30 September 2013

Inspiration at the Cloisters

Last week on a stunningly beautiful day I made my way up to the Cloisters. It's one of those places that is largely a secret, since it is so far uptown, but it is such a lovely place. And that goes double this year, as they celebrate their 75th anniversary. Until last month they had the Search for the Unicorn exhibit (I was sad to see that the Narwhal tusks had been put away - if you didn't know they came from an odd-looking whale, those "horns" would make you a believer in unicorns), and now they have placed Janet Cardiff's Forty Part Motet in the FuntidueƱa Chapel, which is the first chapel on the right.

Pontaut Chapter House (and me experimenting with my 50mm lens)
Bees doing their thing in the Cuxa Cloister
I'll be honest, I strode right past the FuntidueƱa Chapel and headed for the Saint-Guilhem Cloister, which is always a favorite, with it's little bubbling fountain and serene skylight. Checked out the flowers blooming in the Cuxa Cloister... I wandered over the whole museum, spending lots of time with the Unicorn Tapestries and then in the Bonnefont Cloister.

Unicorn in Captivity (those are dripping pomegranate arils, not wounds)
Unicorn Captured (I had never noticed the "true" maiden's hand and arm before - around the unicorn's neck and out the right side of the damaged tapestry)

For me one of the charms of the Bonnefont Cloister is the inclusion of plants relevant to the fiber arts: fibers themselves, dyes, and mordants. It's a reminder of how much the world has changed that people used to grow the stuffs necessary to make their own clothes. The other charms include the profusion of plants, views of the Hudson, and the cozy sheltered place itself.

Flax flower in the Bonnefont Cloister
Cotton boll

Pomegranate blossoms and growing fruit
I want to know who has an anchorage in front of the Cloisters!
Eventually, I made my way back to the entry hall and figured I should check out this music. One of the things I usually love about the Cloisters is how quiet it is, so I was the tiniest bit annoyed by the music (no matter how lovely), when I arrived. But by the end of my usual circuit, I got over myself. And I'm so glad I did! The Forty Part Motet is ... magic. There isn't really another word for it. Well, actually, there are plenty of words (gorgeous, soaring, profound, immersive, unusual, thought-provoking). I made a little movie, but you really have to experience it for yourself - sitting on a bench in the middle or walking around and experiencing the sound.

So, what's all this visiting the Cloisters about? I'm feeling the rumblings of some patterns here. All those carved stone elements? Cables! The flowers and colors in the tapestries? Colorwork! Actual flowers and fruits in the gardens? Lace! Stand-alone patterns? Booklet? Full-on book? I'm still trying to figure out what it's all going to be, but I've got to find something to keep me busy now that the kids are back in school. Don't want me getting in trouble on the streets, do we?

To see more photos, visit my Flickr photo set. (I'm always amused after the fact to see what I did, in fact, capture and what I somehow managed to miss, like the espaliered pear trees in full leaf, though I'd photographed them "bare" in the spring.)

Until next time, happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

25 September 2013

Busy times in the closet

Not knitting busy times at the moment, but finally getting around to stuff I couldn't think of doing with the kids in the house. Like cleaning out my closet and swapping summer for winter clothes. Oh, man, does that require patience and fortitude (and now I should go visit the lions at the New York Public Library, except it's UN General Assembly week, and there is no way I'm going anywhere near Midtown).

The seasonal swap isn't the big deal, it was finally going through and trying on *everything* in my closet and being honest about what fit and what I'd ever wear again. Over the years since moving to New York, I have been paring down my wardrobe. As you can see below, I now have a few pairs of jeans, a newly edited collection of white, grey, and blue t-shirts (a few pink ones thrown in there, too), a variety and blue-and-white striped shirts, and a lot of sweaters (including some unpublished designs I need to get cracking on).

My half of the closet is on the left. Nick's shirts may creep over into my territory, but the shelf above is being taken over by wool!

There was a time when I really liked shopping and having a wide variety of things to wear, but as I've gotten older, I've gone back in some ways to my childhood, wearing a uniform to school every day (viz. striped sailor shirts). For the most part it works for me, though every once in a while I have the urge to dress like a "grown-up", but then I remember that I would want to wear cute shoes, and they would shred my poor, big feet on the 3/4-mile walk to pick up the kids.

Don't even get me started on shoes! Post babies my feet grew, so what you don't see in the photo above are some super-cute shoes that went in the giveaway bag (silver-crackle leather sky high Mary Janes, leopard calf-hair kitten heels, little clicky-clacky heels I will never wear). Sigh. There are sneakers and ballet flats and a pair of crazy glitter heels that may come out at the holidays, as long as I don't have to walk anywhere in them. Not terribly exciting, but better than being hobbled.

All this closet work has been freeing. It's nice to have things a bit less cluttered in there. And, of course, now there is room for more sweaters! I think I can get away with adding four more (one for each stack) before we have to start worrying about structural stability.

What about you? Do you prefer Fall cleaning, wardrobe-wise, to Spring? This Spring seemed to be chilly for a long time, so it took a while to get out the linen. But so far this Fall is awesome, and the 10-day forecast calls for more of the same. Cool enough to wear sweaters, if you want, but not so cold that you have to wear socks (guess that's where my sock knitting antipathy comes from - I try not to wear socks from May through October). I'm off to seek some inspiration for my next design project. Until then...

Happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

23 September 2013

Jane Austen Knits patterns now on Ravelry!

I've been a busy bee since the kids went back to school, and now all three of my Jane Austen Knits patterns are available as individual downloads from Ravelry*, Etsy**, and Craftsy!

An Aran for Anne by Kathleen Dames

An Aran for Frederick by Kathleen Dames

Sotherton by Kathleen Dames
*20% off birthday sale on all patterns is still going on until the end of September 2013. Discount automatically applied on Ravelry.
**Use the code BIRTHDAY2013 to get 20% off on Etsy.

10 September 2013

September/Birthday sale (20% off)

If you are a newsletter subscriber, you already know this, but from now until the end of September you can get any (or all) of my self-published patterns for 20% off. The discount will be applied automagically on Ravelry (just place the patterns in your cart, and they'll do the rest), and on Etsy use the code BIRTHDAY2013 at checkout. It's my birthday, but you get the present :)

Penelope had her first hour-and-a-half of Kindergarten today, and tomorrow she stays at school without me for half the day. Imagine all the pattern grading I can get done in ... less than three hours. Hehe. But by Friday the kids will all be in school full-time, and the fun really begins. Friday is also my actual birthday, so there will be much rejoicing. Somehow the time has flown by, and I haven't even managed to put together my birthday wish list. Oh, well, I guess it's better to want less. I have plenty of yarn and ideas and soon will have some time to put them together.

Until then, thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!

06 September 2013

Visiting the Shakers

While in Maine we drove up to Sabbathday Lake to see the Village, which is the last active community in the world. Did you know that there are only three Shakers left? In the world? It makes sense, since it is a celibate religion, reliant upon conversion. Though they are often compared to the Amish, the Shakers embraced technology (all three Shakers have mobile phones). In fact the first circular saw in America was "invented" by a Shaker sister based on ... you guessed it, the spinning wheel!

Most of the village is now a museum, as well as a working farm. We took the tour and got to spend time in the meeting house, which also included living quarters for some of the elders and eldresses (their weaving and boot making tools were upstairs in the living quarters, too - I so wanted to take pictures!). Sadly, photographs were not allowed inside, so I can't show you the dark, lovely blue paint used on the built-in benches around the perimeter, nor the freestanding benches in their classic Shaker style. You can see a photo of the interior here. According to my notes this Shaker blue paint was only used in meeting houses and is a milk-based paint tinted with blueberries, sage, and indigo. Is it just me or is that delightful?!

But I can show you a couple of sheepy shots:
Sheep in the barn

Sheep in the field (look at the view!)
And the goodies that came home with me: Shaker 2-ply in Scotia, Rose Water, and Eldress Hester's Potpourri. Now, I am generally not a potpourri person, but there is some intriguing spiciness to this that makes me love it. Love it! I get a little boost when I walk into our room.
Yarn, rose water, and delightful potpourri from the Shakers
I guess this yarn is actually close to that blueberry/sage/indigo color inside the Meeting House, though lightened up with its tweediness. Something lovely will come out of this!

If you find yourself in Maine, I highly recommend visiting the Shakers. And if you bring two little girls, you might get to visit the Candy Making Room. During the Depression, the Shaker women realized that the market for some of their goods had disappeared, so they took up candy making. As you can imagine they did quite well with it. As an amateur candy maker, I loved seeing their set-up. The Candy Room is no longer on the tour, but our guide thought the girls would get a kick out of it and showed it to us anyway.

But my favorite room was the Fancy Goods Room. I'm not even sure that is what they called it, but it was set up as something of a shop to display all the little baskets and needlecrafts the Shakers sold. Go look at this photograph. I'll wait. It was pretty much exactly the same, just in color. Actually, I think they have since turned it sideways, since the window was to the side of the large case, not behind it. Needle books, sewing cases, all sorts of other little velvet-lined containers for bits and bobs related to sewing. And that cloak! It is a lovely soft red, and that circular drawn portion at the back of the hood is just the best.

More adventures to catch you up on shortly. The kids finally start school next week, and once Penelope is eased into Kindergarten (Friday is her first full day), I'll be able to refocus on blogging, knitting, pattern writing, and so on. Until then ...

Happy knitting!

P.S. The Sabbathday Shakers have an Etsy shop! Only some maple syrup on there now, but they did sell some yarn there. I love Etsy, so maybe we should encourage them to sell more yarn there...

03 September 2013


It ain't just a river in Egypt, people. I am in total denial that we are back in NYC, and the soggy weather isn't helping. Nor is the fact that the children don't start school until next week, but Nick starts teaching today. So, it's difficult to focus on pattern writing/editing/layout. And I'm knitting the border for a pi shawl, which means working the same eight-row edging pattern 144 times. Whee. Actually, that's not bad and better in terms of knitting in this weather than redoing the attached front edging on the sweater I worked up in Maine. I do not want that on my lap right now. 

In exciting knitting news, Sailor's Valentine was featured in a Craftsy blog post last week along with some other nautical knits, which made me very happy. An early birthday present (ten days until the big day), if you will. Guess if better get cracking on my annual wish list post. 

Until then, happy knitting!

It's not much of a post without a picture!
The upside to being back in New York? Dinner at John's Pizza in the Village followed by a small scoop of nocciola gelato at Grom whose A/C required me to don my Tempest cardi (Malabrigo Sock in Impressionist Sky)