Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming

The bags still aren't unpacked, but we're home. And with luck, we're home to stay for a while.

I'm so glad that we went, though. It was a good week, and we had some wonderful visits with Grandmom, which I know that I will always be glad of. On Friday, the girls and I had a particularly nice long visit with her, which was quiet enough that she and I were able to have some real conversations; this means a lot to both of us, as we used to have long talks about textiles and travel -- interests which we've shared since we first met -- and it was nice to do that again.

The girls were so good during that long visit (it's not like they can do very much there, and they are tremendously patient about it) that I packed them and the dogs all up and we drove out to Rodeo beach, my very favorite beach in the whole wide world. We hiked up the bluffs to look down on the beach; see it down there?
And then we headed back to hang out and play.
The girls rolled their pants up, and the dogs chased the waves. Kia clearly remembered her puppy days on this beach, and ran and bounded like she doesn't anywhere else these days; like me, she likes her beaches cold, windy, and rocky.
Tilly got over her fear of the ocean (when we went to Point Reyes earlier in the week, she was rather intimidated by this large body of water that kept chasing her up the beach).
And I sat and knitted and enjoyed the view.
We went home with some tired and sandy dogs and kids.

On Saturday, we picked Rick up at the airport, and headed to Grace Cathedral so that I could walk the labyrinth. I would that there was one closer to us, as I find that the peace from that short walk stays with me for a long time. This time, I walked the one inside, which I hadn't done before, and the girls walked it, too. At first, it was a game for them, but by the end I think they'd gotten more out of it than that, to judge by some of the comments they made. We then headed for lunch at Greens, where Rick and I celebrated some major milestones (including our engagement) when we lived in Berkeley; it's fun to take the girls to places like that. I also treated myself to their new cookbook -- I'm looking forward to playing with some of the recipes in it. We ended the day with a long visit to the Exploratorium, which is right up Rick's alley; he and the girls had a blast and had to be dragged away in time to have dinner with Grandmom.

We drove home on Sunday, and thank goodness Ellen sent me the pattern for the shell, because that was a lot of knitting time. Between that and listening to Harry Potter, we kept ourselves amused the whole drive home; I sat ensconced in the front seat with my feet amongst the fruit we picked up (blueberries and blackberries at the San Rafael farmer's market, nectarines, melons, and honey in the central valley) and knitted merrily. The shell is finished (the sleeves I added to the pattern because I like them better).
It still needs to be blocked; I was impatient and wore it yesterday, but the lace will look better after blocking.
Older Daughter knitted, too. Look what she's doing with the yarn we got her when we went with Stella to Touch Yarns.

Finishing the shell on the drive home freed me up to start Anne's latest beauty, which I'm test knitting. I'd swatched the icelandic laceweight for it, but as soon as it was knitted and washed, I knew that that yarn is meant to be a rectangle. It is a firmer yarn, with less drape, and this is a faroese shawl, which needs lots of drape. I want that yarn to be something perfect for it (I have my eye on a few shawls in Cheryl Oberle's book), so I reswatched with some lovely Chewy Spaghetti laceweight merino/silk blend in a gorgeous caramel color (birthday present from Rick), which I decided is going to work much better for this shawl.
Boy, this is a pattern I can sink my teeth into. I've never knitted a faroese shawl before, so I'm having fun looking at the way the shaping works on this; the lace is also worked on both sides for quite a bit of the pattern, so major concentration is required -- at least for me; I can only assume that Anne just whips through these challenges. But it is so worth it. Tell me that's not gorgeous.
I discovered last night, though, that I can't knit this one while playing board games with the family (better not to ask). So I (ahem) cast on for a pair of socks.

Friday, July 25, 2008


The problem with trying to write a blog post when getting kids and dogs ready for a drive to Sacramento, especially a blog post with content that means anything worth saying, is that, invariably, something gets left out. I realized yesterday, as I sat in traffic on I-80 (an hour and a half to get from Travis AFB to the outskirts of Vacaville; that's about 10 miles -- I did get a lot of knitting done, though, and reminded myself that the people in the accident up ahead were having a far worse day than I) that, as I am wont to do when I've been mulling over something for a while, I left out a contextualizing piece that fed into all of the thoughts I was having at the deYoung regarding beauty and craftsmanship. (Ask me how much trouble this caused when I was writing a dissertation.) Of course, there is also the inherent difficulty of discussing something like this in a forum as small as a blog; Fuzzarelly and Marianne both left beautiful addenda in the comments to the last post (you can go read them, I'll wait), and I hope that I'll hear from other folks, too. A topic like this deserves discussion and complication.

