A funny thing happened on the way to the graduation

Emma has graduated!  Hooray!

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We are very proud parents.

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Emma looks pretty pleased as well.

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Vancouver cooperated with a gorgeous day.  The UBC campus was beautiful. Happy grads and their even happier parents were everywhere.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to graduation….

On Tuesday, I was teaching a full-day workshop in Johannesburg.  On Thursday afternoon, Emma was graduating in Vancouver.  I finished my class Tuesday and rushed out to Tambo airport.  There was an accident on the highway to the airport, so we went a different route (the long route), passing a fire along the way.  I passed through the security and passport control and made my plane –  a nearly 12 hour flight to Heathrow. I made my way through passport control and hopped in a taxi to go home, where I then had 4 hours to unpack my suitcase for Jo’burg (where it was winter and I was working), re-pack my suitcase for Vancouver (where it is glorious and I am holiday-ing), and get back in a taxi to return to Heathrow.  On the way to the airport, our taxi was broadsided by a car in an intersection!  Both cars were totalled; the taxi’s wheel base was crumpled so we couldn’t even pull over off of the road.  Doug and I stood on the side of the road with our bags waiting for another taxi to come pick us up.

We made it to the airport (just!) and on to our plane, had the safety demo and were taxi-ing down the runway when the plane slowed down and detoured onto a quiet spot. We were then stuck on the tarmac for three hours because of a broken indicator on the plane. They re-booted the systems twice and then called in engineers to fix it. I had visions of Emma graduating without us.  Eventually, however, the bad luck ran out and we made it in time.

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Knitters: please note this post’s sole knitting content.  Above, I am wearing my Cool Boots shawl.

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Doug tells me to show you the following photo.  This is me at my graduation from Barnard in 1984.  No laughing allowed!

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What do you do when your daughter graduates from university?  You do a happy dance, of course!

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On over-estimating travel knitting time

I had an idea that my 9 days in Johannesburg would have me working all day and then spending the evenings in my hotel room, quietly knitting and listening to audio books. What actually happened was that I worked all day, ate dinner (by myself – boo hoo!), and then went back to my hotel room where I answered email, caught up with admin and collapsed well before 9 each evening.  Not much knitting got done.

However, I was able to spend a few hours on the weekend sitting out by the pool in the Johannesburg winter sunshine (which is almost like British summer sunshine) and get some relaxing and knitting time.  Here is where I sat by the poolside:

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Not bad, huh?

And here is a very un-interesting photo of the progress on my black linen tee-shirt.  It is hard to photograph plain, black knitting in progress and make it look interesting.

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The tee starts at the shoulders on the back, does some short row shaping, and then is knitted down to the the armhole; then stitches are picked up for the front shoulder and knit down.  There is some lace on the front, which I am just about to start.  Once I get down to the armhole, the front and back will be joined and then the body is knit in the round.

I also cast on for my Hanne Falkenberg jacket.  The fronts and back are knit as one piece, back and forth, so although this photo makes it look like a very small piece, this is actually 300 or so stitches and 40+ inches wide.

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Here is a close-up of the pattern in which you can see the variegation in both yarns. The dark blue is a Shetland wool and the contrast yarn is a linen blend.

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Here is where I spent most of my time.  This is the lovely campus of the Henley Business School South Africa in Johannesburg.  I teach there around 6 times a year, and always enjoy it immensely.  The students there are fantastic, and the staff always make me feel at home.

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Here I am with some of my South African colleagues, from left to right: Lyneth, me, Eli, and Caritas.

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I leave you with another shot I took at the Henley South Africa campus.  When you next hear from me, I will be reporting from Vancouver.

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Travel knitting

Yesterday, I was in Munich.  Today I am in England.  Tomorrow I will be in Johannesburg. After that, I will head to Vancouver.  I am in heavy travel mode.  What does that mean? Travel knitting of course; the thing that knitters most obsess about when packing a bag.

I have decided to have two projects with me, so that I can alternate between them. First, I am going to knit Cullum, a linen t-shirt with a touch of lace, designed by Isabell Kraemer:

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I am using the very same yarn used in the photo, a gorgeous deep grey shade of Quince & Co Sparrow called Eclipse.  Sparrow is a 100% organic linen yarn.  It is luminous:

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My second project will be the Hanne Falkenberg jacket I discussed in my last post.  I clearly was experiencing technical difficulties on that morning, as I couldn’t read Hanne’s pattern.  When she sent me instructions for a swatch, I realised that I had completely mis-read the instructions for the jacket.  I even went back and checked, so convinced I was right, but no, the instructions were perfect and it was me that was lacking. Here is the swatch:

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I love this!  The photo is lovely, but it is far better to hold it in your hand! It is so soft, yet wool-y, and light like a feather.  (Unlike the Sparrow, which is a bit rough on the hands; I know from experience that it will block into a very soft, drapey fabric, however.)

