's the boat we rode in on. Actual view from our hotel room balcony.)

d) Marinate.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Needles is taking Victoria by storm!
Lock up your yarn, books, shoes, and handbags!

[We're here for the rest of the week. Expect more hilarity.]

happy birthday, boy!

Who brought the gin?

[This is the fella who walked a half-marathon and then some to track me as I squirrelled my way around greater Chicago. Send him a shout out! I'm a lucky gal.]

Oh, and in one of those surreal, "The Universe Has A Sense of Humor That Rivals David Byrne" sort of moments, first-husband Stephen's baby boy George has a birthday today, too!
Shouts out to Georgie, who got this friendly birthday greeting on his momma's Facebook account today:

Dear Mister Big Man.
Clearly, you are not in receipt of our memo.
Further growing is not authorized, at least until you gain clearance
pending a house visit by the Unofficial Aunt & Uncle Squad.
Future violations will be penalized by withdrawal of car keys.
This is your first warning.

I mean, really. Two years old already? Sheesh.

when life outstrips the blog

The blog has been much neglected in the events of the past week... Apparently, the taper is contagious: when my running slowed town, so did my posting!

Last long training run was last Saturday, a "little" 12-miler, which somehow felt exponentially better than the 15-miler the week before. (There was a lesson in there about overtraining, i.e. don't do 8 miles of speedwork the day before a long run. Legs o' lead at mile 10.)

Yesterday (Thursday) was travel day, the Day of Multiple Transportation Modalities:
• Walk 6 blocks to the bus stop in front of Aldrich's Grocery;
• Bus #7 to Poulsbo, transferring to the #90 Kitsap bus to Bainbridge;
• Ferry to Seattle;
• Walk to the Bus Tunnel;
LIGHT RAIL almost to the airport, and a bus shuttle to the airport itself.

And then, sadly, the two environmentally unfriendly options: the plane to O'Hare and the shuttle van to this week's new digs.

So here we are, happily ensconced, looking forward to a day of picking up my bib number and packet at the giant expo, perhaps getting my bib signed by Deena Kastor, and then lazing about inhaling carbohydrates.

Oh, and in knitting news, here's what made it on the trip:
• One Unpattern Toe-Up Sock in Casdcade Heritage yarn;
• One Unpattern Top-Down Hat in Frog Tree Alpacas fingering-weight alpaca;
• and One Unpattern Sleeveless Pullover from the bottom up in Sublime Soya Cotton (which I am loving much more than I expected to.)

Just a wee bit nervous that that's not enough knitting for one week.
But I hear there are yarn stores. (Recommendations, anyone?)

camp (for grownups)

We're packing again! This time, we're loading up the Most Adorable Trailer Ever
and heading south.

For the next week, I will be surrounded by people geeking out in the creative field of their choice, people exercising their creative passions with colleagues of various degrees of experience and professionalism.

There will be groups gathered to share information and sit in circles and play and goof off together until late in the night… I'll walk past clusters of people sharing the deep intricacies of some abstruse point on their way to the showers... And for days, the creative energy of people making Really Cool Stuff will wash all around me.

Sock Summit?


Guitar Camp.

Mind you, the only time I've ever really hung onto a guitar for any length of time was in sixth grade, when my friend Lynne and I took lessons largely because the instructor looked like one of those cute Hardy Boys on TV. (Well, okay - Lynne's intentions may have been purer.)

And I don't have aspirations to take up an axe and play – I just love living with a player, and I love music (and I'm pretty shameless about loving to sing, and will do so even before I'm invited. Whoops.).

So I'm going to go bask in all that creative energy for a week, and work on this little book I've been hatching. This morning we're packing up The Cutest Trailer Ever:

… with all the necessities for a week in the woods:

(Two guitars; three projects. Seems fair, right?)
(Fear not for me. Rumor has it there's a good yarn shop within driving distance.)

And lest you think us complete lushes, repeat after me: the three bottles of gin are for sharing!

This may be Camp for Grownups, but Kindergarten rules still apply:
"If you didn't bring enough for everyone..."

See you in a week.
[With any luck, I won't have internet access and will therefore actually be able to get something done.]

why knitters love road trips

Hello, little blog.
I missed you!

Thanks for being patient while I was away... in the warm, rolling hills of the Land of California, home of expensive cars and Very Important People Driving Very Fast.

Himself and I loaded up the car and drove to the BaYarea a few weeks ago, with the express intentions of hanging out with Dr. K and my dad, and helping them out a little bit ... Dad with more house stuff, and Dr. K with a birthday.

There was a little work, a lot of play, and even a dress-up night here. Such fun.

And you know? We could have flown. But...
When you're a knitter, there's a special magic about the phrase "Road Trip."