As I was walking through this textile exhibit, admiring the work hanging there (and wondering, as I do, how it got there), I kept thinking about a visit I made to Guatemala several years ago for a conference. I was lucky enough to go in company with a colleague of mine who works with a group of women in a remote Guatemalan village. These women survived the Violencia, many of them having lost children, husbands, parents, and they created a collective to make and sell weavings in order to buy land to create a farm so they could grow more food so they could sell that, so they could have a better standard of living for their children. Most of them have very little, in terms of that most Western of commodities, stuff. They don't have a lot of food or clothes, and houses are small and crowded; access to medicine is difficult at best, and people die of things that could be treated with relative ease in the States. (I'm simplifying a lot here.)

I met some of these women when they came to Antigua to go to the market and to see my colleague. They were dressed stunningly in traditional Mayan clothes, all handwoven and brightly colored. They had great fun wrapping a head wrap around my head to show me how it was done, and demonstrating how children could be carried on their backs, wrapped up in lengths of cloth. I'm sure they wondered at this strange American who didn't know these basic things, but their laughter was kind, and I can handle being laughed at.

When we got back, my colleague told me of another academic, who, hearing that she was helping the Grupo sell weavings in the States so they could raise money, insisted that these women could not possibly be poor or in need, because they could afford to dress so beautifully. Never mind that most of the women in the group have only one, or maybe two, of the gorgeous huipiles, or that each of those huipiles was painstakingly handwoven by the woman who wore it. Ownership of beauty, to him, meant that they must have money to spare; there was a hint of criticism in there, too: are these women wasting money on beautiful clothes when they could be buying food?

That was what kept going through my head at the museum exhibit: the notion that a life without stuff must be a life without beauty. Now, I know that there is a lot more to the man's statement than that. In fact, there is an entire interesting book in examining all of the cultural, social, religious, political, economic, etc. background that makes a statement like that possible to say, and comprehensible to an audience (the linguist in me always finds it interesting to figure out what it is that a sayer and and a hearer must know in order for communication to occur). But I was thinking as a craftswoman at the time, and what was going through my head was that this man clearly was divorced from craft, that he didn't have a deep, visceral understanding of the pride, and competition, and skill that go into making something. Nor did he the craftperson's understanding that she will be living with what she has made for a while, and would want it to be beautiful precisely because she only has one of it, and because it's not easily replaced or exchanged.

I know that there have always been groups here in the States who understand that sometimes beauty is found in a few beautifully made and useful things, rather than in lots of stuff (Shakers and the Arts and Crafts movement come immediately to mind; there are more). What was going through my head as I looked at the weavings on the walls was that, worldwide, there are probably more cultures who feel and live that way than those who don't, and that being a knitter makes me feel more connected to that way of viewing the world than I otherwise would.

Someone really should write a book about this; maybe someone already has and I don't know it? Maybe one of you already is? If so, I can't wait to read it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ode to knitters

I had no more than posted my definition of bummer (which I really should have called something like "small bummer", or "bummerlet") than offers came in to send me a scan of my pattern. Ellen had me covered, and even sent me a written out version of the next several steps to tide me over until she could scan it, and Mary Lou was my backup, in case Ellen couldn't get the scanner to work. How lucky am I? So I'm back in business on the shell, which is probably just as well, as I'm going to get far more use out of it in the next month or two than a pair of socks (I'll start those soon, though, just wait and see).

I pretty much missed my first blogiversary, but I realize that this week has felt more to me like an anniversary of some sort for my blog, as it was almost exactly a year ago that we were up here, visiting with Grandmom, and I had just started the blog. During that trip, Grandmom got severely dehydrated, and we had to postpone leaving so that we could be here with her. I kept writing on the blog, deviating from the planned knitting content perhaps a little sooner than I might otherwise have, under the strain of sitting with a delerious Grandmom while managing the reactions of two young children. And people checked in with me and commented. And people have done that since, and been incredibly encouraging when I most needed it (I couldn't possibly link to everyone who has helped me through some rough spots this last year, but you know who you are, and how much I appreciate you, I hope).