This is a run-by post as I am heading for the airport. Good knitting everyone!

 

Knitting treats from Copenhagen

I was teaching on the weekend and so was unable to make my way up to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I admit to having felt rather sorry for myself. For the entire time I was doing the MBA I was unable to make any yarn shows. I planned to remedy that once I finished, but then I took a job (teaching on the very same MBA programme) which meant a lot of working weekends. The universe (or at least the people who schedule yarn shows and MBA classes) seems to be conspiring against me, as they are mostly scheduled concurrently. Oh well. I am not so desolate as I have a Danish consolation prize or two (perhaps three).

A few weeks ago I was in Copenhagen with my friend, Erun (and with Sarah and Sara). One of my top priorities was to make it to Somerfuglen, a knitting shop that I had long wanted to visit.

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I know you won’t believe me but I didn’t buy any yarn there. Why? Because I loved everything and couldn’t choose and I had a plane to catch. That is not to say I didn’t make any purchases. I bought two lovely knitting books. First, I bought Issue One of the new knitting periodical, Laine.

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This is a lovely book. It is filled with knitting patterns, beautiful photography, articles, designer profiles, recipes, and has high production values. Even the ads are lovely! This issue had profiles of Joji Locatelli and Helga Isager among others. It seems to me that this will be a collectable and I am happy to have the first issue.

I also bought this amazing book:

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By Annette Danielsen, it is filled with stunning photos of Greenland and absolutely gorgeous sweaters. I want to knit them all. I particularly want to knit this one, Fjelde, which coincidentally I have in my favorites file on Ravelry:

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Here is the extra special goodness from my trip to Sommerfuglen:  I tried this jacket on! And it was scrumptious. It fit beautifully and was a dream to wear. As a result, I have purchased the book and now somehow have to teach myself to read a knitting pattern written in Danish! Never fear, dear readers, I WILL accomplish this eventually (perhaps with some help from my friend, Erun, and her mother, Liv)!

Hanging in the window at Sommerfuglen was a very smart jacket by Hanne Falkenberg. I was able to try it on as well. I am a big fan of Hanne’s designs and yarn as you can tell from this post from some years ago. This jacket also fit perfectly and I could not help but notice that it was precisely the kind of thing I need for my working wardrobe. I thought about buying it right then and there, but was prevented because (1) I couldn’t check any luggage on my flight home and (2) the shop didn’t have kits in the colour combos I liked.

Once I got home, I continued to think about this jacket, however, and ended up ordering a kit in the same colourway as the shop sample (colourway #1). Here it is:

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The design is called Sofi, and it is knit in two different yarns – the sleeves and main colour are knit in her No2 shetland 100% wool and the contrast colour is her No4 Sofistica 60% Cotton & 40% Linen. Here you can see the two different yarns from the kit:

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So, even though I didn’t make it to Edinburgh, I can console myself with these lovely Danish knitting treats. I have heard that the festival suffered this year from its excessive popularity – by all accounts it was very crowded and hot. I would have braved both to see Kate Davies’ stand (and all of the other goodness) but perhaps by the time I do make it up there, the venue will be bigger. In the meantime, I have plenty of knitting to keep me happy.

Western Cape, South Africa: on a mission to avoid the news and relax

Doug and I are on the Western Cape of South Africa, trying to recover our equilibrium after the disastrous US election results by avoiding politics in specific and news in general.  We spent our first day in Cape Town, walking along Sea Point, and having dinner in trendy Camp’s Bay while enjoying the sunset. We then left for Tulbagh to get away from it all.  (Virtually everyone we talked to in Cape Town said “Why would you go to Tulbagh?  There is nothing to do there!” PRECISELY. We once again stayed at Rijk’s Country House, a little slice of heaven.

There, we did very strenuous things, like sit on the terrace and drink wine and appreciate the views:

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Walk through the vineyards and appreciate the views:p1010523

Go for beautiful drives, and appreciate the views:

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Baboons strolled by our car to say hello:

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Flamboyant grasshoppers tried, and failed, to blend in with the scenery:

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My knitting needles were put to use:

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(Full disclosure here: some time was spent reviewing grants, preparing lectures, answering emails, grading papers – it is near impossible to truly get away from it all. But other than those ubiquitous tasks, we reveled in doing nothing.)

