Category Archives: Bicycle

The Holiday Cycle

andy_alison_inside_lav

So wonderful to have the girl home, even if only for a few days!

I generally feel some kind of let-down on the day after a big day, and Thanksgiving is no different.

I think it’s all the cooking, cleaning, organizing and trying to get the troops sitting at the table at the same time that is so wearying. I also think I’m afflicted with an early case of empty next syndrome. I realize that this time next year both kids will be away at college – and after that, who knows?

Coming from an incredibly disfunctional (and at times absolutely toxic) family environment, I’ve worked hard to keep my own family holidays as low key and – well – small as possible.

It always seemed to be at the larger family events that someone would take joy in pushing someone else’s buttons; I’m afraid I got a lifetime’s worth of that at a young age.

Small and quiet works well for us.

And then I worry that our holiday will be TOO small next year.

Someone's been helping me with the skeining...

Someone’s been helping me with the skeining…

I love my family, and they love me, but somehow during the holidays there generally comes a blue period when I foolishly begin to doubt my abilities as a parent.

It makes me wonder if my own mom (and her mom, etc.) felt the same at the holidays. I miss my mom (and cousin Jan) all through the year, holidays are one of the hardest times, though.

And, as it’s been a bit colder (after a LOVELY early November) I haven’t had a chance to get out on my bike for the past week.  Astounding how that rocks my world. I know a good amount of the ‘blues’ is due to inactivity. So it’s time to do something about it.

This guy would like a walk, too!

This guy would like a walk, too!

We’re incredibly lucky here in St. Paul, we have a wonderful network of Rec Centers, and for the low cost of $30/year we can visit ANY of them whenever we want for gym time, pool time, or to take a yoga or zumba class (those last have an additional fee, but it’s pretty low!)

So I’m setting out to renew my membership again, so I can try to get some regular exercise to take the place of my daily bike rides.

I’m lucky that right up the street, about a mile away, is a great rec center with a pool and a sauna. Kathleen and I have discussed finding a Zumba class, so maybe we’ll be doing that, too!

My mom used to say, “When you feel blue, take a walk or take a nap.” and I think right now I need the equivalent of a nice long walk every day. Maybe a nice, long walk down to the Jimmy Lee Rec Center?

red yarn settingIn working news, I have SO much yarn to dye in the coming months.

The good part is that I’ve been scheduling the dye sessions, so I’m not working haphazardly (as I might have last year with smaller orders).

I’m trying to work in a very planned way to dye all the yarn that is required for a some pretty big orders, (and the nonstop fiber shows in the late Spring & early Summer of 2016 we have coming up!)

Moving More, Eating – well, just about the same…

fat bike signWhen Andy (née Hannah) was a baby the Rosie O’Donnell Show was one of our favorite mommy-baby morning routines.  One year she promoted a campaign to “Move More, Eat Less” and it was a good thing for a lot of moms like me, with new babies and brand new areas where fat had appeared.

I’ve never been thin, but I’ve been thinner.  Actually, there was one time in 1984 when I was a size 10 for about 32 minutes, but that is long gone.  Amazing, though, how many pieces of clothing one can buy in a 32 minute time period…

I’ve always fought my weight. I’ve dieted, not-dieted, starved, binged, exercised like a dervish, sat on the sofa for weeks on end (my “Gilbert Grape period”) and, although I have to admit there were differences in weight, nothing was permanent.

At this point in my life I’m not expecting to every be thin, but I’ve been striving for the past 5 years to be HEALTHY.  My benchmark is to be able to ride my bike for 7 miles a day. This seems to be the magic mileage that allows me to have good movement and reduce the Fibromyalgia pain, and it’s very doable.

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut!

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut!

If you’re someone who doesn’t ride a bike, you might think that 7 miles sounds like a lot. It’s not – really! I worked up to it. I remember when riding 2 miles to my son’s baseball game was a challenge! But it only took about 2 months of daily riding for 7 miles to feel like a walk in the park.

And, since bike riding is seven times more efficient than walking, it IS like a one-mile walk in the park!

I’m fortunate that I live in an area where biking is encouraged. Our city & state government here in St. Paul, MN, is behind directives to promote ALL kinds of physical movement. We have an excellent ‘nice ride’ bike share program, and our bike paths, share-ways and greenways are legendary! Yeah, riding in the winter can be cold, but once you’re well covered (hands & faces are the most important) then a winter ride is really VERY nice! Just watch out for that ice!

