Mohonk Knitting retreat – how do we love thee?

Let me count the ways…

This coming February will be our 5th annual knitting retreat at Mohonk Mountain House. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing this for 5 years. We have really become more of a family over the years, with many of the same people registering every time. We all look forward to seeing each other and the interim 362 days seem to fall away. No fear for first-timers however! We welcome everyone with open arms!

Here are some photos from our last retreat:IMG_0263 IMG_0257 IMG_0256IMG_0220IMG_0218 IMG_0023 IMG_0269









Of course, we all love it so much that right when we get back we are already dreaming of the next year and how we can make it better.. It seemed that we had made it as good as it gets until we got around to scheduling the dates for this coming winter and we realized the one thing that was missing to make the weekend blissfully perfect.


Yes indeedy, better start knitting those loose fitting ponchos and oversized sweaters now to bring with you because this year’s knitting retreat coincides with Mohonk’s Chocolate Lover’s Weekend. We instructors will have to face that fact that tumbleweeds could be rolling through our knitting workshops because everyone will be attending things like “Decadent chocolate tiramisu cooking demonstration and tasting” (emphasis on the tasting) and “Design your own chocolate bar” (that’s design AND consume). There are few things that can drag me away from my knitting but I have to say chocolate is one of them.

If you don’t fall too quickly into a chocolate coma, you could work off the calories in Mohonks incredible gym/spa facility. Or you can just attempt to feel weightless for a short time in the hot tub. Or for the really ambitious, there is the gorgeous skating rink. Oh, and did I forget to mention the 40,000 acres with 85 miles of hiking/cross country skiing/snow showing trails?

But, if you’re like me (you may find my picture if you Google the term “slug”), there is  finding a comfy corner (there are too many to count) to knit or sneak some reading time in. Really there is no more perfect weekend for reconnecting with friends, knitters, nature, and most of all, yourself.

And then there’s chocolate…

For more info on Mohonk itself go to:

The Return of the Ripper

Back in 1888, Jack “The Ripper” terrorized London with a grizzly series of particularly ruthless and bloody murders of some East End prostitutes. This spawned endless conspiracy theories (it was the Prince of Wales, it was The Prince of Wales’ personal physician, It was Queen Victoria herself!), novels and any number of made for TV movies. Still no one knows who the Ripper was. But I’m hear to tell you that the Ripper has returned. I know, because I am the Ripper.

I have always considered myself to be a gentle person. A (relatively) calm person. A person who wouldn’t harm a flea (well, maybe a flea but you know). But I have discovered that I can be ruthless and moreover, that people like this about me. People come to me when they need to rip out large sections of knitting. I try to encourage people to do it themselves but so many knitters think of their projects as their babies and the mere thought of ripping them apart is too much for them. So they come to the professional.

It’s amazing the look of awe, tinged somewhat with fear, that comes over people when I simply sit down (sometimes I don’t even do that), slip all the stitches off the needles and start to pull. There’s a reason it’s called “frogging” (rip it. rip it).  I almost always get the comment “I could never do that”. Yes people! You can all be Rippers! Here are some tips:

1) Strengthen your resolve: in other words, don’t be a wimp.

2) Learn to shrug it off: If you rip out and you can’t figure out where you are and you end up ripping out more than you wanted to, so what? Is it the end of the world? Will tectonic plates shift, volcanoes erupt and pet animals turn feral? I think not.

3) Learn to rip and then pick: If you have to rip an inch or more of a more complicated pattern, rip down to one, maybe two rows above the mistake, put the work back on the needles and then pick out the final row(s). This will help you identify all those pesky yarn overs and cable crossings.

4) Don’t drink and rip: This might seem counter-intuitive, since you might think you would need a little liquid courage before endeavoring frogging. However, liquid courage can also lead to a “f*#k it” kind of attitude where you end up tearing the whole project out. Trust me on this.

5) Practice makes perfect: If you have to rip something out it means you’ve already identified the tricky areas and “practiced” doing them. So the next time through will be so much easier, right? RIGHT?

6) And finally…: As much as we love it, it’s only knitting (see point #2)

If you follow the above tips, you can join the exclusive club of knitting rippers. We are few, but we are awe-inspiring.


Can you love a yarn too much?

Still of Gene Wilder in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) 

So what am I getting at? I am in the midst of a similar obsession. Not a sheep, mind you. More like an offshoot.

