Posts filed under ‘travel’

Glossolalia

A wordy, personal meditation on language, communication, music, and a circuitous path home.

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Continue Reading April 15, 2015 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

eduroam – wifi on the fly (Harvard edition)

Strange internet in a strange city.

This post is completely off my normal topics, but I’m putting it up here anyway in the hopes that it will help wandering scholars get their internet fix!

Some hefty disclaimers: I’m not a tech expert by any accounts, so some terminology may be used inaccurately in what follows.  I’m not writing in any official capacity, only from the experience of an end-user using Mac and Apple products with the Harvard network. All  files and links I’m including are up-to-date as of May 1, 2014, but I do not intend to maintain/update this page, so use these at your own discretion, and contact your school’s IT help desk directly for additional assistance. 

Let me set the scene: A Harvard graduate student is spending time away from campus, in a city where there are plenty of other academic institutions, but she doesn’t have any affiliation with these institutions. For reasons of both work and leisure, she needs to connect to a wireless network. Where to find wifi? Starbucks? McDonalds? What about all these colleges and universities? Wouldn’t it be great if there were some kind of internet consortium that allowed traveling scholars to use the wifi networks on other campuses?

OH WAIT THERE IS.

It’s called eduroam. It’s available all over the world. It’s an awesome thing. Lots of times, wandering downtown various cities or on college campuses I’d catch an eduroam wifi signal. But how to connect?

First, your home institution needs to be an eduroam member. If you’re in the US, you can check here to see if your school participates. I saw that Harvard was a member, so I knew I was supposed to have access. But what next?

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information out there on how Harvard students, faculty, and staff can use Eduroam. At the time of writing, Harvard’s FAS IT site doesn’t even turn up any results for “eduroam” when you search their site. A Google search led me to a registration portal, which was not particularly explanatory and seemed more targeted toward newcomers to Harvard’s campus. I wrote to Harvard’s help desk, asking them to provide better documentation, and received these instructions (which did help), but I’m writing this page to help clear up the whole process for Harvard affiliates like me who might never have encountered the term 802.1x authentication before. If you’re an affiliate with an eduroam partner that isn’t Harvard, you can read through the basics below, but the certificates and login information will be different, and you ought to check with your home institution for the particulars. With that said, are you ready? Let’s begin!

Step one: Get internet access.
This seems like a redundant, self-obvious point, but one of my biggest frustrations with setting up eduroam was you absolutely need to set it up while you have internet access, in order to configure your computer or device. But of course, if you’re trying to connect to eduroam, it’s because you don’t have internet access in the first place. Catch-22? Yes. But if you’re reading this, you’re on the internet, so now’s the time to configure everything. And really, get everything done while you’re online right now. Laptop, phone, iPod, iPad, everything. You’ll thank me later.

Step two: Install configurations.
Harvard has an installation page with different OS options here: Harvard Wireless: Secure or Eduroam. Choose your operating system, follow the prompts for the installation wizard, and install the configuration profile.

Note for mobile (iOS, Android) users: I had lots of trouble getting to this page on my mobile devices, because I was redirected to a different mobile site. One thing that could work is using a mobile browser like Chrome which allows you to request the desktop version of the site. What I ended up doing in the end, though, was downloading the mobile configuration to my laptop, and emailing it to myself as an attachment. Then, on my devices, I opened the attachment which triggered the installer for the eduroam configurations. For reference, the file I downloaded (on 5/1/14) was named mac_3515.mobileconfig, for iOS.

Step three: Account name and password.
While you’re doing your initial configuration, your device will ask you for your username and password. Easy, right? Wrong. What you need to enter is unlike any other login at Harvard:

Account name: [8-digit HUID]@harvard.edu
Password: your HUID pin

For example, if your HUID is 87654321, your login is 87654321@harvard.edu, and the password is the same one you use to login whenever you use that HUID online. (Note: I don’t know if this works for XID users, but imagine it might not)

Please don’t ask me how many permutations of my name, HUID, and email I tried, or how many times I almost punched my computer.

At this point, you should be configured, and you should get some confirmation that the certificates are installed and valid. Congratulations! You may on occasion need to reenter your account name and password to log into eduroam, but you shouldn’t need to reinstall the certificates (as far as I know).

And you should be free to surf the internet wherever you see the eduroam network, anywhere in the world!

 

For non-Harvard folks: the same principles apply for every eduroam setup. You need to install authentication certificates before the network will work, and those certificates are issued by your home institution. If, like Harvard, there’s no clear information online about where to get the install packages, contact your home IT department and request their help. Also, the login will almost certainly be different. Many institutions use the email login name; I suppose that Harvard’s multiple email domains (fas.harvard.edu, college.harvard.edu, seas.harvard.edu, etc.) prevented that possibility.

Anyway, I hope this helps you get connected! Have a happy internet!

 

May 2, 2014 at 9:36 am 2 comments

Knitting mid-air

For at least a decade now, people have been asking me about bringing knitting needles onto an airplane. Because really, people like to travel, and like to knit during long periods of monotonous sitting to while away the hours in-flight, or between connections, or in line for coffee. And with the cost of checking baggage these days, most people I know try to squeeze into one carry-on and one personal item whenever possible, eliminating the opportunity to “just check your knitting stuff.”

