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Guadalupe-Moebius Retreat, summer of 2020, Los Altos, California

Guadalupe-Moebius Retreat, summer of 2020, Los Altos, California

 

Note: If you are interested in this retreat, please email Cat.  Once we schedule it we shal let you know the dates and give you the opportunity to register. We have been incubating this … More

A Third Magical Scottish Sojourn with Jim and Cat, April 18-May 4, 2020

A Third Magical Scottish Sojourn with Jim and Cat, April 18-May 4, 2020

In 2020 we’ll lead our third Magical Scottish Sojourn to Aberdeen, the Isle of Skye, and the Shetland Islands. Make yourself a nice cuppa tea as you sit down to read through our *
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2020 Restorative Year's End Knitting Retreat in Friday Harbor, Washington

2020 Restorative Year’s End Knitting Retreat in Friday Harbor, Washington

Oct 4-9, 2020.    

Full details:  2020 Restorative Knitting Retreat*

Several years ago, I initiated a new retreat theme dear to my heart. The experience was so sweet for everyone that now all four fall … More

2020 Springtime Island Knitting Retreat, Friday Harbor, Washington, April 5-10

2020 Springtime Island Knitting Retreat, Friday Harbor, Washington, April 5-10

Join us as springtime blossoms on the island, with daffodils, flowering fruit trees, lambs, green leaves growing more visible day by day, and a feeling of freshness and new beginnings. I’ll announce the knitting … More

2020 Let the River Carry You Knitting Retreat, Friday Harbor, Washington

2020 Let the River Carry You Knitting Retreat, Friday Harbor, Washington

February 23—28, 2020

Full details: *2020 LTRCY*

This is the first year I am opening this special retreat to the public. Each February for the past four years, a group of beloved knitters and … More

Iceland in the Cozy Heart of Winter: January 19-February 3, 2020

Iceland in the Cozy Heart of Winter: January 19-February 3, 2020

Counting the days until we are in our beloved Iceland once more, hopefully with you!

Knitting and cooking classes, soaking in geothermal bliss, meeting Icelandic knitters, fantastic food, seeing the magnificent landscape, and feeling … More

Grand Canyon Retreat with Cat Bordhi and Carson Demers, November 7-11, 2019

Grand Canyon Retreat with Cat Bordhi and Carson Demers, November 7-11, 2019

A decade ago I designed my Wherewithall Vest. When I wore it to my island knitting retreats, my students begged for the pattern, and so about a year ago I began to develop just … More

Iceland in the Heart of Winter

Last spring our Icelandic friend Valdi convinced my brother Pecos and me that winter is the best time to go to Iceland. And like fools, we believed him, thank goodness, because he turned out to be wonderfully right.

Valdi, C&P

Valdi is wearing the lopapeysa his aunt knit thirty years ago. Except for the eight years his cat claimed it as her nest, he’s worn it nearly daily. After she died, he washed it, patched the elbows, and resumed the warm relationship, full of cat memories. Icelandic wool is the real thing.

Valdi introduced us to his relative, Hulda Soffia, a knit designer and primary school teacher in Reykjavik with a degree in textiles. Hulda helped us plan a community-based knitting adventure like those we lead in Peru, Ireland, and the United States. We finally met our lovely long-distance friend in person the week before our travelers arrived,

Hulda Cat Pecos rainbow

and she helped us get all our ducks (and swans) in a row, so to speak.


Swans

Reykjavik is at once grand and intimate, labyrinthine yet easy to navigate, each home uniquely charming, the window sills displaying carefully curated personal collections and hand-crocheted lace curtains, offering glimpses of the worlds within.

Window lace charm

Bird lace window Phil

photo by Phil Iverson

 

We chose a hotel at the top of the highest hill, where Hallgrimskirkja’s pristine architecture soars above the entire city, so our travelers could always find their way home. This is the view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja’s tower. Pecos took this photo on a sunny day just as a snowstorm began to blow in on the right.

Reykjavik with snowstorm coming

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

Dawn at the end of January begins its slow, delicious transformation at about nine,

Hallgrims shadows

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

Church dawn

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

and sometime before ten one realizes it is daylight.

Hallgrimskirkja Phil snow

photo by Phil Iverson

Viking ship sculpture

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

Around five the light becomes drowsy and by six darkness enfolds the sparkling world again.

Glimmery night house

Darkness embraces daylight like a circle of petals sheltering the unfurling tenderness at a rose’s center, making each day’s transformation serene. Icelanders wind delicate white lights around bare branches and arrange luminous treasures in windows, so that taking a walk during the so-called darkness is magical. I loved dark and light equally.

Colorful lit window

Store branches lit up

Icelanders drop mittens a lot, it seems, and so it is customary to pick up forlorn lost mittens and set them somewhere at eye level. This gate’s display changed daily as some mittens returned home and newly lost ones arrived.

Lost gloves watering hole

Many of our travelers found handknit Icelandic sweaters, tunics, and more in the Reykjavik thrift shops. Here is a rack of pre-loved children’s handknit sweaters.