What I love about knitters is the combination of practical and caring natures. I think that it goes with the craft. We knit for the people we love for practical reasons: to keep them warm, so often. But because we love them, we also try to knit for them what they want, and to make it beautiful. This combination of practicality and empathy makes our craft a pretty wonderful one, if you ask me. Yesterday at the deYoung Museum, we went to visit the Turkmen textile exhibit, and I was, as I so often am, completely awestruck by the beauty of handmade, practical items. One might think, and I think that a lot of people do, that people who were, by our standards, impoverished, who were living on the edge, might just throw together the textiles that they needed for everyday use (many of the weavings we saw were meant as storage containers), but they didn't. Each and every one of those weavings was a work of art in itself (and each one started with handspun fiber, which was only mentioned in passing once, but which I thought should have been the central theme of the exhibit -- every one of those rugs involved not only the time-consuming weaving, but the spinning of the fiber to do the weaving, and all of it was done by nomadic women on the move).

You might think that, given how much time people were spending on these things, they'd want to get them finished quickly, but in fact, just the opposite is true, I think. It seems to me that if you're going to spend that much time on something, you will be using it for a long time, and given both of those factors, it seems that many people historically have chosen, and continue to choose, to spend the extra time (relatively little, in the grand scheme of a project like that) to make each object beautiful, an exemplification of art and skill, something that will delight the eyes and please the spirit.

To me, knitting is like that. Eminently practical, worthy of the effort of beauty. And knitters reflect their craft: practical (after all, I got my pattern when I needed it most), and beautiful in the way that they move through the world. Regard yourselves with love and admiration in the mirror today, my dears - you are art.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Definition of bummer

Losing your pattern whilst travelling.

Don't you agree?

It's the pattern for the shell that I appear to have lost. The good news is that it was a copy, and I have the magazine at home. The bad news is that I've done what I remember (the three shaping rows for the waist and the plain rows in between), so now I have to stop. Which means that I packed up all that yarn for no good reason. That would be less annoying if it weren't for the fact that this is a very slippery yarn, and it's been put up in balls, and the balls keep falling apart. Also, this is perfect car knitting, as so much of it is stockinette knitted in the round, and now I can't knit on the way home on Sunday. Alas.

Here's a picture just to show you the color; I got a few more inches knitted before I had to stop.

Also, I knitted up the gauge swatch for the shawl that I'll be starting soon, using the gorgeous icelandic yarn that my friend Jill brought back for me this spring.

Alas (again) it turns out that the size six needles that I was using are too big, and I have no size fives, so I had to go and get some. (I am aware that this is perhaps not so large an alas as the last one; it's never a bad thing to go visit a yarn store.) The girls and I drove into Berkeley, where we visited the Cheese Board for some scones and brioche for tomorrow morning (I love the Cheese Board -- what's not to love?), then we headed over to Solano, where we went to a yarn store that's new since I lived here and which I've been dying to visit. Their web site didn't say what yarns they had, so I wasn't sure what it would be all about, and I went there telling myself that I was not going to be buying yarn; the trip was for a set of size five Addis, and that was that. Except not so much.

I got some of this:
I can't remember the name, except that this is the dyer who did the cashmere/silk roving that I brought to NZ for Stella (I'll post the yarn name later). She's from here in California, and this is a lovely superwash/tencel blend. Even better, the put-up is in two small skeins, so it's already prepared for knitting socks. I've got a plan for these to play with a toe-up sock, but we'll see if I go through with it. I also got some of this to make some knee-socks for Younger Daughter for school.
I keep hearing about this sock yarn, so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone by trying it out. All in all, this store was amazing -- excellent stock, and really really friendly folks there. I will definitely be going back.

The girls and I then had pizza at Zachary's, and headed home. We've been visiting with Grandmom every day, which is wonderful, and hiking as much as we can (more later about a lovely visit to Point Reyes; I forgot the camera). So I guess that really, the pattern thing is not such a bummer in the grand scheme of things.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gone again

Last trip of the summer. I find that I'm ready to really be home for more than a week or two at a time, even though each of these trips has been (and I'm guessing this one will be) wonderful. But after we get home next weekend, we'll be staying. Of course, I'm not sure I'll get those lazy mornings on the front porch with my knitting that I'm hoping for, as we have to get Older Daughter ready for middle school, but I'm sure gonna try.

Yesterday, we drove up to the Bay Area, where we'll be this whole week. The main goal is to be able to visit with Rick's grandmom each day in small doses, which appears to be what she can handle best. We'd talked about renting a place up here so we could bring the dogs and go hiking in all of our favorite places, without imposing the pups on Rick's uncle and aunt, but they kindly said that we could use their house while they take a bit of a vacation out of town, which they (also kindly) said they felt better about doing knowing that we were here to see Grandmom. So that works out for everyone.