So today I’d like to talk a bit about flying with knitting, and present you with some facts, some anecdotes, and some tips for the itinerant knitter.

Let me start with a blanket statement. TSA allows knitting needles, crochet hooks, and most needlepoint equipment in your carry-on luggage.

Quoting from tsa.gov:

Transporting Knitting Needles & NeedlepointPhoto of knitting needles

Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.

Items needed to pursue a Needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside which cannot go through the checkpoint and must go in your checked baggage.

Yes, folks, that picture of Susan Bates size 7, 13″ long aluminum poke-your-neighbors’-eyes-out-while-you-knit needles is courtesy of the TSA website itself.  And if they’re not afraid of those, then they’re not afraid of the toothpicks you’re making that sock on.

You know what’s also allowed on planes? Crochet hooks. And sewing needles. And, guess what…FOLDING SCISSORS. Or any pair of scissors with a blade 4″ or less. Pointed or rounded, doesn’t matter (and this has been the case since 2005, folks). And nail clippers. And lots of other things with little sharp points and blades and whatnot. Just don’t bring a boxcutter or a circular thread cutter pendant, and you should be fine.

Now, I’ve been giving people this advice for years, but still playing it safe when it comes to my own travel. I generally have put extra DPNs and interchangeable tips into a pencil case with my writing utensils, and if I’m using interchangeable circulars on a project, I might even take the tips off until I get through security, again, stashing them in the pencil case. I’ve been more inclined to work with wooden needles when traveling (and, they’re cheaper to replace). I would avoid bringing scissors, figuring that I could tear the yarn with my bare hands if push came to shove.  But I recently traveled to Portland, OR for a knitting convention, and figured that if there were any time to push the limits, this was it.

So, I brought my knitting stuff. A collection of sock needles (both DPNs and small fixed circulars), crochet hooks, scissors, works in progress, etc. Have a look at all the things I brought in my hand luggage through security:

Whatcha lookin’ at? I like to knit socks!

Long circs in size 0, 1, and 2; Crochet hooks in size 10 and D; DPNs in size 0, 1, 1.5, and 4; darning needle; nail clippers; tweezers; and of course, the scissors.

And, let’s not forget the other needles that either started out or ended up in projects:

Circs in size 2 and 3; size 3 DPNs

Take note: that was going to Portland. I mention it, because returning, I added this:

It’s 9.5″ long, and sharp enough to draw blood (see my Sock Summit post to see that yes, in fact, an identical spindle did draw blood). It’s a Russian supported spindle, and it’s a bit scary.

Now, I was a little concerned about the spindle. I bet if I’d gotten a grumpy TSA agent, that wouldn’t have slipped through. As it was, though, no one batted an eyelash.

This raises an important point, though. Like it or not, at the end of the day the individual TSA agent you’ve encountered is in charge, and it’s his or her job to keep air travel safe, so if that person thinks your knitting is a problem, then you’re out of luck. I’ve heard knitters bringing along a printout of the page above that says that knitting needles are allowed, and if that makes you feel more justified and a bit safer then I wouldn’t tell you not to, but my reckoning is that, if I’ve butted heads with an irate security agent who wants to confiscate my knitting needles as a matter of personal and national security, I don’t know that I want to be the smart aleck who tells him that he’s wrong, implying that I know his job better than he does. Someone with the gift of tact could probably maneuver that situation with a fair amount of grace, and perhaps sweetly convince the agent to let them keep the needles, but me? I don’t think it would end well, so I opt for the path of surrender. I’ll insist on my right to opt out of the backscatter machines, but I’ll let the knitting needles go if it comes to that. I will say, I don’t have $55 needles (cough, Signatures, cough) to fly with, and I always have a book to read. So, not the end of the world.

I’ll address another story of “what knitters do” as back-up plans if they get a grumpy TSA agent! Another “plan,” now more of an  urban legend, is to bring a padded, stamped mailer to ship the needles or other items back to yourself. Sorry, folks, but this plan would only work in a pre-9/11 world, when you’d find stamp machines and mailboxes within airports, so you could send a postcard to your sweetie en route. These days, you’d never find such a thing, so if you put all your needles in the padded, stamped bag, you’ll just have to deal with the agent throwing away your padded, stamped bag. Tough noogies.

My final caveat is an important one: everything I’ve said here applies to air travel originating in the United States, under the jurisdiction of the Transportation Security Administration. Once you leave the States, these rules no longer apply, and you’re at the mercy of either the country or the airline of the departing flight. Not having flown out of every country under the sun, and not really being in a position to create an exhaustive, up-to-date list of what policies are like elsewhere, I’ll only mention those instances that I’ve had personal experience with. Generally, I haven’t had problems. Russia has always been fine, and the UK allows knitting and sewing needles. Dublin, however, explicitly prohibits knitting needles. So does the Prague airport. Not wanting to make waves, I didn’t try to push my luck with either flight, and I was checking baggage both times, so tucked my knitting inside.

