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Crazy for Ewe

Five reasons to love the Cocoknits Method

Five reasons to love the Cocoknits Method

We've had several classes on the Cocoknits Method, and everyone has been very happy with their sweaters.  It's a great method, and a fun class with some new techniques to learn, as well as innovative applications of a lot of the skills you already have. It's not hard, but it is new, and this full-day class will take you more

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It's all about the color

It's all about the color

Going through my mom's boxes looking for pictures to use for her service, I found all kinds of treasures she'd saved -- from letters of my misery at summer camp to scrawling drawings I'd done.  Even then it was clear that my talents were verbal rather than artistic.  Despite her encouragement and indulgence with all manner of media, I simply never progressed past stick figures and their landscape equivalent.  That's okay, because drawing was never my interest -- I only drew things more

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The only way to fail

The only way to fail

 

A few weeks ago I took this class called Cardio Dance at Spice Studio.  Now, I've been doing aerobic dance/exercise classes for going on 40 years now -- Jazzercise, aerobics, step aerobics, blah blah blah.  So you'd think this would be a cinch for me.  Well.  It wasn't.  The teacher, Taryn Brown, is a professor of dance at St. Mary's College, and winner of the Maryland State Arts Council individual artist award for choreography.  She's talented, hip and fun.  Her moves are current.  Mine are not.  Taryn is very patient going over and over all the moves slowly adding on a little at a time.  Only I wasn't quite getting it.  Just a smidge behind, you know.  The gal dancing next to me was having trouble with it too, and we laughed and said that we hated it.  The truth is, though, I didn't hate it, and neither did she.  What we hated was messing up.  It's embarrassing to be out of step -  turned the wrong way - zigging when everyone else is zagging.  

As adults, its uncomfortable to feel incompetent.  We learned all the hard stuff, like walking and talking and typing and playing tennis or whatever, a long time ago.  If we didn't learn to play a sport or a musical instrument when we were young, chances are we're not going to pick it up now.  It's just too painful to be a beginner in a world we perceive to be filled with experts. And that's a shame, because not only are we never too old to learn, it's the learning that keeps us young and vibrant. 

As knitters, we often sit at the table and see women of all ages stop by and admire completed garments or projects we're doing.  They'll touch the yarn and say, "I never learned to do this," or "I don't have the patience to do this."  Having taught hundreds of people to knit over the last 14 years, I know this to be false, but I also understand their real meaning, which is "I'm not comfortable putting myself in a place where I'm not competent."  I get it.  It's a hard place to be, and no one really likes it.  But here's the thing - it's not a permanent condition.  We keep trying and we get better.  I submit myself to Taryn's class each week, because I love it, and I know that I'll get it.  I'm not uncoordinated - I just don't know the steps yet.  It might take me longer than some to learn them, but I will learn them.  The only way I can fail is to quit.

It's the same with everything in life, including knitting.  Whether you'r stretching yourself with a complicated technique,  just starting your first sweater, or trying to decide if you want to give knitting a try, remember that it takes time to become proficient at anything.  The only way to fail is to quit, or worse, to not even try.

 I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table trying new things.  You are always welcome here.   ~Ellen

 

Back to 10 October 2017 newsletter

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Umaro class and knitalong

Umaro class and knitalong

Did you ever see the play Annie..or maybe the movie?  It has that catchy little tune, "Umaro, Umaro, I love you Umaro, you're always a day away..."  Oh wait, it's tomorrow...oh well, doesn't matter, Umaro is actually what I love.  Cozy and quick, Umaro is a beautiful throw designed by Jared Flood.  Shirley Walker knit one, which she graciously loaned me - it's in the shop window - you should come see. We have the sample of it knit by Shirley Walker in our window you should come see.  It's even prettier in person that the official picture from the pattern here.

Umaro throw by Jared Flood

Worked in super bulky yarn on size 15 needles, it's fun and fast to knit.   I've had it in my queue to knit for over a year, and I'm starting it Saturday, February 4th.  If you want to knit along with me, here are the skills you'll need for this project:

  • Knit and purl
  • Relaxed long-tail cast on
  • Right-leaning and left-leaning decreases
  • Yarnovers
  • Cables
  • Chart reading

In case you're not quite up to speed on any of those skills, join us Wednesday, February 1st for a class on the Umaro stitch pattern.  We'll work one repeat of the pattern so you'll get those skills and be perfectly comfortable with all aspects of the pattern.  Bonus is that this can be your swatch too, so you can come to the knitalong Saturday, all ready to go!  Class includes one skein of Ushya and the pattern.  Bring or buy at class, US Size 15 needles. Choose afternoon 2:30-4:00 or evening 5:30-7:30.  Click here for more info or to sign up.