I plied a bobbin full of yarn on Friday night, and am fairly pleased with the results. I'm getting more even in my singles, which means that the two-ply yarn is looking more even as well. I'm considering spinning my next roving onto three bobbins and taking a shot at (gasp) a three-ply yarn (!!), which I have heard evens out the appearance even more. I ended up with about 120 yards of yarn, at 12 wpi, and I still have almost that much more to ply, so I'm guessing that this will make a nice pair of mitts or mittens for someone, or maybe a hat.
Here's the close-up shot.
I worked really hard to get lots of twist in the singles, so I could put more twist in the plied yarn than I've been able to do so far, and that seemed to work nicely. If anything, my plied yarn was a bit underspun, suggesting that I could have added more. I'm at about five twists per inch with this. You can see a few places there where the singles got overspun and thin, but I'm getting better at controlling that, too. And meanwhile, I'm having fun, which is what matters here.

I brought quite a bit of knitting up here with me, as I forbore to pack the wheel (I seriously considered it, as the Pipy is fairly small and comes apart into its major pieces relatively easily). I decided last week that I wanted to knit a summer top, something I've never done, so I popped by my favorite LYS, which was having a great big sale. I'd been avoiding it all week, figuring that I did not need to do any kind of random stash enhancement; however, having a specific project in mind meant that getting the yarn for it on sale suddenly became smart, rather than a form of spree shopping. I picked up eight balls of a lovely cotton/rayon blend (60% off) for $25, which seems like a reasonable price for a shell. I cast on yesterday in the car after knitting a gauge swatch, and I'm fairly happy with the way it's knitting up. Pictures in a day or so, when there's something to show. The color is a bit bright (think flamingo meets salmon), which I'm fretting a bit about, but hey, life's short.

The shell that I'm knitting is a tank top from last summer's IK, the Lutea Lace-Shoulder Shell. The plan at this point is to pick up stitches around the armholes to add small sleeves, as I'm much less likely to wear a tank top to work, and I'm hoping that this will be a work top. The yarn I'm working with has a slightly different gauge than that in the pattern, but I didn't want to knit it any looser (can you say see-through? and wearing a tank top under it would rather defeat the purpose), so I decided to try knitting it in a different size to account for the difference. I calculated how many stitches I would need to cast on at my stitch/inch count to get the number of inches I want out of the pattern, and then chose the size that had a starting stitch count that matched my calculation. Does that make sense? Has anyone out there done that when they didn't want to mess with the needle size? (Once again, I'm sure I'm reinventing the wheel, but I felt very clever when I did it.)

I also brought yarn to start a shawl, but we'll see if that happens this week. It's the lovely icelandic laceweight that my friend Jill brought for me. I finally bought a digital scale so that I could figure out how many yards I have. I wound off 80 yards onto my niddy-noddy, and weighed that, then I weighed all the yarn I have and did some math to figure out the total. At 1300 or so yards, I think I'm good to go.

We're off to get the dogs out for a run. More later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Look! Knitting!

So, while I know I haven't been talking much about it during the update posts, I have been knitting and spinning, and things are actually being completed around here. I finished the pair of socks I was working on during the trip, and I'm quite pleased with the way they turned out. I knitted them for me and they ended up fitting me, to Younger Daughter's disappointment (after the last disaster with sizing socks, I think she's started hoping that I'll misjudge my gauge all the time; she asked me who the socks were for, and when I said they were for me, she said, "Really for you? Or knitted for you but they fit me?") (Where do you think she's picked up that little tendency towards sarcasm?)
I used a stitch pattern from one of Barbara Walker's books, and installed it into a basic top-down sock recipe. Four panels of the pattern are separated by some purl stitches; two of the panels continued down the heel flap, and the other two down the instep to the toe. I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out (I'd had my eye on that motif for a while; it's a modified herringbone).
Since I liked the pointy bits at the tops of the columns, I didn't do a ribbed edging. As these are fairly short socks, they seem to be standing up just fine, so I'm guessing I won't miss the ribs too much. The yarn is Yarn Nerd 850 Mhz Merino (got it at the Loopy Ewe), in the Denim Blues colorway, which I absolutely adore. It ranges from slate blue to a robin's egg blue, and every shade in there is on my palette of favorite blues. The yarn itself was wonderful to knit with (and I have plenty left over -- I could have made these much longer), and I will most definitely be getting more of it (note to self: put some on my wish list at the Loopy Ewe). I used the size 1.5 Harmony sock dpns, which were plenty pointy for the p3togs in the pattern.