Bottom line is, try to check the websites of those airports you’re traveling from before you go. This could be particularly important if you’re transferring between different international flights, and will need to clear security more than once, in different countries. If you can’t find any info online about the places you’re leaving from, and the airlines also can’t provide information for you, I recommend playing it safe, and bringing as innocuous needles as you can muster/sneak (wooden DPNs in a pencil case, or metal needles tucked into the spine of a book, for example), or put them in your checked baggage. But, in the USA, you shouldn’t encounter problems, so knit away!

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, happily knitting mid-air (she’s a thrower!)

August 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm 1 comment

Sock Summit – A debriefing

It’s been a week since Sock Summit, and while my life will never quite be the same, things have returned to a sense of normalcy, such that I’m in a position to fill you all in on the wonders I saw, the experience in a nutshell, and my reflections.

In a word, I had a wonderful time.

I arrived in Portland late at night on a Tuesday, and had an hour and a half to go 20 miles, to get to my hostel before their registration closed. I’d chosen this hostel because it was in a nice, vibrant neighborhood, cost an affordable $31 a night (even cheaper if you’re a HI member), and was only a couple of miles from the Oregon Convention Center, where Sock Summit was taking place. It was a great decision, and I absolutely loved the hostel and the neighborhood it was in, as well as the commute back and forth (more on this in a minute), but getting to this hostel at 11pm was tricky, because the MAX, Portland’s light rail system, doesn’t run with much frequency at night, and by Google Maps’ reckoning, I wouldn’t make it on time. So, I investigated cabs, but seeing that I’d be charged something like $50, I found that the Blue Star transport company runs a downtown express shuttle on the half hour for $14. And then I’d be only half a mile from the hostel, and could walk or taxi from there. It was a great plan, and having previewed my walk on Google Street View, I felt comfortable with hoofing it, even at 11:15 PM. I got to the hostel, settled into my bunk bed, and fell asleep to the oceanic sounds of a sleeping lady, snoring loudly across the room.

The neighborhood near the NW Hostel, between the Alphabet and Pearl Districts

Wednesday had three goals – to pick up my rental bicycle (aka trusty steed), meet my Aunt Christine for lunch, and to get my registration packet at the Convention Center. These were all uneventfully accomplished. I took a lovely walk in the sunshine to the waterfront where I found Waterfront Bicycles (aptly named, that), picked up my little hybrid, and tooled around the waterfront bike path a bit. I did end up swapping the bike out for one a bit larger, and without squeaky disc brakes, but then I was off! I went back to my hostel to meet Christine, and we had a lovely lunch at Papa Haydn (the best part was the Marionberry Lime tart we shared for dessert – delicious!). I spent some time resting up at the hostel, then biked down to the Convention Center to start the Sock Summit festivities! I grabbed my registration materials, and met up with a group of knitters who’d prearranged to go out for dinner. I was about to join them, until I realized that the wave of exhaustion had truly hit me, and that I wouldn’t be able to hold up particularly well. I dashed off home instead, made a run to Trader Joe’s to stock up on provisions, and called it an early night.

Thursday was Day 1! I didn’t have anything at the CC until 1:30, so I spent the morning exploring the neighborhood a bit, and visiting the famous Portland Food Carts downtown. Lunch was a gyro from a mediterranean cart, and was enjoyed on the grass by the water. Then, for the knitting to begin!

My first class was Making the Next Monkey with Amy Singer, editor of Knitty. She’s a wonderful conversationalist, and really compelling to listen to. The information she gave was, admittedly, a bit specific to her publication – less about how to be Cookie A and make revolutionary, world-changing, über-popular designs, more about how to take your awesome design and get it into the format that Knitty needs. Still very interesting. The best part was seeing the “before” shots of popular designs, including those by Cookie A. The girl really didn’t know how to take an interesting photo, which would be surprising for anyone who’s familiar with her iconic Pomatomus and Monkey shots.

Then – the MARKETPLACE. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, knitters, but the line was incredible – stretching down the corridor, around the corner, into a different exhibit hall, looping back on itself a few times. I’d make a conservative estimate of 500 people in that line at the point when I joined it, waiting for the marketplace to open. Could have been much more than that who arrived in the minutes after the place opened up.

Waiting patiently…plopped down on the floor and knitting, the way things should be.
But see how the line just..keeps..going?

And when the doors opened, it was like the gates of paradise – you could hear harps and the angelic host… and the screams of the mob at GothSocks, being trampled and squashed (and elbowed, scratched, and shoved) as the dyer tried to meet demand, lobbing skeins of fluorescent-and-black striping yarn to the feverish mob. I kept my distance, and having heard some of the horror stories of those who met bodily harm in the chaos, I’m glad I did! On the way into the Marketplace, we were greeted by the Sockgate…just to prove that yes, some knitters are big dorks, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We were sharing the CC with OSCon, the Open Source convention, so I think the east side of Portland was mightily geeked out for a few days.

Yes, those are charted knitting symbols around the perimeter…

I made my way with bated breath to the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth in the back corner, home of Socks that Rock. I picked up two skeins of StR lightweight – one in a summery blue and green, the other with green, purple, and fuchsia, and fondled a whole lot of others. But, the marketplace was large, and I didn’t want to burn out too quickly – in the first minutes! I did end up returning to this booth on a later day to snag a skein of StR in “Pond Scum” green – a perennial favorite of mine.

