Tag Archives: Travel

Knitting in Iceland


The reason I went to Iceland was because I received a grant to help me improve my teaching by incorporating art and physical education in the classroom. I found a program through Knitting Iceland that had knitting workshops, design workshops, and yoga and dance classes. Perfect.

Turns out the sheep population in Iceland is larger than the human population, so I was able to visit with lots of the fuzzy creatures.


I also had the opportunity to learn about dyeing yarn with natural, plant-based dyes.


I spent a lot of time knitting and admiring the pieces that others made.


Traditional Icelandic sweaters, or lopapeysa, are a solid color for most of the sleeves and body, but have a multi-colored, intricately designed yoke. Like this one, that was for sale at the Handknitting Association of Iceland.


I got to learn how to make one of these by creating a tiny version in a workshop that taught top-down sweater construction.


For this project, I did my one and only steek (for you non-knitters, this means cutting into knit fabric, which also strikes fear into the hearts of many knitters) in order to make the front opening on this mini-sweater. I knit it in the round, then reinforced the edges in order for it to get cut open without unraveling. I conquered that fear, but it would still be nerve wracking for me to do this to a full-sized garment.

Overall, the trip was great. The grant was valuable. I learned new techniques, and I got inspired. What more can you ask for?


Yes, sir, it’s a geyser


The word geyser comes from the Icelandic word geysir, which means to gush, and is the name of one of the first discovered and recorded geysers.


Unfortunately, Geysir doesn’t erupt much any more, but Strokkur, which is nearby, still erupts frequently. I was there for only about 25 minutes, and got to see it happen four times!


It was impressive, to say the least.


There are pools and puddles of near-boiling water all around the area. This geothermal heat is a huge energy source throughout Iceland. It smells a bit like sulfur, but it warms homes, provides hot water for showers, pools, and hot tubs, and melts snow when its pumped under roads. Pretty cool, er, warm.

Las Vegas…. Not What You’d Think


I have some good friends who live in Las Vegas. Most people are surprised that people actually live there. So I’ve been there about 6 times, and have spent most of that time in places that tourists to Las Vegas have probably never been.

Did you know there is more than one street in Las Vegas? The Strip is not the only street in town!

Did you also know that there are beautiful mountains, canyons, and wildlife?

I was surprised by the numbers of birds I saw. Everywhere I looked, I saw ravens, goldfinches, hummingbirds, grackles, sparrows, and more. Here’s a hummingbird I was able to snap a photo of.

I know I’ll go back to Vegas sometime, which makes me both glad and frustrated. It’sĀ  troubling to me to spend time there. The gaudiness, tackiness, and wastefulness in the middle of the desert bothers me. The resources are so strained, water should be scarce at best, non-existent at worst, yet there are hundreds of thousands of people sucking up the resources, dumping money into machines, and taking in all the man-made, soulless sights and sounds. I prefer to stay away from that, which is sometimes difficult to remember because I must admit I enjoy blackjack. I advise anyone who goes, myself included, to get out of the casino and enjoy the outdoors.

Memorials in Berlin


It’s not easy to admit you were wrong. It’s not easy to own up to a history you’d like to forget. Yet the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is a striking and overwhelming admission of unimaginable pain caused. Walking up to the memorial, it is difficult to tell exactly what it is. There are no markings, and it appears to be a fairly level set of grey concrete blocks, or stelae.

As you walk further in, you realize the ground is uneven and slopes downward as you move toward the center of the over 200,000 square foot memorial. Though the blocks on the outer edges are only about a foot tall, the ones in the center tower over fifteen feet tall. It isn’t disorienting, but it gives a sense of isolation and uncertainty.

I was not prepared for the surge of emotion I felt walking through the memorial.

I remember it in complete silence. I’m sure there were people talking, city noises, birds and other wildlife, but my memory is silence.

The holocaust claimed victims of many minorities, not just Jewish victims. Targeted groups included Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies (Roma), and others.

Gay men were another targeted group. Instead of the Star of David, they were made to wear a pink triangle as an identification piece, a symbol now reclaimed as an icon of gay pride. Across the street from the main memorial, there stands a single stelae with a window. This is the memorial for the gay victims of the Holocaust.

When you peer inside the window, you see a video playing. This image is a still from that video.

When I saw it, all I could think of was love in its purest form. To me, the video stood in stark contrast to the memorials. While everything else evoked feelings of deep sorrow, loss, and grief, watching this video made me feel hope.

Airplane Knitting


How much knitting can one finish en route from Chicago O’Hare to Newark, Newark to Port-au-Prince, Port-au-Prince to Newark, and Newark to Chicago?

