Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Teaching an Old Dog

My Jamieson and Smith Shetland yarn stash
So, what do you think? Can you teach an old experienced knitter a new trick?

Yep. Definitely, and I proved it by taking an online course about knitting a Fair Isle vest. Not only did I come away inspired to create my own project, but I also gained a couple of new tools to add to my skills treasure box inside my head. And because I had the sound turned up on my computer, Jonesy also got to learn more about knitting as I watched the videos! See? I can share nicely.

Craftsy's Fair Isle Vest Stranded and Steeked is a complete package of videos, class materials to print and the vest pattern taught by instructor Mary Jane Mucklestone. Knitters "in-the-know" will recognize Mary Jane's name because of her new book "200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory". I purchased this book last summer and have already spent quite a few hours swooning over the color photos. Bonus: By clicking on the special class link above you can get this class at a 50% discount from the nice folks at Craftsy. 

Mystery Slippers - Yes, actual knitting
In the very first of the ten video lessons, Yarn and Color, I learned a great way to EASILY evaluate how the different colors of your yarn will play together in a stranded knitting pattern. Mary Jane shows how she knits a long I-cord piece with all the potential color players and then takes it outside in the natural light. There you can coil it, fold it, whatever to make the colors rest against each other to see if they "pop" or blend into each other. I love this idea!!! [Note: #1 added to skill treasure box.] Of course she emphasizes the importance of swatching...not just that...she shares how much she just loves to knit swatches.

What else did I learn? How about reversing the direction of the leans of your decrease stitches along the neck and armhole edges? Mary Jane says it keeps the colors more in pattern. I've always struggled with which color to use for a decrease to avert a glaring color glob (that's a technical term) so I'll have to try out this trick [Note: #2 added to skill treasure box].

Steeking - CUTTING - your knitting work scares so many knitters (who go running screaming from the building with their hair on fire at the very idea.) Mary Jan happily reinforces (or not!) and cuts her knitting, making it look like child's play. I did pick up a new way for me to work the crocheted version of reinforcement which I will have to try on my vest project [Note: #3 added to skill treasure box]. I've crocheted steeks before on my projects, but have to acknowledge that there was room for improvement.

Nettie's new slippers for cold(?) winter nights
Oh dear, that's 3 new things this old dog learned already. But wait...there's one more! I have always picked up the horizontal strand between the stitches when picking up for the neck edges and armholes. But, Mary Jane shows how she simply uses the holes between rows to stab through and pick up a loop of yarn. Whoa! That's a new one for me and yes, that makes #4 new trick to add to my skill treasure box. I sure learned a lot from this class even though I have knit, designed, and taught Fair Isle knitting myself!

So now you know how I've spent a chunk of my time this past week. Have you signed up for Crafty yet? This was my 3rd class thru Craftsy and I have two more in my account just waiting for me. And it's not just knitting! Craftsy has courses in sewing, jewelry, paper crafts, weaving, cake decorating and much more. What fun!

Actual Knitting accomplished: Nettie, one of our kitchen workers here at Mario's Marina told me that her feet get cold at night in her house. We have had very cool temperatures - like in the low 60's. Folks who live in the tropics find these temps to be quite uncomfortable. So, I whipped up a pair of my Mystery Slippers for Nettie using some Caron Simply Soft yarn. Here's a link to my free pattern:

Download FREE Mystery Slippers Pattern now

Cruising Notes: We're leaving for Belize in a couple of days. No, not with the big boat yet. We're enjoying the cool weather here. But we have to renew our tourist visas again. This time we're going to go to Placentia in Belize which is one of the places we'll hang out when cruising. It will take a local launcha boat, 2 different public vans (overfilled by double with passengers), a water taxi, a chicken bus, and a "hokey-pokey" small water taxi to get us to Placentia from here in the Rio Dulce. Lots of Go-See-Doing!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Hello Stillwater, MN!

Hello Stillwater, MN! One of my favorite activities when shopping in the little town of Rio Dulce, Guatemala is to read and photograph the tee-shirts worn by the local folks. So, here's a new one which advertizes the Stillwater Gazette newspaper. This shirt has traveled a long way and is now being enjoyed here in the tropical lowlands.