Pond scum never looked so lovely.

Next I picked up my “swag” – a tee-shirt and button I’d purchased at the time of registration, and then started my more aimless wandering around the marketplace. One of the first stops I made was the Ancient Arts Fibre Craft booth. The proprietress, Caroline, was warm and helpful, and I was immediately taken by their “Tibetan fusion” Russian supported spindles. Like a Russian, but with a more angular whorl, and made out of a variety of woods, not just the super-light woods that Russians traditionally come in. I was playing around with them, when one span right out of my control, and as I thrust my left hand out to catch it, I pricked myself on the spindle’s tip! Luckily, no Sleeping Beauty story ensued, just a little bit of blood loss (that I tried to hide for fear that people would freak out about bodily fluids and injuries…). But, for those of you who wonder how Sleeping Beauty could have possibly pricked herself on a spindle, it’s because when you use some spindles (including those used on certain spinning wheels without orifices, c.f. walking wheels), you draft off the sharp, pointy tip of the spindle, not off a hook or orifice. And, as the adjectives “sharp” and “pointy” would imply, these things mean business, and can puncture you if you’re being clumsy. Lesson learned.

Pointy, right?

I took home this Bubinga wood beauty (incidentally, not the bloodthirsty one), and continued my tour de marketplace.

The place was too large and overwhelming to go into much detail on, as you can imagine, but I did get to see some beautiful yarn, much of which I let someone else take home. Hazel Knits was one shop I was very impressed with. Jennie the Potter had a mob scene (selling limited-edition Sock Summit coffee mugs), but I managed to get a lovely knit-patterned pendant. Sanguine Gryphon had the longest line I’d seen, but it was an orderly chaos, and I took home a skein of orange Skinny Bugga. Signature Needles had a line to rival Sanguine Griffin, with their hand-machined needles. Ultra-precise, carefully crafted for the knitter in mind. $55 for a set of 5 DPNs! I decided to wait (and unfortunately, when I returned on Sunday, they had sold out of the size I wanted! You snooze, you lose!). Blackthorn needles was there too, representing the other approach to high-tech knitting tools, with their carbon fiber needles. These were seriously impressive. I loved the stiletto tips of the Signatures, but the lightweight flexibility, and warm natural texture of the Blackthorns was really tempting. But, alas, they didn’t bring many sets of 5″ needles (their standard DPN size is 6″, and I really prefer the shorter length), so I ended up passing (and ordering them online when I got home…).

My ceramic pendant from Jennie the Potter

Some local folks had also made the journey out West! A big shout out to Stephanie at Dirty Water Dyeworks, who is based out of Arlington, MA, and who I keep running into – at Common Cod’s Fiber Camp, at the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, at Gather Here’s Pints and Purls, and now, in Portland, OR! She makes lovely colors, and if I didn’t have 2 skeins of her wool sitting in my yarn basket, I probably would have taken home more! Also, I was pleased to see WEBS of Northampton, MA making an appearance, showing off the fact that not only are they an internet powerhouse, but also a yarn shop with real, nice people and good stock. East Coast represent.

The Marketplace was also home to the demos – I caught a bit of the Fastest Knitter competition between classes on Friday, but missed everything else, including the amazing Fleece to Foot competition, where they went from Sheep to Sock in a day’s work. No team actually finished their socks, but it made for a good show, I hear! The Oregonian did a nice writeup of the highlights here. For those of you who haven’t seen sheep shearing, you can see the Sock Summit shearing videos on Youtube: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. Also in the Marketplace was the World’s Largest Sock project. It’s about 7 meters around, and is a large circular project with a dozen or so needles in it that keeps moving around from fiber festival to knitterly event. The currently-sleepy blog documenting the project can be seen at big-sock.blogspot.com.

That’s one big sock…

I’ve already commented on Amy Singer’s class, but that wasn’t the only one I took. On Friday, I was in class all day with Cookie A herself, talking about how to take sock knitting off the grid, and make a stitch pattern travel around the foot in an interesting manner. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that earth-shattering, but I did get some good ideas about sock shaping, particularly around the gusset. Here’s the little sample sock I made, that has two traveling patterns intersecting at the side of the foot:

Hard to see, but there’s a pattern traveling diagonally across the ribbing,
and one also starting at the picked-up heel flap and moving up over the front of the foot.

Saturday I had a day with Nancy Bush, who was teaching us Twined Knitting. Well, I should have done my research, because it turns out that I know how to do twined knitting already. In fact, my friend Doris had asked for help with a twined pattern (called, in this instance, a Latvian plait), and I dissected it and even posted instructions on YouTube for her, so one could say I’ve even taught twined knitting. So, perhaps a waste of money. But, I met some great knitter friends, and did enjoy Nancy Bush’s quaint pseud0-traditionalism. A side-note from the files: somewhere I’d gotten the idea that she was ancient, but no, she’s just a regular middle-aged woman, probably in her late 50s or very early 60s (she maintains a very small internet footprint, so I’ve been unable to dig up anything to confirm her age, except that she started her fiber arts company, Wooly West, in 1980). I will say that I’m pleased to be able to make the lovely embossed chain stitch from the twined knitting, but the “technique” that we spent 6 hours working on (and $150, plus materials fees for which we were overcharged) can mostly be summed up as, “like 2-color fair-isle, except that you twist the yarn at every stitch like intarsia. And you don’t need 2 colors, you can use two ends of the same color.” Not rocket science.