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Train your Brain

Train your Brain
How to become a Superager
Image by Jun Cen courtesy of The New York Times

There's a recent article from the New York Times making its way around social media.  It's called "How to Become a Superager."  It's about why some people over 65 are so sharp and mentally engaged while others suffer from forgetfulness, limited attention span, and other things we associate with aging brains.  Turns out that what actually staves off brain atrophy and Alzheimer's is not Sudoku or reading or other simple and pleasant tasks.  The key is hard work.  You need to engage in activities that make you think so hard your brain hurts a little bit.  So, as much as we've heard that knitting and crocheting are good for the brain, it's not as simple as that.

The benefits to your brain don't come until you're really struggling.  You need to engage in activities that really tax you and make you feel "tired, stymied, frustrated".  It has to hurt.  As the Marines say, "Pain is weakness leaving your body."  And so it is.  Does that mean you need to drop your knitting needles and crochet hook and pick up a differential equations textbook?  Of course not, but it does mean that you need to challenge yourself more with the things you do enjoy.  Your hundredth garter stitch scarf is not going to keep you sharp, but a challenging project will.  Students in Ginni's Rigoles Shawl class are definitely building brain muscle in the superaging region. 

As with physical exercise, the point at which you feel the burn depends on your fitness level.  If you're a knitter, learn to crochet with Antonella.  If you're a crocheter, learn to knit.  Getting started knitting socks with Jenny would do it.  Already a sock knitter? Try doing it from the toe up - or two at a time.  Our Lisa Barnes weekend offers plenty of opportunities to stretch your brain.  Sign up even if you don't feel ready for it.  Stretching yourself is exactly what you need.  Ginni's double knitting class is another great one - Look for her brioche class coming up next month.  If you're a beginner, something with a pattern stitch is going to do it.  Mary's next Mystery Shawl KAL will feature lots of different stitches for you to learn.  You will grow, and you will love it. 

While you should be challenged and frustrated by some projects, we don't want you to get so frustrated that you give up, so we're here to help.  When you take one of our classes that's a little bit over your head, we're on here to support you.  Don't be afraid to call or stop by between scheduled class times if you need a little guidance.  The "magic table" is always available, and you are always welcome here.

Back to Crazy for Ewe Newsletter 10 January 2017

Read full article How to Become a Superager here

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Mosaic Knitting

Mosaic Knitting

The Lisa M. Barnes classes this January are starting to fill up.  I'm so proud to be able to offer you the opportunity to take these classes, many of which are not offered anywhere else!  One of the classes Lisa is teaching in January is Mosaic knitting.  It's a great technique, and I'm super excited about it, but I know many of you are wondering, what the heck is Mosaic Knitting, and why would I want to learn it?  Like many of you, I am a product knitter.  Yes, I love the process of knitting, and I love learning new techniques, but if there isn't a sufficiently compelling project at the end of the effort, my motivation is a little weak.  So let me first show you all the beautiful things made with mosaic knitting technique.

Looks awesome and complicated, doesn't it!  Mosaic Knitting is awesome, but not nearly  as complicated as it looks.  With Mosaic Knitting, you only work  one color at a time in any row, so you get the look of beautiful stranded knitting without any of the fiddly fuss.  It's a great technique that allows you to create spectacular projects that are fun to knit and very impressive - even to other knitters! 

Everyone loves crescent shaped shawls - they're modern, on trend and flattering to wear.  Lisa's Design Your Own Crescent Shaped Shawl class, is a wonderful and unusual class you'll benefit from, even if you're not interested in designing your own shawl.  In this class you'll gain an understanding of the construction of this flattering shawl shape so that you can adjust any shawl pattern to suit your preferences.  Want to make it wider or deeper?  This class will show you how.  Once you understand how, you'll quickly find that you're ready to create your own beautiful design in this class.  Choose any edging you like - from a simple ruffle to a complicated lace - and make it any kind of crescent you want.  And when someone comments on your beautiful shawl, you can tell them not only did you knit it, but you designed it yourself!  