However, since starting ModeKnit Yarns with my partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi, I haven’t made the time to get out and ride as much as I used to.

I get overwhelmed with the amount of physical work involved in dyeing hundreds of skeins of yarn, and I talk myself into believing I don’t have the time for cycling. Add to that my inability to get my Xolaire shots for 3 months this Summer (Damn you, Health Partners!) and there was a huge period where riding my bike was NOT as accessible as it had been before.

Spessartine Flow

But I’ve made a promise to myself that I will increase my cycling (and I’m back on the Xolaire…)

Being on my bike makes me happy (ENDORPHINS!) and it really does help decrease the amount of muscle and nerve pain that haunts me on a daily basis. It’s non weight-bearing, so I can bike without wrenching my knee

(Damn you, high school basketball!)

Now I just have to keep convincing myself that the hour-a-day I take from my busy schedule is WELL worth the time. It’s really true – when you run a business, it’s very hard to take time for YOU!

A Bolero Sketch from History On Two Needles (based on a Tissot Painting)

A Bolero Sketch from History On Two Needles

So it’s Submission Season, which means a lot of swatching, sketching, and a whole bunch of thinking. As much as I feel guilty when I take time from the dyeing biz (see above) I know that getting a good submission pack together is important for several reasons;

  • I need to stay visible and pertinent as a designer
  • I enjoy the income from designing (Damn you, mortgage!)
  • When I’m permitted by the magazine to use ModeKnit Yarn, it’s a great editorial benefit to our company.

Win, win, win!

But, like the cycling, I need to take time out to actually DO the knitting, swatching, etc. It’s so easy to just put my head down and work, work, work; endlessly dyeing,  skeining and updating the website. But if I don’t put in the non-dyeing time, the business ultimately suffers.

Who knew that at age 54 I would be able to learn so many lessons about using my time wisely!

I’m Shorter.

The last time I went to my doctor and was measured, I was a full inch shorter than the last time.  ONE INCH! This was a different doctor’s office, and I’m certain there are some discrepancies in how hard the nurse pushes down that little metal arm on top of my head to get the reading, but an inch is a LOT!

So it’s not so much that I’ve gained weight this year, as that I’ve lost height. And it shows! Clothes seem to fit differently, my own ‘personal space’ just feels different.

It’s frustrating as I’ve been eating pretty intelligently this year (although never enough leafy greens, always working on that!) but I haven’t been cycling as much as I have in the past.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.48.09 AMOr maybe I have.

I just made a chart of my total miles per month (I’ve been keeping track of all these numbers via Daily Mile since 2010) and it looks like my cycling has actually INCREASED in the past few years.

Wow.  I guess I am cycling a lot.  Those 4 and 7 mile rides really add up!

That doesn’t change the fact that clothes are fitting weirdly (not tight, just weird) so I have NO idea what’s going on…  It’s so odd when a portion of your personality’s been based on being tall, and suddenly it seems you’re one of the short ones in the room!

Well, regardless, I’m off for a long bike ride today. I’ve earned it, damnit, and I deserve it!

Brahmin MothYesterday I did something I haven’t done in months, I biked over to St. Kates and sat on the porch, knitting.

I’m finishing up a sample garment that we’ll be releasing in December, a scarf (shawl?) I’ve based on the beautiful Brahmin Moth.

I’ll reveal the images later, but it’s one of the nicest things I think I’ve ever designed.  I’m really excited about it, as soon as it’s tech edited I’ll have some folks test knit it, then I’ll release it!

Cuckoo Wasp

Cuckoo Wasp

I often get inspiration for colors from insects, they’re so beautiful! While looking through a bunch of moth and butterfly images I ran across this amazing moth, and knew I had to create a garment that reflected the stunning contrast and tone gradations.

I’m terrified of wasps, but one of the most beautiful creatures on earth is the Cuckoo Wasp, which was the basis for one of our colorways in our FLOW club last year.

I was so excited to find this baby online (and NOT in my house) and it was thrilling to be able to match the colors in yarn!

Cuckoo Wasp Yarn

Cuckoo Wasp Yarn in ModeWerk Fingering

Here’s some of the Cuckoo Wasp yarn already dyed, ready to be rolled into balls.  I knit all the fabric up, then dye it (so I can place the long-color gradients) and then roll it into balls.