The chains are pretty, though.

My fourth class, on Sunday morning, was the most wholly informative, full of new information: Introduction to Natural Dyeing with Kristine Vejar, of A Verb for Keeping Warm. It was great – she had lots of yarn, plants, extracts, and information to share, as well as a powerpoint to walk us through the Indigo dyeing process. It certainly would have been better to get the hands-on experience of working with her in her studio, playing with the dyepots and mixing colors, but sometimes you can’t bring in hotplates and chemicals and drying racks and dyes into a convention center. I get that. (Although, they did manage to bring in live sheep. Just sayin’.) I’m particularly excited to give this a try now that I learned that, with the exception of the indigo dyeing process (and wode, another insoluble dye that also makes an excellent blue), the dyestuffs are totally non-toxic, so I won’t be so shy about playing with them. And, Sock Summit had a silent auction to benefit Doctors Without Borders, and I “won” the natural dyeing kit that Kristine had put together, with madder root, logwood, and fustic, as well as more instructions and some bare superwash merino. So, I’m soon to be on my way!

Hooray for dyestuffs!

Outside of the classes, I had some great experiences with my fellow knitters. I visited some lovely yarn shops in Portland, a city that is embarrassingly rich with good yarn shops. Urban Fiber Arts, Knit/Purl, and Happy Knits all got visited, and at Knit/Purl I took home a cone of Habu Textile’s Bamboo Copper, which shines beautifully now, although I fear it may oxidize to green! Happy Knits hosted a wonderful party on Saturday night, with beer, cake (amazing cake), fudge, karaoke, raffles, and the one thing that surprisingly had been lacking in my Sock Summit experience – a social venue to chat and knit. The space in all three stores, but especially Happy Knits, was amazing (so, too, is Yarn Garden, down the street, which I didn’t make it to this trip, but visited in 2008). I envy Portland for its affordable real estate and sprawling spaces…and wonderful community of knitters that makes it possible for all these stores and more to thrive in close proximity to one another!

This fellow Raveller enjoyed Voodoo Donuts’ “Cock and Balls.”  I opted for the slightly less risqué Bacon Maple bar (with strips of real bacon) and French Cruller.

Thanks to Ravelry, I was able to visit some great (and delicious) meet-ups – one to Voodoo Donuts on Friday morning, and then to a Dim-Sum lunch on Saturday afternoon. Having a bicycle made it particularly convenient to duck back and forth over the bridge to the Convention Center and back downtown, and the weather couldn’t have been nicer. When I last visited Portland, I’d noticed how omnipresent the biking infrastructure was – bike hitching posts at both ends of every block downtown, bike lanes colored fluorescent green in particularly tricky spots, separate lanes and paths for pedestrians and bikes to share. In my 6 days on bike in Portland, averaging 5+ downtown, high-traffic city miles each day, I never once felt like my person was in danger. Anyone who bikes the greater Boston area will know how opposite that is from the situation in our city, where you’re often lucky if you can go a mile on city streets without having to drive extremely defensively to avoid aggressive (or clueless) cars, jaywalking pedestrians, and other cyclists who show blatant disregard for the rules of traffic. It was a lovely change of pace (and helped restore my blood pressure to its normal, mellow levels, after Boston started to invoke more and more rage)!

The final segment of this chronicle is, of course, a recounting of the FLASH MOB. Wh-what, you may ask? Yes, the flash mob. For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, the idea is, in a crowded place, all of a sudden, a group of people appear from nowhere, do something together, and then disperse, bewildering onlookers and making a sensation. Choreographed dances are particularly good for this, as they make it seem like suddenly you’re in the midst of a lyric opera…pretty cool, right?

The idea was a good one, but the problem is that it was organized, well, by the Official Sock Summit Organizers. And the Organizers have liabilities. So, while the coolest thing would have been to have renegade knitters appear in the center of downtown, or at the Brewers’ Festival, and do their thing in front of completely unsuspecting strangers, it didn’t make organizational sense. How do you get everyone there and back efficiently? What happens if someone sprains their ankle or has heat exhaustion or some other medical concern? We need to have it somewhere near the Convention Center for transportation efficiency (even though the CC is in the middle of nowhere). And that way, we can have the music set up in a safe place, and have EMTs on hand in case they’re needed. More responsible…and less awesome. But I dig responsibility, and I don’t want to knock it. I’ve been in that place before. I’m just saying that the Flash Mob was really more a pre-arranged demonstration of sock knitters’ choreographed singing and dancing, and less “flash” “mob.” Because 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, everyone was filling the area, lining up, making it perfectly clear that something was up (and obvious enough that CC management went around warning people not to fall off walls and into ditches). So, we were sunk into a recessed area away from the street (and shielded from view), subdivided by a pagoda with a bell in it (such that you can’t see our true numbers).