We knitters don't immediately flash on roadside rest areas, bad convenience-store food, and aching backs from sitting in the car. We hear: "Hours of uninterrupted knitting time!"

A project I Had No Business Starting.
I weaseled my way into knitting a shop sample, and swatched before leaving later that week.

Two days and sixteen driving hours later:

Voilà! Crisp!

Yarn: Louet Gems Sport, in a charcoaly-brown-ish color that the Germans call "Petrol"
Needles: 3.5mm/US4, with 3.25mm/US3 for edgings
Pattern: "Crisp" from Wendy Bernard of Knit and Tonic

There is a little woven detail in the shoulder saddles and around the waist that is simply adorable (easy to work, too!). Marianne Isager is right: smaller-needle knitting does go faster!

All this, while Mother Nature was having her way with the out-of-doors:

Turns out, driving to California at the end of July was the perfect way to avoid triple-digit temperatures! While our friends and loved ones were slowly roasting in Seattle, we got treated to temps in the low eighties with morning fog; good for girls running half-marathon distances before pancake.!

One week later, reverse the order of operations, and hey presto Eureka and lo, Louise gets a chance to weigh in with her opinion of Crisp:

The only way she could like it better is if I actually finished the other armhole edging.
[Picky, picky.]

Big Trip, Day Ten: To Marconi-Land

The boots are showing a little wear now, though I'm sure they enjoyed the day off of hiking as much as we did.

Today's leg involved a novelty: a lift! Paul's car service picked us up, and with dizzying and disconcerting speed, we were transported twenty miles down the coast. All we could think of was: "It would take us how long to walk this far?"

Where are we headed? Did someone say Lizard?

(After weeks of training ourselves to speak Cornish -- where "Mouse Hole" is pronounced "Mowzl" -- come to find out our next destination is not the exotic Li-ZAARD Peninsula, but good ol' plain Lizard. Like the green fella there.) Lizard? Meet The Lizard:

We came to love this way of travel, not least because you can really start to notice the subtle differences between one part of a peninsula and another. Whereas Cape Cornwall, at the start of our trip, was craggy and stormy and forbidding, here on the Lizard, things were more flat and mild -- and the balmy weather was decidedly Mediterranean. Our excellent guide book also pointed out that the geography was changing: The Lizard is a flat tabletop of serpentine, thrust up from the earth's crust all of a piece. Makes for interesting hiking, given that the serpentine gets slippery when wet; we appreciated the sunny weather and the (relatively) flat terrain.

But I'm getting ahead of my story.
First on the trajectory was the Loe Pool: an enclosed body of salt water sometimes mistakenly claimed to be the site of the Lady of the Lake lobbing flatware at Arthur. Fat chance: it only lost its direct connection to the sea in the 1500s. Made for a pretty beach walk, though!

We had decided not to add on the additional loop around the pool -- 5 extra miles, but tempting, given the description of the local beer at the town at the top of the pool. Not for us the foamy diversions, however! Onward!

To Mullion Cove: breathtakingly turquoise.

... but oddly quiet, as if the fishing had up and gone and authentic village life had slid elsewhere.

Further on, we encountered the second of the Amazingly Placed and Incredibly Wicked Cornish Golf Courses...

...surreally planted next to this amazing little beachside church:

(That's the church, off to the right of the photo. Interestingly not nave-and-transept cross shaped like most British churches - it consisted of two parallel long rooms, each with its own roof.)

Bank-holiday revelers with their plastic shovels and SPF, frolicking a hundred yards away from these sobering gravestones:

Far too many 24-year-old women buried there, along with their babies and children. That, and the occasional 68-year-old man. Hmm.

But right when you're feeling all historic, modern life (at least the roots of it) comes up again and smacks you in the face. Hello again, Signore Marconi!

That's the Tall Thing that marks the spot near where he had his laboratory -- sadly, torn down now, just outside Mullion Cove. We paused and gave reverent thanks for the first signals sent across the Atlantic that heralded the Era of Instant Communication About Just About Anything, and then high-tailed it along the Lizard and around the point where the Lizard Lighthouse stands:

And, at last, we find our safe haven for the night: the Housel Bay Hotel.

One part Masterpiece Theatre, one part Top Chef, and two parts Fawlty Towers. We loved this place: the building sits right on its own cove, the Lizard Lighthouse faithfully smacks you with rotating light every 3 seconds from its spot just down the coast, and the landlord is delightfully welcoming, in a strange Italy-via-Cornwall sort of way. The building is cheerily creaky, the plumbing rattles in a reassuringly historic way, and yet every bit of every wall is decorated with the oddest collection of emphemera and memorabilia from all over. Churchill's letters framed and hanging next to ... Marilyn Monroe?