I am obsessed with ArtYarns. Particularly the sparkly ones with beads and sequins.IMG_2251Now I have had feelings for yarns before. MadelineTosh (particularly pashmina). Malabrigo. But with Art Yarns I have taken obsession to a whole new level. When I am in the store I find myself staring at the wall on which they hang.IMG_2493 IMG_2492 I daydream about all the beautiful things I could knit with them, not just shawls but tops, jackets, afghans, tents. I want to wrap myself in them, stuff my pillows with them. Mortgage my house and buy enough to line a room with them. You’ve heard of man caves? This would be the ultimate knit nirvana.

Currently I’m knitting the Sparkle Ridges Wrap.IMG_2491 This in itself is not a problem except that I NEED to be finishing my fair isle mittens and tackling the huge Rowe sweater I am teaching in the fall. But I cannot help myself. I am irresistibly drawn to the ArtYarns. The color (bright red with purple and lavender notes – I don’t even wear red. I blame Margaret, she hooked me)! The sparkle! The feel in my hands! Sitting here staring at it I feel like one of those gamblers in a casino who sits next to the direct line to a mortgage lender. Everyone carries three mortgages right?

I guess the bottom line is that I need help. But what a way to go.



Autumn Daze

Ahhhh, Fall! For most people this time of year conjures up warm days, cool evenings, beautiful apples and jolly pumpkins showing up in the markets, and leaves aflame with color “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” indeed (did Keats know how to turn a phrase or what?).fall.blogFor me, all the loveliness of Autumn is summed up in one word: frenzy. Madly dashing around during the day trying to get my daughter ready to go back to high school (is it just in their biological make up that they have to wait until the week before school to remember to do that 500 pages of A.P. biology, read those 4 books, buy those new soccer cleats?)

At night, and all other free moments in-between, it is the frenzy of knitting samples for the store and for classes that are going to be taught. Now this wouldn’t be too bad if what one is teaching is something small. But for some reason I am always attracted to the projects of epic proportions. For example, the Great American Aran Afghan KAL; 4000 yards of wool. (please don’t bring up the fact that Jane Elliott has already knit 2 of them in the time I have knit 8 squares. It will trigger my inferiority complex and send my crying to my therapist).


Who could resist this cable?

My epic project of the Fall is the Rowe sweater from Brooklyn tweed, 2200+ yards of cabled deliciousness. It is a project I have been in love with for a couple of years, ever since it was added to the Brooklyn Tweed stable. However, given that it is not in my genes to actually do anything in a timely fashion (I am always on time but I seem to need that rush of Adrenalin that comes from knitting the 72 hours straight before the class is to begin) I am once more faced with a knitting frenzy.

Now if I were Beth (or Danni,or Margaret or Pam, or pretty much any other responsible knitter) I would have plotted my time throughout the summer so I wouldn’t be in such a crunch. I wouldn’t have gotten distracted by a half a dozen other projects. Perhaps I wouldn’t have even chosen such a huge project to begin with.

But take me or leave me folks, that’s just the way I roll.


Even I have my limits

Knitters generally fall into two groups. The first group consists of those knitters  who cannot bear to have any mistakes in their projects and would rather tear out 10 inches of lace work to correct that one stitch where they purled when they should have knitted. There is a term for people like this, and that term is “nuts”, I mean perfectionist. The second group are those people who can barely stand to tink back one row in order to change a truly egregious mistake. They try hard to think of different ways in which to integrate their mistake into the pattern. This rethinking often takes three times longer than the actual tinking would have but somehow that never seems to matter.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am firmly in the second group. I am a fudger from way back. Cable twist the wrong way? Design element! Purled a row instead of knit? Looks better that way! Forgot that saddle shoulder? Clearly the designer made a mistake because mine looks so much better! But I am here to tell you that even I have my limits.


Fair isle mittens in progress

The true test of my “fudge forward” philosophy came when I was knitting my sample fair isle mittens for the class I am teaching (starts 10/20, cost $85 – shameless self promotion). I was using a free pattern from Ravelry but, never being one to leave well enough alone, I was changing up the colors and making the pattern from fingerless to full mitten. Now I am a good fair isle knitter but I somehow went off the pattern but it was at the edge so naturally I ignored it. Then the thumb started but because I was off in the pattern the pattern of the thumb went awry but still I moved forward making adjustments as I went. And then the colors started going off but because I was inserting a totally different color pallette into the pattern still I slogged on, improvising as I went. Finally, as I was trying to keep track of all my little adjustments I said “what the heck am I doing?!?” (actually I thought along slightly more scatalogical lines but “whatevs”, as my 16 year old would say). I had reached the breaking point.

So my final word for my fellow fudgers is, when you are paying more attention to all your little adjustments than you are to the actual pattern itself it’s time to gird your loins, rip back. and then reward yourself with a glass of wine.