But, the hour came, and by golly, if we didn’t have a knitterly flash mob of our own!

August 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm 5 comments

The Great Rhody Yarn Crawl (with pictures)

WAY BACK in April, I took part in one of the most fun and foolhardy experiences of the year, the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl. 15 yarn stores in 2 days, all across the little state of Rhode Island. I had totally intended to photograph all the places I visited, and totally failed at that, but did get some good shots and some great experiences! It’s been a few months, now, so the impressions I present here are the ones that were truly lasting. I hope you enjoy my knitting travelogue across the state of Rhode Island as much as I enjoyed the experience, and for anyone near RI, I highly recommend it for next year – it’s already in my calendar, April 13-15!

Day 1

And so it begins…

Knitting Needles
555 Thames St, Newport

This shop is down off the main drag of Newport, and as the first stop on my epic adventure, set the standards for what was to follow. It was cheery and colorful, and the owner was really welcoming (considering I was there just minutes after the shop opened). The visit was sweetened by winning a shop model sweater – a pink thing that I don’t think I’ll actually ever wear, but still – a free sweater!

Knitting Corner
575 E Main Rd,  Middletown

The Knitting Corner was tucked into a little strip mall, and as such I completely blew past it on the first try. No GPS, no smartphone, but I did have my trusty-rusty Rhode Island road atlas, from the days when I’d first started driving, so I was able to correct my mistake and find the shop without much trouble. I loved the combination of beads and yarn, and the adorable little girl keeping an eye on the beading counter. I picked up 4 skeins of SWTC’s Bamboo yarn in gold, to make myself a Clapotis just like the shop model we have at Stitch House. At half off!

Sakonnet Purls
3988 Main Rd, Tiverton
Of all the shops visited this weekend, Sakonnet Purls was definitely the highlight. After pulling down the gravel drive and walking into the farmhouse/shop, I was greeted by a tray of scrumptious baked goods and a friendly cat, not to mention wall-to-wall yarn set into warm wooden shelves in this rustic farmhouse. Room after room greeted me with yarn of all kinds, and then, there was the discount barn! An entire room (bigger than many metropolitan yarn shops, full stop) devoted to overstock, extras, and bargains. I picked up a bottle of Eucalan in grapefruit scent, tried to get the cat to give me some love, and soaked in a bit more of the wonderful, warm, yarny ambiance!

Bella Yarns
476 Main St, Warren

Bella Yarns, in downtown Warren, had a tough time coming right after my visit to Sakonnet Purls, but it was clear what a difference being in a more “urban” setting had. This shop, unlike the previous ones I’d visited, was bustling with customers, and the sales staff were cheerfully highlighting different yarns, showing off the raffle baskets available, and ringing up the perpetual crowd. The stock itself didn’t make much of an impression on me, except that I was delighted to find a wide array of sock reinforcing yarn! I picked up a few different colors and headed off!

Fresh Purls
769A Hope St Providence

Fresh Purls was one of only two shops on this whole adventure that I’d been to before – I’d stumbled in on their 3rd anniversary party, so I’m used to seeing it in a festive mood! I had just had lunch (falafel pocket at East Side Pockets – my favorite!), so I was fed, fortified and ready for more yarn. For a small shop, they cram in a lot of quality – Lorna’s Laces, lots of good sock yarn, some amazing hand-dyes, Jade Sapphire cashmere…I picked up a ball of rainbow-colored Zauberball and hit the road!

The Yarn Outlet
50 Division St, Pawtucket

After leaving Providence, I headed north for Pawtucket. A Yarn Outlet in the center of Pawtucket? Really? This was just one of those instances where I was immensely glad for the Yarn Crawl to show me things that I’d never know about otherwise. The shop itself was roomy and had a good selection of lower/mid-range yarns, and a really fine selection of needles and accessories. I picked up a set of 4″ HiyaHiya dpns to try out (turns out I hate them – anyone want to buy them off of me?), and upon checking out, was chitchatting to the woman working, when I realized…there were 15 shops on the crawl! Well, on the Google Map that the organizers had created (and which I’d been using as the starting point for planning my own itinerary), there were only 13. I was missing the Wayland Yarn Shoppe on the Prov/Pawtucket line, and Manmade by Jonne in Warwick. Phew, at least I had time to go find them, and the Wayland Yarn Shoppe wasn’t too far from where I was (and, I was running ahead of schedule by quite a bit). So, back to the south!