Childrens sweaters thrift store

These thrift store slippers (which I photographed but for some unknown reason did not buy!) inspired me to design my own version (and pattern), which I will post when they are done.

Red slippers front

Red slippers back

I did buy these elegantly patterened mittens in the same shop and found them to be much warmer non-Icelandic wool mittens twice as thick. That good Icelandic wool…

B&W mittens

The next day I found another pair of slightly fulled woolen mittens which were made by the ancient technique of nalbinding, which predates knitting. Such a find was so unlikely that I didn’t realize what I had until our travelers Sara and Phil Iverson, who own Blue Heron Knittery in Decorah, Iowa, and whose neighbor and friend Kate Martinson is one of the world’s experts on nalbinding, confirmed the rarity of my treasure.

Tvandstickning mittens

Traditional knit designs appear everywhere in this knit-centric culture, where every child learns to knit in grade school. There is no such thing as a person who doesn’t understand and value knitting. Here is a stained glass window with a knitting pattern,

Church pattern

and a bridge railing with a yoke design.

Bridge chart

Everyone from active construction workers to babies, wears sweaters, for they are beautiful and durable.

Green sweater

Every morning we gathered in our hotel’s breakfast room for knitting workshop, where I taught my unpublished Icelandic yoke sock architecture. The method invites variation, so in addition to socks, several chose to knit legwarmers, and one made an Icelandic Christmas stocking.

Susan legwarmers

Icelandic food is beautifully presented and satisfying.

Fish soup

The freshest fish, succulent lamb (rivaling El Albergue in Ollantaytambo, Peru), soups, stews, open-face sandwiches, even rye bread ice cream (hidden beneath the whipped cream)!

first breakfast

Tucked here and there are tiny food shops that beckon you to enter their enchanted world,

Little grocery

that includes flowers…

flowers

Licorice (lakris) rules the candy counter (imagine licorice coated in good chocolate!) as well as gourmet shelves.

Salts

Abundant, well-fed cats roam Reykjavik’s streets and gardens. Since all dogs are leashed, the cats know they are free to explore, and do. Here is a friend I made on the way to the geothermal pool and hot pots a few minutes’ walk from our hotel.

Tortoise kitty side

Cats slip in and out of windows, which tend to be left open because of the plentiful geothermal heat,

Cat door-window

wait for shops doors to open so they can pitter-patter inside,

B&W cat waiting at shop door

and cuddle in a passersby’s warm arms (that would be me),

Icelandic kitty

Or wait by the door.

cat of the day

One morning Hulda Hákonardóttir gave us a tour of the Istex Mill where all Lopi and Alafoss yarns are born, from bales

Chashmerey Lopi

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

to broad swaths of batting

Combed fiber

to finished yarn. Istex is celebrating a 25th anniversary this year and each month will release a free pattern, like this one which Hulda was still proofing.

Istex sweater

From there we traveled to Alafoss, a legendary shop with everything from handknits to yarn to gifts.

Alafoss nearby

Yoke

And made a final stop at Litla Prjónabúðin, a small and utterly entrancing shop where we fell in love with a fox,

Fox sheep raven sweater

photo and arrangement by Jim Petkiewicz

 

And every nook and cranny in this fairyland of a shop.

Red yoke sweater

One evening we drove out to Handprjon, a spacious, and beautiful shop in Hafnarfjordur, to commingle, sup, and knit with Hulda Soffia’s knitting group.

Handprjon Intercambio

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

Owner Drífa Alfreðsdóttir has created a spacious and welcoming home for knitters, with a fantastic selection of really interesting yarns, some under her own label and others from other Nordic countries and Scotland.

Drifa's yarn

She even offers a pattern for a hat or mittens with a silhouette of Iceland as the centerpiece! Lucky me, she sent me home with a kit. By the time we return in January of 2017, I’ll know the island’s shape well.

Iceland hat mittens phil

Drifa’s shop is a knitter’s labor of love: her wallpaper is ribbing, and she made swift-chandeliers. And above all, she and her talented assistants are devoted to service and hospitality.

Drifa's lights

Like Icelandic sweaters, Icelandic children are sturdy and beautiful.

Toddlers

Babies thrive on long outdoor naps (well bundled, of course) year-round, like the little one tucked inside this carriage while its parents enjoy being with friends inside the restaurant.

Snowy nap

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

Children are safe walking to and from school or heading out to play on a neighborhood tire swing in the snow.

Tire swing

We made the most of our final morning by heading an hour out of town to Þingborg, a rural collective of farmers and artisans who mill their own icelandic fleeces with great care and use plant-based dyes. We arrived as the sun was just clearing the horizon,

Sunrise snow water

and the horses across the road were waiting for breakfast.

Horses dawn

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

Inside, with limited time because most of us had flights to catch, we chose treasures, like batting carefully rolled in paper

batting rainbow

elf musicians,

Pingborg elf musicians

And buttons. I bought a year’s supply of Icelandic wool to play with, until we return for more in 2017.

