Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Torn Between Two Loves

Dateline: Emerald Hills, 1/30/08

Is it possible to have committed relationships with two crafts at the same time? While not exactly neglecting my first love, knitting, lately I've been more excited by my new love, beading. It was actually my first love that introduced me to my new one. It all started when I took a Beaded Shawlette class from Judy Pascale at Stitches West a few years ago. I fell in love with Judy's design and with her technique of adding beads to the knitting with a crochet hook, and I immediately started to make a Beaded Shawlette. I eventually made 4 of them, keeping one for myself and giving the others to my mother (for her 80th birthday), my sister-in-law Mary Beth, and my friend Dianne. Many of my friends in the South Bay Knitters group started making Beaded Shawlettes also; we put in a group order with Caravan Beads in Maine and had a shawlette party at my house.

So my obsession with beads began. After several more beaded knitting projects, including the River Rock Scarf (pictured) from the book No Sheep for You, it occurred to me that there were other things that I could do with beads, and I started taking bead weaving classes at local bead stores last fall. In my knitting, I used only size 6 seed beads. I found out that size 6 are relatively large seed beads, and that sizes 8 and 11 are more commonly used in bead weaving. (The higher the number, the smaller the bead.)

In learning to bead, I've been able to use my knitting experience as I've found a lot of similarities between the two crafts. There are similar issues of design, color choice, gauge, and suitability of particular beads for a specific project. Beaders, like knitters, have stash, and organize UFO nights to work on their unfinished projects. But there are also some differences I've found between beading and knitting.

Stash size: So far, my bead stash fits in about 5 small plastic boxes and one drawer in my yarn room. I wish I could say the same for my yarn stash!

Project-oriented classes: All of the beading classes that I've taken have been built around a specific project, rather than a technique or design principle. In class you at least start, and sometimes even finish, a project. I love classes like that! They exist in knitting but are much less common.

Project length: Most beading projects take only a few hours to a few days to complete. Gratification is faster, and I get to start new projects more often.

Multitasking: I do almost all of my knitting while watching television. Most of my evenings are spent in front of the TV, knitting (or crocheting). I'm not proud of watching so much TV, but I rationalize it by thinking that I'm accomplishing something productive at the same time. When I come to a difficult part of the pattern, I pause the Tivo while I think it through, then go back to my program. I can't bead and watch TV at the same time, however. There are all those loose beads and other supplies, requiring me to sit at a table, and I have to pay closer attention to what I'm doing. But beading is great for listening to music or podcasts.

Fortunately, retirement has given me a lot of time to work on both beading and knitting. Instead of having to choose between my two loves, I will continue to be a bigamist as far as crafts are concerned.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Maui Yarn Crawl

Dateline: Maui, 1/12/08 - 1/16/08

As soon as you get off the plane in Maui, a relaxed feeling comes over you. The fragrance of flowers is in the air. A gentle breeze is blowing. The weather is warm but not hot. The scenery is beautiful, mountains and sea, even on the road from the airport. So how do I spend my time in this paradise? Going to yarn stores and bead stores!

Well, not all of my time. We do manage to get in some beach and pool time, a whale watch (this is whale season in Hawaii and we saw a lot of activity), a submarine tour, a coastal walk, and a performance of Ulalena, which interprets Hawaiian myths and legends in dance. Not to mention some great food at restaurants like Mama's Fish House and Pacific'o.

Yarn stores in Hawaii are different from the stores I usually frequent. There's very little wool (are you surprised?). Lots of cotton and novelty yarns. Less emphasis on knitting, and more on needlepoint, crochet and quilting.

Before the trip I looked on the web for Maui yarn stores and found some helpful information on M.K. Carroll's blog. The Needlework Shop is conveniently located right next door to our hotel in Lahaina. I couldn't resist buying some locally hand-dyed wool, which comes in luscious colors with names like Maui Sunset. My two skeins of Ripe Pineapple are pictured. At Yarn & Needlecraft, there were a lot of crocheted leis, and the woman in the store was nice enough to show me how to make one. It involves crocheting around a piece of grosgrain ribbon. I bought some ribbon and yarn, and also a book called Making Eyelash Crochet Leis 2. (By happy coincidence I also found book 1 at the airport in Honolulu as we were about to leave for home.) So now I have another UFO.