Wayland Yarn Shoppe
112 Raleigh Ave, Pawtucket

This shop was tricky to find, and looked a bit like an old 1960’s hair salon that a big-haired Italian grandmother might own. I’d never heard of it before, which really surprised me, as I used to live not too far away, and considering they’d been open for 30+ years! But, when I went inside, I realized, this is your grandma’s yarn store. The clientèle inside, sitting around a table, were all little old ladies, and I got the distinct impression that I was a disruption to their routine when I entered. The proprietress was flustered, showed me to the raffle table, and that was about it. A quick look around the small space showed mostly acrylic/baby yarns, overflowing the shelves. I moved right along to…

Peter Patchis Yarns
174 Cross St, Central Falls

If Sakonnet Purls was the nicest yarn shop I visited, the coolest by far was Peter Patchis Yarns. Yarn Warehouse! For realz! This shop is not for the fainthearted, and the owner (Peter, I assumed) is not your usual chatty LYS owner – he seemed a little shy, and certainly well-suited to this quirky shop. Located in a warehouse building in Central Falls, this is the sort of place where you enter alongside a loading dock and follow homemade signs on looseleaf paper stapled to the wall, directing you upstairs. Inside, you find bins upon bins of cones of yarn, sorted roughly by fiber content. Wool, cotton, chenille, acrylic, etc. Also, you can find boxes of zippers, trim, ribbons, and much more. Not well organized, not well labeled, but in abundance and at good prices (yarn prices are by pound). If I get into machine knitting or weaving, I certainly know where to go for supplies – check it out!

Manmade by Jonne
247 Pawtuxet Ave, Warwick

Next stop was Manmade by Jonne. I have to admit, I didn’t get the best impression from this place. First off, I only got one raffle ticket (when you show up, you get one, and when you bring an item for donation to the Food Bank, you get a second). The owner (Jonne?) was polite, but we had a strange conversation in the spinning nook. I was impressed to find a Kromski retailer in the area, as I have a Symphony, and am thinking about someday getting a Sonata for travel. I was talking about how nice the finish is on the Symphony he had, as I’d done the finish on mine myself, and it needed more work. I then got a lecture on how you should never try to finish a wheel yourself, because we’re in New England and the humidity changes. I sort of scoffed, saying that furniture makers have been making expert wood pieces in New England for centuries, and that I have some woodworking experience, but he just continued saying that you should never, ever do it. Well…sorry…but I already did it, and I’m happy I did! Jonne then went off to teach a cello lesson and left me to wander the small shop by myself. There were some nice fleeces, but no yarn that really spoke to me, and I was feeling a bit put out. I needed rejuvenation, which I happily found at…

Unwind
5600 Post Road, East Greenwich

Unwind! This was, hands down, the friendliest yarn store of the crawl. I was quickly ushered in, had a piece of cake placed in front of me, and was encouraged to take a load off and knit along with the ladies. They all ooohed and aaahed at my Bayerische Socks (more on these later), and made me feel just like I belonged there. They had a great sale on Cascade 220, but they were already out of the colors I was interested in by the time I got there. They also introduced me to Tanis, a Canadian yarn company (one-woman show turned indie dyer turned international yarn producer), with beautiful sock yarns. If their stock hadn’t been so depleted by the time I got there (they had a good day of business before I’d arrived), I would have probably taken something home. As it was, I stayed later than I should have, and finally had to pry myself away to get to Woonsocket with enough time to both get to Yarnia and then get to Forge Park to pick up my husband for dinner!

Yarnia
68 S Main St, Woonsocket

The eleventh shop in one day, I admit I might have been a little burnt-out by the time I got to Yarnia. I also might have been a little short on time, and perhaps speeding to get there…oops. But, I did get in before they closed, and got to wander around a bit. I’d visited the shop once before, when they occupied the second-floor retail space. They’d since moved downstairs, and had added a lot of coziness. Sofas and rugs helped a lot. Unfortunately, in my rush, I didn’t linger much on the details, but I did pick up a braid of BFL to spin, in rainbow hues. With that on top of my Verb for Keeping Warm acquisitions and my Hello Yarn fiber club subscriptions rolling in, I’ve got a lot of beautiful spinning to do! Luckily, Yarnia is just down the street from my grandmother’s house, so I’ll be certain to be back for a more leisurely look. I ran off to go grab the hubster from the train station, and then we had dinner with my dad and grandmother. A lovely day full of yarn.

Saturdays, I work at Stitch House, so I couldn’t travel southward in pursuit of fiber. There was, however, Sunday, accompanied by my darling husband!

Day 2

Knitwits
Millpond Plaza, Westerly

Getting the lion’s share of the travel over with early in the morning was wise on one hand, but also didn’t set me up for particularly good yarn shopping. Earlyish on Sunday, we started off for far-flung Westerly, RI (for those who don’t know, this is essentially Connecticut). Knitwits was a cute little shop, but as I was a bit bleary-eyed from the drive, I can’t say that many details of the shop stick firmly in my mind, except that my husband was intrigued by the cart they stored yarn on, and that they had a good amount of buttons!

Knit One, Purl Too!
406A Main Street Wakefield

Knit One, Purl Too was set back off the road, and had a really pleasant atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the labyrinthine setup of the yarn display, maximizing space and also keeping the yarn orderly! After poking around, J and I went to get some lunch at a little cafe just next door on Main Street, then hit the road back north!

Eneri Knits
Oak Harbor Village, Exeter

Eneri Knits seemed to have the best marketing campaign – the logo was smooth and attractive, the name wasn’t too kitschy, and the shop, despite being tucked into a shopping plaza, took full advantage of its space – particularly with the kitchenette in the back, stocked with yummy baked goods! The space was bright and airy – I only wish that I’d been able to see the ALPACA that visited the day before! I was able to replace my set of folding scissors there, and enjoyed looking through the well-chosen selection of books!

