Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The beginning of September saw a return to travel. Now some of you may wonder if I ever really stopped traveling, and the answer is no, but I had told my bosses no travel over the summer and I like to pretend that only four trips in two months was practically no travel.

September through November is what we like to call "conference season" with nearly every major scientific discipline holding a meeting of some sort during these months.  That meant 3 conferences in 3 countries in 11 days for me, starting in Spain (which in my opinion is never a bad place to start).

The first conference was held in northern Spain and travel was surprisingly difficult to arrange.  The closest airport was 90 minutes away by car and only four airlines serve it, none of which have connections to the US. In the end I had to choose a major city to fly into, book a connection on a commuter airline, then take a bus. I chose Barcelona, partly because it had the most logical connection, and partly because in 1995 I had a really great day in Barcelona and I have been in love ever since. 

This left me with an 8.5 hour layover in Barcelona. While my first instinct was to find a nice lounge where I could sleep the day away, I decided instead to stow my luggage in an airport locker and go explore a small quadrant of the city.  I will admit I also had a secret motive; I do an international sock swap on Ravelry, and in the last round there was a new member from Spain who posted about some really cool yarn she picked up in a shop called "All You Knit is Love" in Barcelona. As long as I was coming that far, I figured I had to stop by, right?

So I hailed a cab and had him drop me near the main cathedral in what is known as the Barri Goti, or Gothic quarter. I was immediately greeted with two of my favorite things about Spain

yes, Gaudi and Picasso. I found myself really noticing a lot of the motifs in the stonework and in the wrought iron in the cathedral and surrounding neighborhood.  I keep thinking someday I will translate these into lace or twisted stitchwork. 


Can't you just imagine these as lace edgings or motifs in a shawl or sweater? I spent a couple of hours wandering through the cathedral and down La Rambla. Most interesting find: a Boqueria--quite literally a meat market--and yes, people were eating what I can only describe as meat-sicles on sticks made from chorizo, jamon serrano and other cured meats.

A real meat market, European style
Walking down La Rambla
From there, I made my way to the yarn store, which took me on a great path through some side streets and some souvenir shopping. Funny story there about bargaining for a good deal on a t-shirt and adamantly explaining why I did not need one for my husband.  They did not buy the I-am-not-married-and-therefore-have-no-husband excuse, so I finally had to tell them he is a mal hombre and not deserving of a gift. Now why they would believe I have a bad husband over believing I was single is beyond me, but I just went with it. The things I won't do for a discount on a t-shirt. But I digress.

I finally found the yarn store after several twists and turns (cursed Google maps!) and met Jennifer, the owner of "All You Knit is Love". I had wondered why a LYS in the middle of Spain had such an American name and sure enough it is because Jennifer is an American.  Her parents actually live in Cape Cod, only a couple of hours from where I reside, and Jennifer promised she makes it to the states at least once a year and could hook me up if  I decided later I needed more yarn.  I ogled the big basket of the locally produced "Greta and the Fibers" sock yarn I had come in for, and after promising to limit myself to 2, and deliberating for over an hour on which two, I eventually left the shop with four. I know. I have no impulse control whatsoever when it comes to yarn.

Jennifer, the owner of "Knit"

Wall of Malabrigo and Greta and the Fibers. I spent a long time here...
 After that, it was a quick lunch of tapas--yes, that is a meat and egg salad, chef's speciality of the day--and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the lobster risotto that followed.

After my late lunch, I decided I had better get back to the airport, and my wonderful day in Barcelona was at an end. I claimed my bags and headed off to Santiago de Compostela and some well-deserved sleep, but that is a post for another day.

Spoils from my day of shopping in Barcelona--a scarf, a Gaudi t-shirt, and four skeins of Greta!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


There are some places that just nourish your soul, and AVFKW is quickly becoming one of those places for me. 

I "discovered" this shop shortly after a pattern was published in Twist Collective using one of their yarns.  It is located in the north part of Oakland, CA, so far north in fact, I would actually consider it Berkeley, and I try to stop by whenever I am in town on business, which is quite a lot lately.

The simple reason is, I always find something there to inspire me.  Aside from her own yarns, from which I had made several great pairs of socks, Kristine carries a great assortment of unique yarns (this is where I first dicovered Pluck MCN Primo and Fiberspates Scrumptious, after all) but also a great assortment of fabrics and new techniques from her travels.

Case in point, I was in here the first week of August after a trip to my favorite customer in South San Francisco (yeah, the summer of no travel thing is really not working out as I had hoped). A while back I got it into my head to make the Crane Creek jacket from a yarn a bit lighter than what the pattern calls for (both are fairly scratchy natural wools). I had a flash of crafting brilliance and decided what this jacket needed was a spot of color and softness, and that what I should do is hold two strands together--one of the neutral colored wool I had already purchased and one of, say, raw silk. So I headed out to Verb to look at some Habu Tsumugi silk I had seen on my last trip.

Kristine, the owner of AVFKW, consulting with a customer on a dress design

I found my silk and more, finally settling on a denim blue to complement my brown wool (though once I start knitting I fear it may obscured the diamond textured pattern a little).

I also could not resist some of Kristine's signature Creating in this great geen and purple colorway, plus the matching green and purple colorways.

But the truly inspiring piece of the day was some wonderful fabric recently arrived from India discovered during Kristine's recent travels. Apparenlty, this is made by local artisans in India who first take the length of fabric and create a design by knotting thread in a certain direction or randomly. The fabric is then dyed, dried, and the yarn removed, leaving a star-like pattern where the thread was removed and in some cases shirring as though the fabric were smocked.  I fell in love with this yardage, and then with these scarves, but I could not think of a single practicle thing I could make from it, so I resisted, thinking I would be back in 2 weeks and if I still wanted it I could come back then and get it.

Well, I did go back to the bay area 2 weeks later this time traveling with a colleague, and despite my best efforts, I was not able to find the time to drive across the bay to Verb. I had been madly debating all week--tea stained fabric or purple scarf?--but alas, since I could not make it to the shop, I feared it would be neither. I was bitterly disappointed since I also wanted some more Creating in the Octavia colorway when I I realized I was just being silly. I just picked up the phone and gave them a credit card number, and a week later the gorgeous purple scarf was mine.  The workmanship truly is amazing, and I am already plotting my Octavia sweater with alternating purple/green ribbing border. Or perhaps a baby blanket? Right after Crank Creek...

Summer recap

At long last, the repair work on my house is finished.  Or rather, I should say was finished this summer.  I moved back in the weekend of July 4, and I still don't have things completely straightened out, but at least I have a kitchen! Someday I am going to be one of those people whose home is company ready in 10 minutes or less, but for now, I think it may be a while before I have things back together.

I had planned to take the entire summer as a travel-free time and just get back in the swing of things, but work and life always intervene.  First, a short trip to Quebec City.  It is only a 6 hour drive--and a beautiful one at that--so when an opportunity for a work trip arose, I grabbed a friend and we made the drive.

I never did find a yarn store in close proximity, but I did plenty of other shopping. I managed to return with some pewter jewelry, a Canadian leaf Christmas ornament, and some artwork.

We also made it to Chute Montmorency, a waterfall higher than Niagara, but with less water volume, though I delined to climb to the top. In reality, we were in a hurry to get back for a concert that night, but I will admit, the climb looked a little bit daunting.