Yes, it’s labor intensive, but it’s worth it for the beautiful FLOW effect!

I’d be interested in hearing from you what color inspirations you see in your life!  Please add a link in comments to an animal, landscape, food, book – anything that gives you a ‘color shiver!’

A New Year

Atticus wears a leaf hat in NJ, 2012

Atticus wears a leaf hat in NJ, 2012

I always think of Autumn as the REAL start of the new year. It’s not a Jewish thing, it’s a school thing.

When Gerry and I had been married for a few years, he pointed this out to me. “Every September it’s like you always want to start a new project!”  And that’s been the case.

The past year has been incredibly rough. So rough, I didn’t want to talk about it much to anyone, I just wanted to keep my head down and get through it.

It wasn’t a bad year – in many ways it’s been a pretty sensational year! But it’s been an incredibly taxing and difficult year.  So I’m hoping my Autumn mojo will kick in and Sept/Oct 2015 will mark a departure from some of the rough patches of Sept 2014.

Max masquerading as Ed Sheeran

Max (on right) masquerading as Ed Sheeran (on left)

Maybe it’s having a new business begin to take off, at the same time as I have one kid getting used to college and the other going through the whole testing/application/grant seeking treadmill. Maybe it’s the ups and downs of Gerry’s health (which is miraculously good considering no one thought he would be here) but still takes a lot of physical and mental energy from both of us to stay on top of.

Maybe it was having one computer crash (thus losing a bunch of stuff that carbonite didn’t back up) then having another one stolen a few months later (thus losing even MORE stuff that carbonite didn’t back up – I’m finished with Carbonite – I’m doing my own backing up using DropBox now!) 

That kind of thing can really mess with your mind – thinking that you know where a file is, then realizing that it’s gone forever is a kind of small mourning that happens over and over again.

Andy gets a tattoo!

Andy gets a tattoo!

Whatever the reason for this difficult, messed up year (and there is no single reason, it’s just … life) I doubt it will be changing any time soon.  So I’m going to try to make a change myself.

I used to blog all the time, as I went for bike rides (another thing that I am not doing as often as I’d like) I would ponder blog content. I’d take a bunch of photos so I’d have ‘blog-fodder’, it was something that grounded me.  When I look back on this past year I’m struck by how little I blogged, which is understandable, but I don’t think it helped.  Blogging helps me keep a handle on what’s bubbling under the surface.  Sometimes when I write it’s as if I turn my mind off and my hands are on auto-pilot, and I miss that feeling.

My bike, my man, my dog and my new haircut!

My bike, my man, my dog and my new haircut!

So I’m going to make an October resolution; I’m going to blog more. I’m going to find a use for all those photos I take, I’m going to pick up the online thread of my life with the accompanying cast of characters popping in.

Who knows, I may even do a podcast every now or then…

I’m Lucky

It’s been a wild few weeks, and keeping ourselves from falling, even a bit, into despair has been a challenge Gerry and I have set for ourselves. I love my husband so much, I am so glad that we share a sense of humor, and I’m grateful that we are able to play off of each other to keep things in perspective.

In all truth, even with the continuing Shingles pain and frustration over the loss of the car, phone, computer data, yada yada yada, we KNOW that we’re among the luckiest folks on earth.

I don’t talk about gratitude much, but I feel it deeply. I was once part of an online moms group (back when online mom’s groups were very new) There were 8 of us who were due with our babies at roughly the same time, and we stayed in touch for a long time.

We came from various socio-economic levels, worked at various jobs, had different goals and represented a wide variety of faiths, but the thing we shared (our babies) was the most important thing in all of our lives, and we all gained SO much from our interactions.

Sometime near the end of our regular interactions someone in the group suggested we start a ‘gratitude journal’  The person suggesting it was of a higher income bracket than most of us, which didn’t seem to matter at all, and we all said, “Great idea!”

But it wasn’t.

What started as a good idea – “I’m grateful that it was a beautiful day today!” turned into a source of pain for some of us.

One mom, in all innocence, wrote, “I’m grateful that my baby is doing so well and is so healthy!” which was great, but we had a couple of moms with ill, premature babies, and there was a silence from them for a while.

Another mom wrote, “I’m grateful that my husband just got a raise and we can take that trip we’ve been planning!” which was wonderful for her, but hard for another of the mom’s whose husband had just been laid off and who was experiencing financial difficulties.