This much:

I only knit during the flights, and not really during take off or landing. Knitters will recognize this pattern as the clapotis. It’s sort of required knitting, as there are 18,784 of them on ravelry. This is my third. It’s a great pattern because it is easy to memorize, uses basic, mindless stitches, and yields a gorgeous, versatile result. It can be dressy or casual. It’s warm, but also folds to fit in a purse.

I’m finally using the Blue Heron Rayon Metallic yarn I bought specifically for a clapotis after my friend made two of them with the same yarn. I found it at Arcadia Knitting’s going out of business sale back in July 2010.

Looking at the amount I finished, I’m a little disappointed at the amount that I got done. It seems as though I should have finished more in that time. I think from now on it will go a little faster, but like everything, knitting is about the journey as much as the destination.

Knitting Workshops in Jacmel, Haiti


One of the purposes of my trip was to continue a knitting workshop. When I went in July, I taught two separate workshops, for two days each. This time I only taught one 2-day workshop at the new Jakmel Ekspresyons building.

I am grateful for the community of knitters on Ravelry who donated so much yarn for each trip. I had to vacuum-pack all of it in order to bring it with me.

It was my first time seeing the building, and it is awesome! There are two floors. The second floor has an office, two workshop rooms, and space for a computer lab that will be set up shortly. I held the workshop on the first floor to be handicapped-accessible since one of the knitters was unable to walk. Plus this courtyard section is beautiful and breezy. It’s in a shady spot, but the sky is the ceiling.

There were approximately 12 attendees, and about half of them had come to the workshops in July. I taught most of the experienced knitters to increase and decrease, as well as knit in the round. I taught the first-timers to cast-on, knit, and bind-off. Many of the experienced knitters also showed the newbies how to knit. I’ve found that in Haiti, people are extremely helpful to each other. It sure helped me since I was using very limited Creole and only one person there spoke proficient English!

I had so much yarn, I was able to leave some of it behind, along with dozens of pairs of handmade knitting needles (the chopstick ones– I ended up securing the ends with rubber bands). I also left 4 cd-roms with instructional knitting videos in French and dozens of copies of my handmade “Learn to Knit/ Aprann Brode” zine which is in English and very broken Creole.

My hope is that Jakmel Ekspresyons can have a regular knit and crochet group who meets regularly and helps each other. Lots of people in Haiti know how to crochet, plus there was a crochet workshop at Jakmel Ekspresyons a few weeks before my knitting workshop. Haitians are extremely resourceful, and I am confident that they will be able to figure out patterns and fix mistakes if they meet and craft together.

One of the students, Salomon, knew how to crochet already, and learned to knit at my workshops. Afterwards, he continued his project until he finished his skein of yarn, then came by Jakmel Ekspresyon to ask for more yarn.

He was so impressive. I taught a group of kids his age how to knit in an after-school program, and after many hours with these English-speakers, some of the kids were still not able to knit as well as he could. As usual, I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of yarn donors, the willingness and excitement of new knitters, the ability of people to learn in a difficult situation (language barrier), and the helpfulness and kindness of the participants.

New York Public Library


One feature of my trip to Haiti was a 24 hour layover in New York. During that day, I visited the library and toured a current exhibit (through March 4, 2012!) called Celebrating 100 Years. This exhibit included a Gutenberg Bible, a diary and harmonica that belonged to Jack Kerouac, a notebook from Malcolm X, an Audobon bird book (about 4 feet tall!) the Declaration of Independence, handwritten by Thomas Jefferson, Mein Kampf (in German), Karl Marx’s Das KapitalĀ  (in Russian), a first edition print (only 17 in existence) of the Star-Spangled Banner, complete with typo, and much more.

Libraries are important meeting, studying, researching and gathering places. They are an equalizer, allowing everyone free access to books, Internet, and other resources. The New York library is also like a free museum in the architecture and interior painting, decor, and exhibits.

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with libraries. I would go to story hour and check out puppets and books when I was a kid. The first book I read by myself, Fun Wherever We Are, was a library book. I read hundreds of Babysitters Club books when I was a little older. I completed research papers through college and found music for my wedding at the library. I simply would not be the same person I am today without the existence of libraries.

Unfortunately, the Chicago Public Library system has announced that Chicago Public libraries will now be closed on Mondays due to Mayor Emmanuel’s nearly $7 million budget cut for the libraries. This is not something that is unique to Chicago. Libraries all over the country are closing or running on reduced funding and minimal staff. I understand that it is due to the recession; however, in a time where the public has less money, public programs should receive more funding. Libraries support people looking for jobs, trying to pass tests, and struggling through school. I’m not asking people to donate money or for a public outcry. Just a reminder, if you haven’t been to your local library for a while, check it out. You might be surprised. And if you live in New York or will be passing through before the end of March, I highly recommend stopping by to see the exhibition.