After three days in Tulbagh, we headed to the coast, to a little village called Paternoster. There we stayed at the wonderful Abalone House and Spa.  I cannot say enough good things about this place.  Here is a view from the deck at the Abalone:

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Here is the whimsical plunge pool:

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Here is where we sat drinking a glass of bubbly and appreciating the views (are you noticing a theme here?):

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This is the view from the private terrace off of our room:

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Need I mention the fabulous restaurant (Reuben’s at Abalone House, run by celebrity chef Reuben Riffel)?  The luxurious spa?  The lovely staff?  It would be easy to check in and never leave the hotel, but then you would miss the little gem that is Paternoster.  How could you not love a town that has a house like this one?

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In Paternoster, we also did very stressful things, like stand on the rocks and appreciate the views:

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Paternoster has a glorious beach. It goes on for miles, with beautiful white sands.  It is also a windy beach.  We couldn’t take photos on the beach itself because of the flying sand.  On this day, it shot past brisk to exhilarating and then to mini gale-force sand storm, and it was still a fantastic experience. Here is me fooling around in the wind, just before it knocked me over:

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We had booked into the Abalone for one night, intending to have a glimpse of Paternoster and then head back down to Cape Town.  When it was time to leave, we found we couldn’t – we most happily stayed for an extra night.

We then headed down to Hout Bay, where we were meeting up with our friend Chris. We were all staying in the beach home of a dear friend.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but it wasn’t this.  Here we are on the balcony:

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We have had an amazing time.   Unfortunately, we must now get back to work, although we will still be here in South Africa.  Doug has a very hectic schedule of meetings all week in Cape Town, and I have caught a quick flight to Johannesburg where I start teaching tomorrow. Soon enough it will be time to face up to the mess of the real world and contend with baboons of a different sort.  In the meantime, hello from South Africa!

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In the Desert

I am writing this in the Airport Lounge at Phoenix Sky Harbor while waiting for a flight to take me home.  I have spent the past week in Tucson, visiting my mother and stepfather, Marylou and Stuart.  Both my step-sister, Alison, and my daughter, Leah, flew in for the weekend as well.  We had a fabulous time.  Leah had just survived the rainiest October on record in Vancouver and this intense burst of sunshine has refilled her batteries.  As she said: “I seem to be solar-powered.”  I can agree with that!

Before heading out to Arizona, I was struggling to finish knitting the pieces of Emma’s Tinder cardigan.  My secret plan was to block the pieces before I left, and to bring them to Tucson and do all of the finishing while on holiday.  Leah would then be able to take the finished garment back to Vancouver for her sister.  I knew that I would have to block them by Sunday evening in order to take them with me on the plane, but I had to finish knitting the right front first!  I finished at about midnight on the Sunday after a marathon session. Doug took a photo of me collapsed on the floor after I finished blocking (not the best photo given the poor lighting, but a good representation of how I was feeling at the time).

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Despite this mad rush, the truth must be told: I had vastly underestimated the amount of time the finishing would take and also underestimated how difficult it would be to piece together a worsted wool sweater in the record-breaking Tucson heat.  The sweater is now back in my suitcase, returning with me to England.

I can, however, confirm that Tinder is a lovely cardigan with some very clever details.  The raglan seams and the collar came out great:

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Here I have borrowed my mom to show off how the shoulders are shaped:

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Isn’t it gorgeous!

Despite the disappointing amount of knitting I managed to do on this holiday, I had a fabulous time.  I always enjoy being in the desert and it was fun to have so many of us together.  Here are some photos from the Desert Museum.  If you are ever in Tucson, it is a must-see!

Marylou and Leah:

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Javelinas:

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Unbelievable vista with Saguaro cacti:

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Leah, me, and Alison:

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Alison and Stuart:

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Random cactus photo:

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Now, I am going to sit back, enjoy my wine, pull out my knitting and zone out until flight time!

In which I get whisked off to Llandudno and have a wooly adventure

I’ve been doing a lot of teaching lately, including most weekends.  A week ago Saturday, I arrived back home in the evening after a very long stint of teaching, including the preceding two weekends and all day Saturday.  I was shattered and looking forward to collapsing in a puddle on the couch.  My plan was to vegetate for a day or two, maybe three.  Shortly after I walked in the door, Doug says, too casually, “How tired are you, Kelly?”