Don’t get me wrong – we were ALL happy for each other – but the gratitude journal turned into what felt a bit like a bragging journal, and some of us found ourselves feeling oddly dissatisfied (and then ashamed of feeling that way) reading about the new houses, jobs, healthy babies and other good things that seemed to pass other members of our group by.

No one wants to feel jealous or envious – we all WANT to be happy for our friends when good things happen (and I think 99% of us are VERY happy for our friend’s good fortune!)

But the experience instilled in me a firm belief that gratitude is something that’s best kept private.

The things I was grateful for were pretty tame; running water, flush toilet, hot water whenever we want it, all the food we need, a civil government that – for the most part – protects us, good roads, free schools and libraries.  I didn’t get too specific about our own situation because I didn’t want to sound braggy.

I feel that the past few weeks I’ve been such a sad sack of complaining – so much seems to have gone wrong at the same time – but I want everyone who reads my blog to understand that I KNOW exactly how lucky we are. Very lucky.

We have a home, I have healthy kids who are kind-hearted and smart, we have pets to love,
we live in a wonderful place, and my husband is here.

Everything in the world that is important to me is contained in that last sentence, and even writing it I feel like I’m bragging.

Tomorrow I turn 53. My skin hurts from the shingles, our car is god-knows-where, and I’m so incredibly lucky that I need to pinch myself. I never thought that I’d have such a rich and full life, I truly am the luckiest person I know!*

I had an MRI today (no need to discuss it, it was a follow up) and the tech asked me if I wanted to listen to a certain artist. I asked for The Pretenders, anything from Learning To Crawl. Apparently she put on the 80’s channel and I got a lot of Blondie and The Cars.

And then one of my favorite songs came on. Joan Armitrading’s I’m Lucky from Walk Under Ladders, just a wonderful song!

And it made me realize how lucky I was to be laying in a long metal tube with magnets spinning around my abdomen. I was able to ride my bike down to the imaging center, and I knew I’d ride my bike home.

I hope you’re all lucky, too!

*Gerry is, of course, the luckiest guy in the world for snagging me as his bride.

Summer in Minnesota FLOWS On!

Gorgeous, MN

Gorgeous, MN

I love it here. I’m a woman who likes cold weather, and I LOVE chilly Summer evenings and sleep-with-the-windows-open nights.  I love Minnesota.

And, being a Virgo, I love home.

Being home is better than anything else to me (and I do love travel!) so this is a very special time – I know I’ll be home for a few weeks and I’m in heaven!

Butts at Olds!

Butts at Olds!

Last week I traveled up to Olds, Alberta to teach at Olds Fiber Week – which was lovely – but I am SO glad to be home, back on my bike, and getting my health back in order!

Travel really takes it out of me (out of so many of us) and it generally takes me about 1/2 the time of the trip to feel like ‘myself’ again.

Having said that, at the start of August I’ll be teaching at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair! I’m offering 4 classes (listed to the right in the calendar area) and some are filling up very fast! If you’re in the Chicago area or will be attending this great festival, please register soon so you’re not disappointed!

Bolero Book

Right now I’m focusing on finishing writing the 25 patterns for my book, working up the schematics and charts.  It will be published by Stackpole books, and the samples have received HUGE positive comments whenever I show them while teaching. I’m afraid I cannot show pics of the finished items (it’s in my contract) but I can give a small taste of some of the items!

I have a feeling this will be an pretty popular book; the patterns are very wearable, many of them are very simple to knit, and the yarns I was able to use are just gorgeous!

And – BONUS! – I just heard from my editor that I can have a bit more time for the pattern writing. This is HUGE because I’m dealing with a cracked tooth/abscess thing right now, so my thoughts are scattered, to say the least.

Dealing with mouth pain is not the best frame of mind for doing lots of math.

ModeKnit Yarn

In our own little corner of the knit world, we’ve begun a new line of colors called FLOW!

They’re long-color change yarns, and we’re using our established Semi Precious colors as a jumping off place – here you can see Spessartine (hand painted) vs Spessartine (Flow)  Basically I’m deconstructing the colors and layering them, separately, with the actual blending happening between the hues.

Right now we’re offering selected colors, you can buy them by the ball (limited quantities, once they’re out of stock they’re gone until I dye up more!)

I’m open to any color suggestions you might have for blending; what would YOU like to see?

Writing Less, Dyeing More!


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