We loved it. Great folks. And their chef?!? That gal can COOK. I can still taste the crab-and-smoked-salmon with wasabi aïoli appetizer to this very day. Umph.


That we are:

A) Home;
B) Alive;
C) Back to work.

The black Malabrigo fingering-weight top-down set-in-sleeve pullover has one sleeve!
Cast it off with i-Cord bind-off as the plane was touching down in Seattle. How appropriate.

Louise seems to like it.

Big Trip, Day 8: Pirates!

[Well, okay ... no actual pirate encounters, sorry. But I got your attention!]

After our rest day in Porthcurno, it was off for a long slog: 15 miles eastward and then northward, past Penzance. (Hence the pirate reference.)

And they're off!

(At this point, Boy joked that we were having to start sucking in our guts to see the boots beyond the Full English Breakfast bellies. Time to lay off the bacon!)

It was on this day that we noticed the landscape really start to change: whereas Western Cornwall had been a mass of craggy rocks and dramatic weather, Southern Cornwall was turning out to be more moderate.

We wandered through bosky glens: (is that how you spell bosky?)

... and incredibly picturesque fishing villages (complete with men, actually fishing!) (Though not pirates.)

Everywhere you go in Cornwall, you see reminders of wrecked ships. We passed several Royal National Lifeboat stations, and I've developed a serious respect and love for the volunteers who go out and attempt the difficult rescues on those rocky coasts.

Some boats don't make it, though – like the one commemorated by this lonely stone cross from the late 1800's:

Fortunately for us, human habitation seems to be conveniently spaced about 4 hours' walk apart along the coastline, so you're rarely without an opportunity to staunch your hunger (or quench your thirst!) right when you need it.

This is The "Lamorna Wink," a former speakeasy public house in Lamorna Cove (one of the few privately-owned coves in Cornwall).

And this is Ben.

Yup. A Bernese Mountain Dog ... wearing sunglasses.
Not just a stylish fashion accessory, nor even a necessity for riding in a convertible.
Turns out Ben has a rare condition that makes him over-sensitive to UV rays; and without the glasses, he'd go blind in a matter of months.

Boy got "the money shot":

(Nice to have a dog hit when you miss your own.)

But cute dogs and pints shall not keep us from our appointed rounds! Onward! Eastward! then Northward!

At about Mile 10, things got a bit blurry ... where were we again?

Costa Rica?

Central California? I swear that's Carmel around the corner...

Nope, wrong. We've actually never left Seattle – we've just been walking around and around Green Lake this whole time!

Oh, phew. We're still in Cornwall after all!

In fact, we've made it to ...

(A town dear to my heart because of the name … this, despite the fact that in true Cornish perverse fashion, they insist on pronouncing it "Moww-zel.")

It was at this point that your intrepid duo made the valiant decision to walk the full 15 miles all the way to Marazion. Buses whizzed by, but we cared not. We soldiered on, our destination firmly in view (and still 5 miles away):

Under threatening skies, we traipsed across the sandy beach which connects Penzance to Marazion, and crashed into our lovely hotel room with just enough energy to wallow in the bath and suck down a batch of fish & chips before crashing for the night.

And in the morning? The best possible reward for a hard day's hike:

A gorgeous place, and a spanking blue-sky day off to enjoy it in!

Big Trip, Day 6: Round the Cape

Let's see... where did we leave you?

At the end of our eventful first day's hike (cows! washed-out trails! strangers in bars!), we arrived in the little working town of St. Just and, thanks to the miracle of great roadside signage, found our hotel without a hitch.

A quick freshen-up, and it was off to the Wellington Hotel's restaurant for a bite to eat ... and... a barfight?

Well, yeah. It was Sunday evening, after all – and by the looks of it, some folks had been in there since the pastor let them out after morning services. 'Wayne' didn't like the looks of the chap at the bar, but the landlord gently escorted him out and Himself and I could enjoy our fish & chips in peace.



Turns out there used to be some confusion about which was the Westernmost point in England...


Or this?

(Hint: When you get designated the "Most" of something, you get dibs on the big hotel.)

On this, our second day of hiking, we enjoyed the rest of the Western coastline, and turned the corner onto the Southern! Cape Cornwall was spectacular and craggy – windy as all get-out, with lots of cliffs and crags. Which, of course, explains why someone had the brilliant idea to put a GOLF COURSE out there.

We sh*t you not: it's blowing 40mph, you're right on the Western Ocean, and someone thinks it's possible to aim a little ball with a long stick into the little holes with the yellow flags? Sadism, or masochism, your choice.

Never mind, we're off hiking instead. No chasing little balls here!

But all that up and down hills makes a boy and a girl thirsty! Oh, and hungry, too.
So it's time for the obligatory "food and drink with forearm and watch in the background" shot!