There is a story involved here, but the short of it is, that Doug had just discovered he had his dates wrong for a conference and was supposed to be in Wales at 8:00 the next morning.   To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I even knew he had plans to go to Wales at all, much less that he was thinking of dragging me along.  Before I could blink, I found myself throwing some things in a suitcase, piling in the car, and driving to Llandudno, in the north of Wales.  We arrived after midnight in the pitch dark.  The next morning, Doug gets up at the crack of dawn and heads off to the conference. (I ask you, what kind of conference begins at 8am on a Sunday???)  I wake up a few hours later, walk over to the windows, and – wow! – stare out at the ocean, and the picturesque town of Llandudno.  Here is a pretty shot of the town, which I took from in front of my hotel:

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Here is the iconic pier:

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I spent the morning walking along the pier and the strong ocean air blew all the cobwebs out of my head.  It was an incredible, invigorating interlude.  Doug was busy attending talks, but I was charmed by the town, and the wonderful views in every direction.

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The pier, with its candy stands, rides, bouncy castles, grand old hotel in a state of disrepair, and funky arcade games, was a kick.  Zoltan the magnificent tried to tell my fortune, and the Pirate Blasta beckoned:

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Late in the evening on the second day, Doug and I took a drive around the Great Orme Headland on Marine Drive.  This 4-mile stretch of road is considered one of the most scenic drives in Wales.  The view in every direction is breath-taking.  We were particularly taken with St. Tudno’s Church and churchyard, perched high up the wind-swept hillside overlooking the ocean.

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See how the trees have bent to the ceaseless wind.  It is one of those spots that inspires awe.  The monument stones are beautiful.

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St. Tudno built the first church here in the 6th century.  They still have services here, held outdoors in the summer.

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Continuing up to the summit, you pass the Great Orme Bronze Age Mine.  Discovered in 1987 by archeologists, this copper mine is 4000 years old.  This is me, standing on the top of the summit with the bay in the distance.  The wind was so strong I had to fight to stand up.

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Look closely at the hills behind me and you will see an interesting man-made feature. Over the years people have left their names spelled out in large stones along the side of this hill.

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Marine Drive may be only four miles long, but it is a beauty.

Now, observant readers may notice that the title promises a wool-related adventure. This is, after all, a knitting blog. Enough of this travel stuff!  Let’s talk about wool!

When I found myself in Llandudno, one of the the first things I did (as one does) is get on-line and look for nearby yarn stores.  One of them caught my eye: The Lost Sheep Company in Colwyn Bay.  As soon as the conference ended Doug and I made our way to this delightful shop run by Welsh-wool enthusiast, spinner, knitter, and designer Chrissy Smith.  The shop is lovely, filled with wool in various stages of production, and an assortment of spinning wheels, weaving looms, tools, and other treasures.

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We struck up a conversation with Chrissy, who told us the basement was overflowing with fleece.   Of course, then we just had to see the basement!  Here is Chrissy, knee deep in fleece, all of it from local Welsh farmers and all of it from Welsh breeds.

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Chrissy is a passionate and knowledgeable advocate of local wool and local farmers as well as the history of the wool trade in the region.  She regaled us with stories and politely answered our questions.  She helped me wade through hip-deep fleece, so that I could play with the unbelievably gorgeous Black Welsh fleece up on this shelf – the blackest natural wool I have ever seen.  It was much softer than I imagined, and rather addictive.

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The shop had a number of customers and students learning how to spin, and had the kind of atmosphere which made you want to sit down and chat over a cup of tea.  One of the women had come from quite far away to learn how to spin, and I could see why. If you find yourself in that part of the world (whether pirated away in the middle of the night or otherwise), you must go check out this shop.  And if you have time for a spinning lesson, so much the better!

Chrissy sells her hand-spun wool in the shop.  On the day we were there, her supplies were pretty limited, but I bought four pretty skeins:

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The one on the left is one that was in the window and is unlabelled; Doug liked it and added it to the bunch.  The others are, from left to right: Jacob, Welsh Mule, and Black Welsh Mountain.  And just because yarn photos float my boat (and presumably yours) here are a few closeups:

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I am looking forward to playing with some hand-spun.  Beware, Doug: maybe I will need to counter your newest guitar with a spinning wheel!

We drove home the long way, all the way down the A470 – 186 lovely, twisty miles from Conwy to Cardiff.  Autumn was in its glory.  This was the best 3-day break I’ve been on in a long time.