I've also been working on this, which is my current "mindless knitting" project. You know the kind: the one you can knit while you're reading, or talking when you need to be able to actually look at the other person most of the time. Since every row is knit, and the yo rows are coming further and further apart, it's great for just zoning out.
This is the Noro sock yarn that a friend in my knitting group gave me, worked up in a half-pi shawl. There's a great deal of winging it going on here, and adding of k2tog, yo rows at random, which I think is part of what's making me happy with this; it's a make it up as I go sort of thing, which is fun.

And, finally, I've been spinning during the Tour de France each evening (is anyone else having as much fun watching this year's Tour as I am?). This is some roving that Stella sent me earlier this spring that I'm spinning up on the Pipy. I'm almost done with the singles, and then will ply two singles together. I'm not sure what I'm going to knit with this one yet, although I'm considering another pair of mitts for Rick. On the other hand, it might make a nice butterfly shawl (from The Knitter's Book of Yarn); we'll see how I feel when it's done.
It's actually much more brown/sage than that, but you get the idea.

So, those are the active projects. This morning I'm thinking that I might, maybe, cast on the SeaSilk in the pattern I worked up for it, but then again, there are a couple of pairs of STR socks from the sock club waiting for me, and we all know that it's always good to have socks on the needles, but then again, maybe I should just finish spinning that roving? Always with the hard choices...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

All hail The Facilitator

I've been thinking a lot lately on the nature of enabling. And, generally speaking, I've decided that in my life it hasn't always been such a good thing (perhaps this can be discussed another time; I have more important, fibrous, matters on my mind today). I have also decided that it is a different thing to facilitation. While enabling often "helps" people to do what the enabler thinks they ought to do, or ought to want to do, facilitation seems to be more about being available to help with what the facilitated person actually wants to do. It's more about the desires of the facilitated, while enabling is more about the desires of the enabler. Discuss. (Kidding.)

Therefore, this post is dedicated to a facilitator par excellence (hi, Stella!). Thanks to her, I came home close to three pounds of fiber richer, and with a new wheel to boot. Look at this beautiful Pipy she found for me.
She had it all taken apart and wrapped up, and had put together the most amazing set of instructions, with pictures of the wheel at each stage of assembly (as an added side benefit, having spent time putting this baby together, I know have a much better understanding of the inner workings of wheels). I've been spinning on it all week (this is from the first session, I'm on the second bobbin of this fiber now),
and I love the way it feels. Among other very nice features, this wheel has little weights inset on it, so that it always resets at the right position to start treadling. How nice is that? And it came with eight bobbins. Eight. I feel rich, and very spoiled, in the best possible way.

Of course, a wheel without fiber is no fun, but Stella had that covered, too, in the form of 500 gms of undyed merino, and another 200 gms of black merino, and some lovely fiber that turned out (to both of our great pleasure) to be a merino/silk blend.
I know it's hard to see there, but there's enough of the unbleached merino to make a sweater. I'm not sure I can spin that much evenly enough right now, but soon...soon... I'm thinking maybe a real, live Aran? Or maybe I'll spin it and get someone with more color talent than I to dye it before I knit it up. The possibilities are endless. And I'm completely in love with the black. I have fantasies of plying it with the Jacob fiber that I got from our famer's market, which is a heathered blend of black and white; between the two, this might also be enough fiber for a sweater. We'll see...

Then, when we went to Touch, I had to get some yarn, right?
On the left is a merino/alpaca laceweight; I know it's hard to see, but it's got little bits of purple and green in it, and is wonderfully subtle. It has very little halo, so it's going to show up lacework beautifully. In the middle is a merino/alpaca blend boucle. Now, boucle is not generally my style at all (can't get the accents to show up on that word as they should), but I saw it knitted up, and it was so crisp and light that I thought I'd try to make a light cardigan for work out of it. And on the right is a merino/possum blend (I was in New Zealand -- I had to try at least one skein of possum, right?) that is destined to be mitts and maybe a hat for Rick. I figure this should keep me busy for quite a while.

Especially when added to this.
I bought all of those at Ashford. They're all merino/silk blends. Are they not absolutely stunning? The orange one on the right is not a color I generally wear, but it was so cheerful (just like orange sherbet) that I was incapable of leaving it behind. I might just keep it like that and pet it when I'm having a hard day.