Does it look good? Well, it was. You can get your own, here:

Which also happens to be here:

... and down the road from our new home-away-from-home when next we come to Cornwall:

(Only sleeps two. Sorry!)

'Round Land's End (the original one, not the American clothing company), and up and over waaaay too many headlands (note to self: it's always around the NEXT headland), we arrived into cozy, beachy Porthcurno, home of England's connexion to the world via underwater telegraph cables!

Big Trip: Update

St. Ives, Cornwall (oldified)

1. Yes, we are still alive.

2. Yes, Cornwall is spectacularly beautiful.

3. Yes, there have been more pints.

Now that we have a) a day off; and b) wi-fi in our B&B (!), I'll have some time later on to catch you all up on our trip so far.

In the meantime, the sun is shining and the beach is calling! (No wonder they call this the Cornish Riviera!)

* Next year, you can find us here. Renting for a week, or we may just have to try to buy the place, it's so bloody gorgeous.

Big Trip: Vocabulary Lesson

Before we left on this trip, BFF Fiona (native of Nottingham, transplant to Canada) joked: "That's right – You speak the same three languages I do! American, Canadian, and English!"

An excellent reminder that my readership could do with a bit of a language refresher.
Repeat after me:

These are CHIPS.

These are NOT chips.

These are CRISPS. Got it?


Even when you are in Bath, do NOT ask where you can find the Bathroom.
(Technically, every room here could be a Bath room - geddit?)


(Left for Gents, right for Ladies.)

But don't get them confused with MOD CONS, yea verily though they might be the replacement for these:

(We joked anyway, and called these "The Old Cons.")

More lessons later, children. It's off to high tea again.

No Comment *

One for The Hound:

(It's to do with the roads.)

* In each one of the photo albums she creates for a big trip, my aunt always has at least one photo with no caption, which simply reads "No Comment." You'll see a few of those as entries on this trip of ours, I'm sure.

Day Three, Part II: Showers in Bath

When we last left our protagonists, they were out in the countryside, coping with National Fluids provided at this fine canalside establishment:

(You hear that, George in Portland? This one's got your name on it!)

To keep our strength up, we chose to partake in some traditional fodder:

Don't let the patina of health in the foreground (Malted Baguette with Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil) trap your eye: there's plenty here to clog the arteries if we let it. Chips (with the American and sacriligeous ketchup), plus Fish Pie with Cheesy Mash and Mixed Veg. on the side.

And just as we were finishing up our pints & grub, it started to rain… so it was with full bellies that we turned back on the canal path to Bath.

Not possible to get lost, with local residents there to show us the way:

(Yeah, but let's not kid ourselves here: the one on the left is really saying "Hey, Missy! What did you do with the end of that baguette?")

A lovely first day in Jolly Old England.

Time to update the Trip Statistics!

Days in England: 1
Miles Walked: 8.5

Pasties: 2
Pints: 8 (6 ale, 2 cider)
Pies: 1
Cream Teas: 2
Full English Breakfasts: 2

So far, the only problem is the ratio of miles to calories. But next week should remedy that straightaway.
(Oh, that and the complete lack of gin!)

Big Trip, Day Three: Taking a Bath

Doing what we do best over here: exploring and, well...eating!

Our friend (and not-quite-ex Brit) Gareth gave us a photo of one of his Full English Breakfasts from when his last trip to Wales. This worked well as a sort of field guide, much as birders use to identify markings and colorings (though this proved more savory than any old bird):

(Yup, that's a french press for coffee for us at our table. We love our new landlord, Steve: Boyhood told him when he dropped this at the table "Oh yeah, we're going to get along just fine."

Fortified by the above (and amused by the little bacon rounds! See?), we headed off for a stroll in the countryside. What we thought would be a rather straightforward 4-miles-out, 4-miles back along the Kennet & Avon Canal turned into a rather non-linear experience (curse that Mercury!) at the start.

But who cares when there are views like this?

Or this?

 Our non-linear silly start to our walk had its upside: the lucky coincidence of being at a lock at the right time to see this couple come through on their rented barge:

Seems that Americans in particular like to rent these boats and come over for a few weeks to float up- and downriver. Perhaps it's because the process of moving through the locks simply can't be rushed: the water will take just that long to flow in or out of the bit you're in. Period.

And besides, when you're moving at a stately 2 or 3 knots, you actually have time to see things.... like the lovely way the British have with their back gardens:

Take that, Italy: we've gotcher dolce vita right here!

A little more nonlinearity on the other end of our walk (note to self: a British town is NEVER two miles away and uphill from the church!)...

... We found a lovely spot for a spot of refreshment:

Pint of Bitter for Boy, Cider and Linen Stitch for girl.

This post is getting long, and somehow it's about time for us to get out to dinner, so I'll say Cheerio for now and leave more for Post Part II.