I mentioned the website last post and kinda left y'all hanging about what it is that I've been learning.

My first online video course was How to Say It Pattern Writing For Knitters by Edie Eckman. Yes, I’ve been writing my own indie patterns for many years, but I was curious about what Edie had to say because she has been tech editing and writing patterns for many years too (even tech editing one of mine in the One Skein Sock Wonders book).

Little goat kid 
The abosolute best part of this course? The handouts! Edie provides a STYLE SHEET and a PATTERN TEMPLATE for a sweater design in a MS Word doc format that you can save and use (and modify to fit your style). I would have paid a handsome sum for these a few years ago before I struggled to develop my own! But these technical tools would be meaningless if you didn't understand how to use them and why you would select one of the different ways to present your instructions. It's the combination of Edie's detailed verbal explainations and opinions plus these two tools that make the whole class so very worthwhile. Highly Recommend.
Kitten found a  not-so-quiet place to nap

Turkey Day
Today is the Thanksgiving holiday for USA folks. As there are a lot of Americans living in the Rio Dulce area, we will take this opportunity to gorge ourselves on turkey with all the trimmings we can find here in Guatemala. We will talk about our kids and where they are, and brag about grandkids. We hope our 2 sons are celebrating with friends up in California - or are doing whatever they want to do.
But it is not a holiday here. In fact, Jonesy just took off in our fiberglass launcha to meet up with our agent for boat paperwork. Our agent (Raul) only comes up the river from Livingston once a week to service his clients here and this will be his last visit until next year. It will be crowded with a long line of clients today!
Jonesy's FIRST handknit sock hole to darn

Guatemala requires that we purchase a 1-year permit to keep our boat in their country. If we don't buy this permit, then we will be required to import the boat and pay 30% duties on it's value. So not only do we have to think about leaving the country every 90-days to reset our personal passport visas, we have to buy first, a 3-month permit for the boat, then more money later to extend it to a full 12-month permit. These are some of the things we have to remember / think about / pay for in this lifestyle and it differs by country.

Living on a boat is hard sometimes. I offered to share a book that I have onboard about sewing on beaded Embellishments. But, when I pulled it off the rear shelf in our stateroom I discovered that there one point in time...been a water leak into the boat! The book was totally glued together, dry as a bone, and moldy! Destroyed!

This beautiful book was already trash, so I figured I could be agressive in trying to remedy the situation. I soaked the whole thing in water for a few hours. Next, I gently pulled the pages apart where I could. A few days in front of a fan, alternating pages and it was finally dry. Not so beautiful, but we can at least read the instructions and get a few ideas from the photos. We still have not figured out how or where the water got into my book shelf. Another new chore.

At least it's somewhat readable
And speaking of's a photo of a little embroidery work that I did on a favorite tank top of mine. Why? Well because I had sloppily spilled some greasy food (must have been somebody else's food because I wouldn't consume greasy stuff) right on the front of the shirt. The stain wouldn't go away. But I love this top! I remembered that some thrifty folks in the past would add appliques to cover stains on kids clothes so I tried stitching on a little design. Naturally, once the original stain was nicely covered, I noticed two more little ugly spots so those got individual daisy stitch flowers over them to cover. I'm into embroidery again. Will my knitting quantity be impacted?
Stain be gone!

Naw. There's still been plenty of knitting going on these days. I even have a finished object to share. These are big 11" foot socks that will go to the kids at the orphanages in Kazakhstan. Every May the Motherless Child Foundation gives each of the teenagers who have aged-out of the system (about 16 years old) a party to commemorate their "Graduation" and a complete set of hand knit garments; sweater, scarf, hat, mittens and 2 pairs of socks.

Striped 11" foot socks
We receive the "Grads" personal measurements and color choices in December. Knitters sign up for specific children and items. But, there is usually a couple of extra kids by the time May rolls around who were not in these orphanages in December. So, what I am knitting is socks for these "Extra" kids. We know what the sizes have been in the past for this group of kids, so I simply knit socks in those sizes. That way there will be something for everyone!