So, I do believe that the New Zealand stash enhancement went well; thanks in no small part to Stella's facilitation, I got a wonderful mix of fibers and yarns, all of which are right up my alley and each of which will be used (it makes me fretful to buy things that I don't have some kind of planned use for). I figure I now have enough spinning fiber to keep me busy for a while, and since spinning increases the yarn stash in the long run, I have plenty of knitting fiber to keep me busy as well. The only hard part is deciding, when I do have free time (lol), whether to spin or knit. There are far worse decisions to have to make, eh?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The second half

To continue... (fair warning, the fiber photos will be displayed tomorrow, so for those of you who have come for the knitting content, you may move on -- nothing to see here but travel photos)

We left Wellington on Saturday morning, and arrived in Dunedin to find Stella and her whole family waiting cheerfully for us at the airport. It just doesn't get better than that. After picking up a rental car (and chanting my mantra to myself: left turns are easy, right turns are hard), we headed back to their house to rug up for the first of our adventures: penguins.

Older Daughter really wanted to see real, live, in-the-wild penguins, and Stella and Chris (her husband) facilitated beautifully. We headed out on the Otago peninsula to visit a penguin sanctuary there (Stella has the link on her post), and arrived in the middle of some serious weather. Sleet, wind, cold, the whole number. In fact, the guide told us that it was going to be a good day to see penguins, as quite a few of them had declined to go fishing that day, because it was so cold. Stop a moment and think about that. It was too cold for the penguins to go fishing. Heh.

Given that fact, the kids did spectacularly well. We were rugged up to the hilt (a new phrase that I've adopted and will keep for my very own), including an extra layer of waterproofs provided by the penguin people, who were dead to rights in continuing to offer them after our first polite refusals. The viewing of the penguins took place from within camo-covered trenches dug all over the hillside. Between that and the olive-green raincoats, the whole thing felt a bit like something out of WWI, except with penguins instead of mortars.
At various points along the way there were blinds from which we could watch the penguins. What I found absolutely amazing about the whole thing was that, far from hanging out on ice and snow like the usual pictures of penguins, these guys had schlepped their way uphill, inland, to hang out in the grasslands under trees. It was not at all the way one usually sees penguins in zoo exhibits, which somehow made the whole thing more real for me. Older Daughter was thrilled.
The guide had said we'd be lucky to see five penguins, and we saw eleven, including one guy who surfed in on the incredibly rough waves and trucked up the path near the blind, heading inland to his home. You can't see him in this picture, but you can see just how wind-driven that water is.
We saw both kinds of penguins that live there, the smaller blue ones, and the rarer ones with a yellow chin-strap.
We even saw a pair who were shacking up illicitly (the mate of the female was in the hospital due to injury, and she'd taken up with another male; the staff were apparently quite up on penguin liaisons).

The next day, we packed up and headed to Te Anau, where we'd planned to go on a tour of the glowworm caves. Alas, a rock in the roof of the cave had developed a crack, and our tour was cancelled until they could get an engineer in to assess the risk. It was the one bummer on the whole trip, which, as I said to Stella and Chris, was, in the end, pretty good, although a disappointment for everyone. However, we made up for it by going to visit a nearby bird sanctuary, which housed a rare takahe (they'd been thought to be extinct until the 1940's), who came right up to the fence to visit with us.
Her colors were absolutely gorgeous, and it was easy to see how such a slow, colorful, flightless bird could become quickly endangered by humans and habitat destruction. (Note Older Daughter eating snow; she was, I think, almost as excited by the snow as by any other part of our South Island exploits.)