Sign up for the weekend before December 10th and save $60!  

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Experiencing unabashed joy

Experiencing unabashed joy

One of the most fun things about being around small children is seeing the unabashed joy they find in the simplest of things.  Everything is new, and mastering each skill delights them.  You can see it on their little faces as they try and try, finally learning to crawl and then walk, or figuring out how to put a puzzle together or build a tower that doesn't fall.  Children experience the world with a unique sense of wonder and thrill of accomplishment.  As adults, we hardly ever get that same rush of excitement - the challenge of most new physical skills is far behind us. 

But you can create that rush.  As you know, we've been having some beginning crochet sessions for our Uplifting Designs entry.  I have never known how to crochet beyond the bare minimum.  But for this little project, Antonella designed a little flower that includes all the basic crochet techniques: chain, slip stitch, single, double, half-double (who knew), and triple crochet stitches.  I learned how to crochet in the round and more.  In making these little flowers, I can truly say that I learned to crochet.  Not just blindly following someone standing over me saying, "Okay, now wrap the yarn around the hook, and pull it blah blah blah."  I actually knew what to do.  I could read the pattern, look at my work, and know where I was and what to do next.  And you know, it was pretty thrilling.  I felt this goofy smile on my face and that childlike thrill just took over.  "I get it! I see it!" The words just tumbled out, and I didn't care.  I was excited about proud - not just proud of my creation, but proud of myself for learning this thing.  It doesn't sound like much, but it's actually huge.  That kind of learning - - combining visual cues, intellectual understanding, and physical skills, is powerful.  Whether it's a child learning how puzzle pieces fit together, or you and me learning to crochet a flower or knit a sock, the experience is a thrilling rush!

There are lots of opportunities for you to experience the rush - I think sock knitting is a perfect example of where you'll find it.  Following along the pattern and doing what it says (with or without someone standing over you) is one thing, but truly having that Aha! moment is quite another.  The rush comes with independent mastery - when you see why things are done the way they are and you know when to do what you have to do, and you know how to do it.  That's what we're going for.  Jenny has a wonderful beginning sock class starting this week, toe-up, worsted weight.  Toe up is great for lots of reasons, but from the learning perspective, it's an excellent way to kind of unpack sock construction, look at it from another angle, literally, and really get a feel for what's happening.  Whether you're a beginning sock knitter, or a cuff-down devotee, I encourage you to register for this class and experience the excitement and joy of learning something new.

Join us for a class that thrills you - I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here.  ~ Ellen

Back to 20 September 2016 Newsletter

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Why knit socks?

Why knit socks?

Vintage argyle sock pattern book

Generations ago when a young girl learned knitting in schools, her first project was most likely, a pair of socks. Ginni recounts that her first project was, in fact, a pair of argyle socks replete with multiple colors and numerous bobbins.  Today's beginning knitters typically start with a simple scarf or vest, but there is great wisdom behind the idea of jumping into socks early in the game. Socks introduce you to knitting techniques that are incredibly useful but you might not run across in your everyday knitting life. Certainly socks involve the basics - ribbing, working flat, working in the round, increasing, and decreasing. But you could knit a hundred scarves or sweaters and never come across short rows or grafting. Perfectly picked-up stitches is another essential skill you'll master with socks. There are other important refinements your knitting gains as you make socks - like how to work a not-too-tight cast on or bind off, or how to make a smooth selvedge, to name just a few. Socks are a comprehensive learning experience, and knowing how to knit them, and knit them well, is incredibly empowering.

Jenny's socks

Jenny May worked with us a couple of years ago, and I'm happy to say she's back on the Crazy for Ewe team.  Jenny is without a doubt the most prolific sock-knitter I've ever met. Her entire family wears her hand knit socks - exclusively. I asked her years ago about what she finds so compelling about knitting socks, and I thought I'd share her thoughts with you again.  

"I was asked the other day why on earth anyone would knit socks when you can buy them for so much less. Well, let me count the ways...

First, I love picking the perfect yarn for the recipient. Color, texture, solid, semi-solid or variegated - so many beautiful choices! Then you get to pick the perfect pattern. Plain vanilla, lace, striped, toe-up, cuff-down, ankle socks, knee socks...so many fantastic options!