Pingborg buttons

Just outside the door we all paused to imprint this scene in our hearts forever…

Pecos snowy self portrait

photo (and self-portrait) by Jim Petkiewicz

 

Back in Reykjavik, a final walk along the harbor,

Circle ship

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

And climbing back up the hill, wistful smiles at the now familiar colorful face of storefronts,

Kiki & Cat

photo by Jim Petkiewicz

 

and one last view of Hallgrimskirkja.

Hallg trees dusk

Thank you, Valdi, (buttoning up the sweater, we brought back for him) how right you were. Without your bright spirit and promise that winter in Iceland can be glorious, we and our travelers might never have had this magnificent experience.

Valdi and his sweater

Note: We won’t have our 2017 Iceland trip PDF posted for several more months, but if you wish to be on the interest list, email me (see contact in side menu) with “Iceland” in the subject line.

Getting ready for Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon

I’ve been having a lovely time preparing for my Sock Summit classes in Portland next week. If you have any hankering whatsoever to experience the most concentrated gathering of knitting innovation, intelligence, creativity, generosity, kindness, sharing, and sheer joy you may ever find on the planet, and that doesn’t scare you, I hope you will come be among us on July 28-31 at the Portland Convention Center. Get some rest before you arrive.

I’ll be teaching three full-day sessions of “The Knitting Sleuth,” and one full day of “Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters,” based on my book. “The Knitting Sleuth” is something else, in fact every time I teach it, it is something else. Here is a glimpse:

This pretty thing is not a quilt. It is a sampling of the thrift store sweaters I have been spending years collecting, cutting up, and sewing into frames (made of interfacing). In order to qualify for a frame, a sweater has to have a stitch texture I have never encountered anywhere, and be of enough interest to warrant my students devoting their time to reverse engineering it and hopefully getting lost along the way again and again, thus discovering related yet unique textures that also have never been seen before. Then we extract algorithms and list variables and play and swatch and lo and behold, new knitting textures appear faster than baby rabbits in a well-fed warren. And if this sounds like math, the thing that you think you don’t like about math isn’t here at all; this is math, yet requires none at all. Be not afraid, at all.

I call this Forensic Knitting, and the framed swatches are but one of several dozen pathways I have developed to carry knitters toward fruitful, expanded consciousness. It is more fun than, as one of my students said, “anything else you can do with your clothes on.”

Here is one of the three fawns that spend so much time nibbling dandelions in my yard that I have to recharge my camera battery daily to keep up with their cuteness. And here is the same fawn moments later – she seems to have heard something and she …

took off as fast as her little legs would carry her! I apologize for the blurry photo, but it’s a miracle I caught the little dear (ha ha) at all. As I write, she is back, munching on more dandelions, flicking her tail, and occasionally winning a stare-down with me through the window.

I’ve finished  preparing single pattern versions of the first three designs in my eBook, Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Socks, and have posted them on Ravelry along with the eBook, which if I were you I would buy instead, since for $20 you will end up with the equivalent of $54 worth of patterns as well as lots of in-depth tips and tricks and lessons that will not appear in any one pattern. If you click on “Patterns” in the left menu, then “socks,” you will be taken to the three that I have posted.

I get most of my Forensic sweaters at our local thrift store, and yesterday I also found a half-dozen antique steel-cable circular knitting needles. I’ve owned one for years and thought I might never find any more; these are likely from the 1920’s or earlier.

Curiously, there was a pair of  2.25 mm and a pair of 3 mm needles, both about 30 inches long, as if somewhere on this island a knitter may have been working in the round on 2 circs decades before I was ever born. Except that the steel cables are so unyielding that this could not have worked out well at intersections.

The other curious thing is that the tips of the long needles (not the 16-inch needle) also have a very small diameter hole drilled through the tip, suitable for sewing thread – a lifeline perhaps? Keep in mind this is a 3 mm needle, so the hole is very small indeed. Ah, the stories these needles could tell.

The only reason I came up with the 2-circ method and Sarah Hauschka with the 1-circ method (Magic Loop) is because Ingrid Skacel brought Addi Turbo needles, with their pliant cables, smooth joins  and fine tips from Germany to this country in the mid-80s, spending decades investing in the knitting community and trusting that we would appreciate fine tools. It didn’t happen overnight, but she and her husband Hans persisted and in my opinion, changed the knitting world. We wouldn’t be where we are were it not for the fine tools we have to work with. Since then, other needle makers have built upon the pioneering work of Addi Turbo, but I still think they are the best needles made.

I hope to see some of you in Portland! You’ll find me, when I am not teaching, looking blissful at Ruby Jewel Ice Cream. I dare you to have some ice cream, then walk a few doors down and through the door of At the Meadow without spending money on something you never even knew existed or that you wanted. Beware. It happened to me. I won’t even tell you what it is. You will have choices.

Okay, this is in real time. Mama deer just showed up and was instantly attacked by her twins who to my astonishment are still nursing, with VIGOR. Wish you could have seen this: the twins are actually lifting mom up and down with their eagerness. I am grateful every day for living here.