We headed off to Tekapo for the night, and the drive was absolutely stunning. Older Daughter took tons of pictures from the back seat (including a number of amusing ones of both herself and of Stella's son, with whom she was completely charmed; they had some hugely entertaining discussions in the back seat, to which I listened like a fly on the wall -- it was interesting to hear the nine and ten year old version of the "getting to know you" conversation). But none of the pictures could really capture the grandeur of the bare valley, dotted with snow, with the white mountains in the background.
I should say here that Rick and I have made gentle fun of the name of some of these mountains for years, after seeing them when we were in NZ for our honeymoon, lo these many years ago. They're called the Remarkables, and we could both just imagine the quintessential English explorer, trucking his way through the central south island, coming upon these stunning mountains looming up out of the valley, and turning to his secretary, saying, "Remarkable, old chap, what say?" and the secretary duly noting this on his map in the section formerly labelled terra incognita. But as beautiful as they were when we saw them in the summer, the mountains in the winter truly are remarkable, so I should probably stop making fun.
We saw the steam train that still runs through this part of NZ in the summers.
And the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has behind its alter, instead of a stained-glass window, a clear pane of glass looking out over a stunning view. It was more inspiring than even the most beautiful rose window. (I think that what I've caught here is the window from the outside, with a reflection of that view; who knows if anyone can see it but me.)
Right next to the church is a memorial to the NZ sheepdogs who make sheep herding possible in this rugged country.
And in all of this well-planned trip, during which I followed Chris across hill and dale (he was one of those amazing leaders who never lost me, not once), we also got to visit Touch Yarns (yes, some stash enhancement occurred), and, mecca for a spinner, Ashford (you may imagine the sun breaking through the clouds to heavenly music here).
There it is. I even saw my Ashford wheel inside (Stella kindly took this picture; do you see the fiber wall behind me? That's all roving!)(And yes, some stash enhancement occurred).
(Anne, look where your shawl went!)

Could anyone have asked for a better three days? Or better companionship? I was introduced to rugging up (which we needed; it was -4 C in Tekapo), tiki touring, and I was provided with meat pies (mmm....); the conversation was excellent, and Older Daughter found new friends. Life doesn't get better than that.

This was a long post, so tomorrow, I'll finish up with pictures of the stash (and spinning) enhancement that took place with Stella's expert facilitation. Meanwhile, sock #1 is finished, and I'll show that off, too, and give an update on my Tour de Fleece spinning. I should say here and now that, in spite of all of my best intentions regarding the Summer of Socks, and the Loopy Ewe postcard, I took not a single picture which provides any evidence at all of travelling sock knitting, or of the fact that I carried the picture of Loopy with me all the way to NZ and back. Ah, well...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


We're baaaack! (I feel like the little girl from Poltergeist.)

And it was wonderful.

(Warning: long post) I hardly know where to start, there's so much to report on. I notice that everyone wanted a knitting report, which I'm happy to give, although I have no update photos. I did, in fact, end up overplanning the knitting, but only by one project (which is about what I'd expected). I finished the better part of a first sock, and maybe five or so inches of the half-pi shawl, which turned out to be perfect conference knitting, as I'm knitting it up in garter stitch, so I didn't have to look at what I was doing at all. It's a very flexible knit, in that I could put in a row of (k2tog yo) here and there, as well as the (k1 yo) rows that are meant to double the stitch numbers, so it kept me happy during two days of talks. The sock took a bit more paying attention, although the stitch pattern isn't at all difficult; it's just that I can't do p3tog without looking. But an hour or so of knitting should finish that first sock, and then I can cast on for the second. Pictures tomorrow, I promise.

It turned out that travelling with Older Daughter was wonderful. She was a real trooper on the long flights, although I could wish she'd slept more. We landed on Monday the 30th at 5 in the morning, when it was still pitch-black, and made it through customs and were at our hotel by 6, where they kindly let us check in so we could take a nap. Older Daughter tried to insist that she wasn't at all tired (she'd slept less than three hours on the plane, compared to my almost seven), but the minute I turned the lights out, she was gone. After napping for an hour or so, we cleaned up, had breakfast, and headed for the Auckland Museum, which has both an excellent exhibit of Pacific Islander and Maori artifacts, and a performance by Maori singers and dancers that I wanted to take her to. We walked there, which was a bit of a schlep, but which woke us up and got us out into the (cold) sunlight.

I adore the curves of Maori carvings, and tried very hard to get pictures of the designs on the 75-foot Maori war canoe on display, although the lighting made that difficult.
The dancers let us take a picture with them, which Older Daughter insisted that I be part of.
We spent the rest of the day walking around Auckland (OD begged to be allowed to bungie jump off the SkyTower; the answer was a firm "no", so she took this picture to console herself -- that little dot is a person),
finishing with a lovely and early dinner at the harbor.
The next day we went to Kelly Tarlton's underwater adventure (OD's choice), which was good fun, and included a snow cat trip through their penguin exhibit, and some glass tunnels winding their way through the aquarium, so that you can see the underneath of the sharks and rays swimming about. We then took the ferry to Devonport, and had a lovely wander up the volcanic core, which provided excellent views out the bay, and back towards Auckland. We also found a used bookstore, which pleased us both.