I also enjoyed traveling around the island to 3 bead stores. My favorite was Aloha Bead Company, in Paia, a small town with a hippie-ish reputation. (I love towns like that!) Aloha had beautiful garden bracelet kits, and I have to admit I bought 2. Maui Bead Shack, despite its name, is in a big mall near the airport. I was delighted to find that they offer certain classes each week, and that I was able to take the Sugar Cube bracelet class and still get back to Lahaina in time for the Ulalena performance. (Maui is small, but the roads are not fast, and the 20 miles from the mall to Lahaina took about 45 minutes.) I was the only student in the class, and had a great time. I also enjoyed visiting Maui Beads of Paradise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Beading in Paradise

Dateline: Waikiki, Honolulu, 1/16 - 1/21/08

Waikiki might be the perfect vacation spot for Jim and me. Where else could you stay at a hotel that has beach on one side and big city on the other? I'm really a city person, even though we've lived in the suburbs for most of our married life. I love walking out of the hotel and finding cafes and stores. Jim, on the other hand, is not a city person. He prefers vacations where you can relax on the beach. I like the beach too, for an hour or so at a time. And this beach is beautiful -- clean sand, few rocks, and a great view of Diamond Head.

We went to Honolulu for the first Bead Away, a beading retreat jointly organized by Brea Beadworks in the LA area, and Bead It in Honolulu. I was impressed by how well-organized this retreat was. There were several corporate sponsors, lots of door prizes and refreshments. It was nice to have teachers and students from both Hawaii and California (plus a few students from other states).

Beading seems to be very popular in Hawaii. Even on Maui, with a population of 140,000, I found 3 bead stores. The first day of the Bead Away we had a bead store tour. The organizers rented vans and took us to 4 stores in Honolulu. Of course I did a lot of buying, and finding out about the stock market crash on my iPhone in the middle of the tour didn't stop me. Luckily, beads are a lot smaller then yarn, making new purchases easier to carry home and to find a home in your stash.

My classes at Bead Away were a lot of fun, and just the right level for me, now a beginning/intermediate beadweaver. I took two classes with Cindy Pankopf, a designer who works at the Brea store. The Graduated Spiral Necklace was my first experience with spirals. After dinner with Jim at the Kobe Steakhouse, I finished the Swag Lace Necklace, pictured, at the Bead the Night Away session on Saturday night. With Wendy Remmers, one of the owners of the Brea store, I started the Just Duet cuff, a good introduction to herringbone stitch. I also took a crochet with wire class with Katherine Rita, from the Bead It store, and made a pendant.

Me? A Blogger?

Dateline: Emerald Hills, 1/22/08

I never thought I would be writing a blog. Several of my knitting friends have blogs, but I always thought I didn't have enough to say. Does the world really need another blog about knitting? But then Vivian, after hearing that I was in Hawaii for a bead retreat, suggested that I start a blog about my knitting and beading travels.

Vivian's suggestion really started me thinking. For over 20 years I've been traveling in pursuit of my yarn obsession. I was at the very first Stitches, the one in Cherry Hill, New Jersey where the market was in a racetrack and the banquet was in a tent. I went on two Rowan tours in the late 80's/early 90's, one to Scotland with Erika Knight, and the other to Ireland with Alice Starmore. Since I stopped working full time a year and a half ago, my travel has increased. During that time, I've traveled to Shelburne, VT, Baltimore, MD, Tacoma, WA, Taos, NM, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, all for knitting events. And recently I've started to add beading trips to my knitting itinerary. So maybe I do have a unique perspective. And I've always enjoyed writing. So here I am, starting a blog.

I gave a lot of thought to the title. Since I will be reporting from various locales, I wanted to pay tribute to my favorite newspaper. Still a New Yorker at heart, even though it's been 35 years since I lived there, I've been reading the New York Times all of my life. Even when I travel, I buy the Times every day if I can find it.

The Times part of the title has an additional meaning. Now that I'm retired, I'm devoting full time to the things I love to do, and I'm really having the Times of my Life. So I will write here not just about my travels, knitting, and beading, but about retirement, life with Jim and the cats, and other things that might enter my mind from time to time.