The Mermaid’s Purl
1 Main St North Kingstown

Our last stop! Never have I been so happy to find a yarn shop in my life (to date, at least)! This shop comes in at a close second for most lovely (although I have to wonder if the euphoria from finishing my epic quest added to that), and perhaps deserves to tie, as it’s really wonderful, albeit quite a different shop from Sakonnet Purls. It’s a cozy little nook, filled with luxury yarns. Buffalo? check. Hand-dyed sock yarn of all sorts? check. Pitcher of sangria on the back table? Oooh la la, check. The ladies working here were exuberant and delightful, and I really wish that I’d had some must-buy item that needed to come home with me, but alas, I resisted temptation and spared my checkbook…this time.

15 shops done.

Hurray!

All told, it was a tremendous amount of fun. After the shops, we headed to the Slater mill for the Culmination Ceremony (which was, unfortunately, a bit anticlimactic). I entered all my tickets into the raffle (and, boo hoo, didn’t win a thing!), snuck a peek at Ysolda Teague, fondled some yarn by Dirty Water Dyeworks, and then went back up 95 to Beantown, stars in my eyes from so much pretty yarn.

Who’s gonna join me next year?

 

UPDATE: Just hours after posting this, I received an email from Sakonnet Purls – quite arguably my favorite of the whole lot from the crawl (making it perhaps the best yarn store in RI!), saying that they’re closing their doors forever, and soon! They’re looking for a buyer, ideally, but may just be liquidating and moving on. So, does any of you have an extra $100K you can donate to a worthy cause (that is, my buying a yarn store, and saving the best yarn store in RI from disappearing off the face of the map)? Anyone?

July 7, 2011 at 10:02 pm 4 comments

Run on milk, bread, and…yarn

It’s something between a joke and a sad truth that when the very word “snowstorm” crosses the lips of the weatherman, every little old man and woman in New England (and likely elsewhere, too) will rush off and stock up on bread and milk. I can see, in the days when milk was delivered, or that bread lacked its modern preservatives, this would be important. As it stands, my gallon of ultra-pasteurized organic 2% and my oatnut loaves aren’t going anywhere, certainly not rancid, snow or no snow. But I’m the kind of girl who keeps an extra loaf of storebought bread in the freezer, just in case.

Well, the word “snow” sent me on a different errand…to the yarn store!

My original plans for this week were to teach a wonderful workshop on Kool-Aid dyeing at Harvard tonight, in between bits of the Lord of the Rings marathon, pick up a rental car on Wednesday morning, take my sweet time getting to Northampton, MA, and upon arrival, pick up the 16 skeins of Cascade Superwash that have been waiting there for me. And maybe a few other things, while I was there. Just a few.

After this, I’d meander through the rolling Berkshire hills, and wend my way to Kripalu after lunchtime to check in and spend some time oogling the class schedule and either being sociable and meeting new people, or curling up with my lovely cherry-red yarn and casting on my Sylvi. Or, meeting those people who were entranced by my knitting – either way works.

But, then the report of SNOW rolled in. 4 inches. 10 inches. 20 inches. The predictions started getting out of hand, and cancellations around Boston were many. And really, the last thing I wanted to do was drive through a bunch of snow at a snail’s pace all across the state. So, first things first, I looked at what time the yarn shop closed. 5:30 pm. It was 2:20, and the yarn shop was 2 hours away. If I missed it today, and the weather was awful Wednesday, I’d have to wait until (gasp) Friday! I had no car reserved for today, and had packed nothing. Could I do it?

I called my stepmother, who had offered me accommodation out next to Kripalu for the night, to avoid the weather. The offer was still good, so I went online. I could get a car at 2:30 for a relatively decent price. Done. I threw my things into my bag, and dashed to the rental counter. 10 minutes later, I had a Ford Focus, reserved for the week. I drove to my house, and in 15 minutes packed my things, and was on the road – 3:00pm. Phew!

I rolled into the WEBS parking lot at 4:50 – plenty of time to poke around the shop, and get the special order straightened out. With yarn in hand, I continued on, with a brief (7 minute) detour to the GAP outlet in Lee to pick up a few cheap tank tops (I realized I’d only managed to pack long sleeves). I made it to my dad’s place by 6:30, and not a flake of snow.

The message of the story, though, is this: I was willing to drive through white-out conditions, for hundreds of miles, in order to get to a yoga retreat. But I was able and willing to drop everything, rework my plans, cancel a workshop, miss out on LoTR, throw my life into a suitcase and go, just so that I’d get my yarn without waiting a few more days. What a junkie.

January 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm 3 comments

Moskva-Nostalgia

I was reading for the Generals, Москва-Петушки, and realized I’d forgotten what Kurskii Station looked like. For shame. Google solved that for me:

None of these images are mine – all are found around the Kurskyi Station on Panoramio. But I’m in love again, and want to go back. Which led me to find this:

For those of you not proficient at reading Russian airline websites, this is a one-way ticket from New York to Moscow Domodedovo for about $240. Not yet purchased (because I have stuff to do in the spring, actually, despite my desire to bounce).
Dangerous nonetheless.

September 17, 2010 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

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