On our last day in Auckland, we packed up so that we could check out, and then headed to the Auckland Art Gallery. Unfortunately, the older side (it's in two buildings) was closed, so we couldn't see the exhibit I'd been interested in, but the newer building had a wonderful display of art from contemporary Maori artists, so we went away happy, and headed for the airport to fly to Wellington (NZ's capital).

I should mention, in all of this, that it kept getting colder as we headed south, and getting darker earlier at night, and light later in the morning. In Auckland, that worked out well, as we were tired enough to be in bed by 7 each night, and willing to lie in bed reading until 7 in the morning, but by Wellington, we had to get up early to go to the conference. It's hard to walk to the bus in the dark! The two days that we spent there were mostly at the conference, and I have not a single picture of Wellington, if you can believe. Someday I really have to go back there when we can spend time in the city, which seems right up my alley, from the little time we spent outside. Older Daughter and I did get to do a few things, though.

On Thursday evening, to my great pleasure, it turned out that the Te Papa museum was open until 9, so Older Daughter and I walked over after the papers were done for the day. It was a nice little walk along the harbor, and we were there just as the sun was setting. The exhibits were amazing. We only got to see a small part of what was there, and focused on the Maori exhibitions, in no small part because I found it so fascinating to compare to the ways in which Native American-focused exhibits tend to look here in the U.S. My very favorite exhibit was one which was geared towards showing the ways in which contemporary Maori and Pakeha (European-descended Kiwis; I've checked, and it is my sense that the name is not derogatory -- Stella, do I have that wrong?) artists create pieces which are influenced by one another's traditions. To that end, the curators had set up one hall with traditional Maori art, and one with European art from the 1800s. Then adjacent halls displayed contemporary Maori and Pakeha artwork, with a discussion of the ways in which each tradition has been influenced by the other. The part that I loved about it was the clear understanding that Maori culture and art are living, changing traditions, rather than the unspoken message in so many museum exhibits about Native Americans, that they are long gone, or that the traditions which inform their art are static (so untrue); I think that perhaps Americans find it safer to believe, or to act as if they believe, that the indigenous peoples here are long gone. Perhaps less to apologize for? I don't know, but I did love seeing another way of handling the situation of settler/native.

My paper presentation took place on Friday afternoon, last talk of the day. No one fell asleep, and no one laughed, and there were some interested questions afterwards, so I'm going to call it a success. Older Daughter and I stayed for the business meeting afterwards. By the way, have I mentioned that she was amazing during the whole conference? Almost no complaints, and she sat through talk after talk, reading or drawing or doing her cross-stitch, sometimes paying attention and asking me questions afterwards. As this was the International Gender and Language Association conference, there were some things that required explaining (for example, after the plenary talk which explored the question of why lesbians have been constructed socially as humorless; the talk included some clips of very funny stand-up comedians, but you can imagine that quite a bit of it went right over her head), and one speaker kindly warned me ahead of time that there was some swearing in some of his data (the rule for Older Daughter is, as it has always been, you can know these words, but they should not yet be in your active-use vocabulary), but generally it went swimmingly.

After my talk, I figured that we deserved a treat, so we went out to dinner at Kai's, a modern Maori restaurant, where the food was spectacular, and nicely set off by the New Zealand wine I ordered with it. We finished with kumara pie (like sweet potato), which was so good that we had to stop ourselves from licking the plate. No joke. The restaurant even had a Maori phrasebook at each table, which of course thrilled me no end, and the owner kindly allowed us to keep our copy. And then we headed off to pack and go to bed, so that we could get to the airport the next morning for our flight to Dunedin.

I think that I'll finish my report of our trip tomorrow, as the last three days were the most fun and eventful of the whole trip. We spent them with Stella and her family, and had a complete and utter blast with them. I also enhanced my fiber stash, and had it enhanced by Stella, immensely, and I want to get some pictures of that up. So, more tomorrow! Meanwhile, Older Daughter has just woken up (jet lag), and I need to get some food into her before she growls too loudly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

All's well

We made it, and Older Daughter handled both the twelve hour flight and jet lag like a pro. We've been getting up early and going to bed early, but it wasn't like I'd been planning to take her out on the town for some Auckland nightlife, so that's all good.

We've had a whirlwind few days in Auckland (Auckland Museum, art galleries, Kelly Tarlton's, SkyTower, Devonport), and this afternoon we're off to Wellington for the conference. Then, as of 5:00 on Friday, I'm a free woman, with no more paper to even consider (not that I've been thinking about it much at all). I'll try to update as I can, and lots of pictures to come when I'm home. Thanks everyone for the good travel wishes, I'm sure they helped!