I used leftover sock yarns that were donated to me by Leanne M. at Meg Swanson's Knitting Camp this past summer. Plus the red toned yarn was donated by Susan R. There were a lot of loose ends to weave in because of all the color changes (like 2 hours of work), but I think it's all worth it to provide another warm pair of socks to "our" kids in Kazakhstan.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Darn Knitting or Knitting Darning?

Cemetario de Rio Dulce
The first day of November is a national holiday here in Guatemala known either as All Saints Day or Day of the Dead. Last year we visited the colorful Kite Festival in Sumpango but this year we went for a quiet walk up the hill to the local cemetery here in the Rio Dulce. We could get a better idea of how the everyday person celebrates this day of respect for their ancestors. The grounds appeared to have been recently cleared of vegetation - scraped down to the bare earth.

As it was fairly early in the day there wasn't much activity yet. A few families were already there refurbishing their relatives' graves with new paint for the concrete tombs. Women were setting up their little food booths outside of the cemetery to provide refreshments. I love how entrepreneurial folks are in Latin America and the freedom they have to pursue these endeavors.

One of the first things that we noticed was the numerous graves for small children and young men in their teens and twenties. Age-wise, the population of this cemetery was very young with few tombs/graves for folks as old as us! Quite unlike what we have seen in the USA. We found one set of 3 graves for family members all who died on the same day. We stood and wondered what had happened to these people and the terrible family tragedy.
Decorated Grave marker Rio Dulce, Guatemala
We understand that the Guatemalans visit the graves not to revisit the sorrow of loss, but more to maintain a connection with their ancestors and family members who have passed on.  Many families will bring their mid-day meals and make picnics at the gravesites.

But I have to also imagine that for one family the memories of the 3 little children in these tiny graves will be sad.

Knitting applicable New Technology I Gotta Get when available: 
Jonesy mentioned to me how workers who build today's aircraft use heads-up displays with the engineering drawings in them as they work. Olympus and Google are both developing tiny heads-up display screens which are mounted on your eyeglasses. Imagine having your knitting lace or colorwork charts and/or pattern instructions available with simply the flick of your eyes! I want one of those! Here's a short article about this emerging technology for us simple consumers on

BRIGHT red flowers
Knitting has hit the fan again
In the last 9 days we have survived had the adventure of four 6-hour bus rides to or from Guatemala City. I have a chronic nasty infection in my upper jaw from an injury I received 50 years ago! When I was 9, I got hit hard in the mouth with a big weight from a grandfather's clock swinging on a rope. No, I don't remember how or why we were playing with this, but I got hit. My front tooth took the blow and I've been fighting issues with it ever since. The endodontists are mostly located in the big city so that is where I've had to go for treatment. The highlight of the trip? McDonald's serves hot oatmeal with diced apples, raisins and dried cranberries now! Whooo hoooo!

Ye ole knitting basket of new socks needing ends woven
I did manage some easy knitting on the bus rides and in the hotel room on a pair of monster socks for a big-footed (11" foot) teenage boy at the orphanage in Kazakhstan. Now I have only have the toes to do on each sock for a completed pair. Currently, there are 3 other pair and one single sock of a new design waiting patiently in my "done" basket for the yarn ends to be darned in. These will wait there too until...until..until I "darn" well feel like doing it.

Yep. I'm still slacking on getting to work on my lace knitting project. Each evening I promise myself that I will tackle it in the  morning when I'm fresh. Trouble is I'm not so fresh in the mornings lately. That's my excuse darn it. Frankly, I've gotten all tangled up in other fiberly pursuits.

For the last couple of months I've been taking online video courses through and am learning so much! Some of the courses are free and some cost a little to take. The course is always yours to take at your own speed (slow like me..due to internet issues and way too many other things that scream for my attention or lack there of) and you can go back and review your course anytime. Craftsy is not just about knitting, but also sewing, quilting, cake decorating, jewelry and a lot more. Life, even especially in remote places on earth with an internet connection, is good.

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