Then, there's the ability to custom fit the socks. No more bunched up socks in my shoes! I can make long elegant toes, or short rounded toes that match the feet of the wearer. I can accommodate large or small ankles, calves and heels.

Finally, wearing beautiful hand knit socks makes me feel spoiled! They're perfect for any weather and a beautiful accessory."

Well said, Jenny. So whether it's the idea of such a learning-packed project, the creative process of sock-knitting, or simply the ability to spoil yourself or people you love with a beautiful gift, I think you will enjoy Jenny's sock classes. Beginning knitters who've taken her sock classes have all come away feeling tremendously confident and ready for anything. Even experienced knitters who've taken her class have agreed that it was well worth their time and that they learned a lot. Not only is Jenny a wealth of information, she's patient and encouraging, and her students have fun.

This Thursday she's starting a class on the very fun technique of knitting socks two-at-a-time.  If you have knit socks before but suffer from "second sock syndrome," this is the class for you.  If you're just beginning with socks, feel free to sign up for this class and just work your socks one at a time.  It's the same pattern, and you can work at your own pace.  Come by the shop, or sign up on line here.  

We look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table - you are always welcome here.

Back to 12 July Newsletter  

 

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Knitted internships

Hard for me to believe, but my daughter Katie is a senior in college already. Just yesterday she was in third grade, and now she's going to job fairs and sending out resumes.  Like me, she is a liberal arts major, so her career path is not at all well defined.  There are so many things she could do, but how do you what you want to do anyway?  Where do you even begin to look for a job?  The difference between knowing and floundering is often an internship.  These summer positions - paid and unpaid - give college students an opportunity to see firsthand what day to day life is like in a particular industry.  It gives them a look at what kind of things people at all levels there do, and what their career ladder might look like.  Whether it parlays into an ultimate job offer, or simply helps the student decide they love (or hate) that industry, or job.  It's the perfect way to dip your toe in before diving headlong into what could be either a wonderful experience, or a terrible mistake. 

In much the same way, classes and small projects help you explore new knitting techniques before you commit to the whole enchilada.  For instance, you might fall in love with a sweater like this,

                       

but have no experience in knitting a sweater at all, let alone the stranded knitting technique needed to do it.  Rather than jumping right in and committing to many skeins and hours, take our Stranded Knitting Mitten class and learn the technique.  See if you like the technique, and learn to do it well so that your big project will be a success. 

It's the same with everything in the knitting world.  If you've never knit a cable, try a cabled hat or scarf before tackling an entire Aran masterpiece first thing.  It'll build your skills and your confidence.  Because that's what I'm after anyway.  I want you to be a strong, competent, and confident knitter.  I want you to know you can tackle any project you see anywhere, and the best way to get there is by building on success, one skill or project or experience at a time.  The Crazy for Ewe team is here for you, and we're all proud to be part of your journey to success. 

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here. 

Back to 22 September newsletter 

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Your brain on art

People who don't knit often come into the shop and say things like, "Oh, I could never knit - I'm not creative."  It makes me feel bad, because the truth is, everyone is creative and artistic.  It's just a matter of where our particular interests are and how we choose to display our creative talents.  As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  As a knitter, you're an artist using your creativity to choose and combine colors, fibers, and stitch patterns into fabulous fiber art.

Art is so important in our lives.  I've talked a lot about how knitting keeps us sharp by offering learning opportunities that forge new pathways and stimulate brain growth.  Art is equally important and powerful.  Neurological research shows that making art improves cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites.

Knitting provides a lot of artistic opportunities, but I think that part of what's so essential to brain growth is the learning aspect - doing something different that stretches you.  Mix it up a little.  At a recent retreat I tried working in fused glass, and I loved it!   Very different from knitting, but still creative and expressive. 

If stepping outside your knitting comfort zone sounds like fun, you're in luck!  The St. Mary's Arts Council, in conjunction with the Leonardtown Arts and Entertainment District, has invited top artists from around the region to come and teach a wide variety of classes for students of all levels.  The event is called Art Work Shop, and it will be Saturday, September 12th You can take classes in watercolor, ceramics, poetry, dance, photography, Ikebana, and more.  I'm especially excited that fiber artist Debra Lee will be teaching two workshops - one on mosaic knitting, and one on Shadow Knitting.  I hope you'll take at least one of Debra's classes, as well as something that's a little outside your comfort zone.  Your brain will thank you. 

 

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