If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Dateline: Inside Cat Bordhi’s Brain

Dear Kay,
(My suitcase showed up, you’ll be relieved to know. Those cones of organic cotton chenille are safe with me. You can go back to your moving and Passovering now.)
We Arrive at the Oregon Coast
And we discover that this was no “Puppet Show and Spinal Tap” situation; the Magical Moebius Festival was definitely the hot ticket at the Shilo Inn in Newport.
As incredible as it may seem, I have never been to a knitting workshop of this magnitude–a multi-day sensory deprivation type deal, with room and board and deliriously lovely yarns stacked up in piles all over the place, waiting to be (inevitably) adopted. Nancy Parsons and her husband Bob Lathe organized the weekend, and it was just right: mind-blowin’ teachy bits from Cat Bordhi, followed by long stretches of knitting time. Great company in the form of knitters who knew their way around a circular needle. And, oh yeah, the Pacific Ocean for a palate cleanser when the thinking got too heavy.
About This Cat Bordhi Person
The first night, Cat gave us an overview of what we would be thinking about in the coming days. I knew she was famous for figuring out the most elegant way to make a knitted Moebius (here’s some Moebius Wiki for ya). I had never made one, but I figured heckfire how hard could it be? When she held up a Moebius scarf and asked where the cast-on row was, and several brainiac knitters said, “In the middle,” I got very, very sleepy. I decided that I would take her advice and just follow her directions and not wonder about how any of this was happening.
The next morning, we dove in, learning how to cast on for a Moebius. In the above picture Cat is in the midst of knitting Nancy. Nancy got mad when I started following her around with a circular needle: “You don’t knit me, you nutcase redneck.”
Above you can see our brilliant pal Ann Buechner (she of the Flying Geese Blanket in our book) cheerfully absorbing graduate-level Moebiusness. You can see how I’m doing.
After the hair-raising cast-on, it really was a piece of delicious cake. I ended up triple-stranding the very high-calorie Handmaiden Sea Silk for my second Moebius, which I finished on the way home during my travels with the Camas High School Papermakers Marching Band.
That strand marks where the cast on began. Most peculiar.
I winged the pattern, a simple k5, YO, k2tog for 5 rows. Then p5, YO, p2tog for 5 rows. That was all I did for the entire knitting of this scarf. But do you see all that chevron action? Do you know how trippy that was for me? Stitch patterns do strange and cool things when they’re done in a Moebius.
(Edited to add: I fergot to mention that on each round, I made the YO one stitch to the left of where it fell on the previous row. So the chevroniness is because of my placement of the YOs, but the symmetry of the slanted lines of YOs is because of the Moebius cast on.)
I can’t wait to start another one. If you are intrigued by all this (and truly, it is fascinating), you can find A Treasury of Magical Knitting (Moebius 101) and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting (Moebius intro plus lots of felted projects), as well as Cat’s other books at Nancy Parsons’ Knitter’s Bookshelf, which is the best-edited shop of knitting books you’ll find anywhere on the Internet. It just is.
The Sock Part
Once I was feeling sassy about my Moebius skills, it was time to take on Cat’s new obsession, her forthcoming three-book series, New Pathways for Sock Knitters. She basically bashed us all about the hindquarters with a size 35 as a gentle reminder that we were not to blog about any of the socks we were making. But I can’t help it! It’s just too amazing! Here’s Kay’s sample sock:
And here’s mine:
Isn’t that COOL?
I can’t say much, but I can say that Cat’s new books are going to give the sock-lovin’ knitter about ten years worth of diversion. I can’t quite figure out how she could find ideas that are at once so simple and so very new. But then, that’s Cat.
PS The hotel in Portland was a hoot. (Thanks for the tip, Larissa!)
It’s the Kennedy School, a former elementary school built in 1915, back when a one-story schoolhouse was considered wildly innovative. The spaces were so lovely, and there was art everywhere, often derived from the school’s archives. This photograph haunted me the whole time we were there:
It apparently got in the head of a painter, too:
PSSS I just unearthed proof of other shadowy Internet legends we met in Portland:
Taking the measure of Mariko, which just doesn’t take all that long. Left: the elusive Super Eggplant Mariko, whose online shop Super Buzzy is loaded with squeedorable Japanese fabrics, notions, and gifties. Only somebody as sleek and stylish as Mariko could pull together a shop like this. At right: the legendary Angry Chicken Amy. Amy’s forthcoming book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing, is so beautiful that it makes even a person without a Hello Kitty sewing machine want to take up the craft.
PSSS The trip home was long enough and strange enough that at one point I looked out my window and saw this:
From Portland to Nashville, with a detour by the Grand Canyon. At this point I was all whatEVER. Maybe I’ll see a little elf on the wing. Maybe I imagined this whole, entire thing.

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  1. The first time I did the Moebius cast on, I thought my head would explode. I have no idea why this works, and it’s really unfathomable. When I’m knitting one, I feel like I’ve entered another dimension. Thanks for sharing the experience with the Cat’s Brain. Oy.

  2. ooo-i stayed at the kennedy school when i was in protland for a wedding a few years ago and LOVED IT. our room had a chalkboard in it. after the reception was over, we went to the “detention” bar and had some scotch.
    such a clever idea….making a school into an hotel/inn/whatever.
    no comments on the moebius, sorry. i don’t want to try somethign that might make me feel like my head will explode-my kids do enough of that as it is.
    also, please, please, PLEASE come to new england (specifically, vermont, if you can swing it) on your next tour! i’ll be your best friend if you do…

  3. Your moebius looks great! I bet it feels wonderful – how is it twisted around twice?

  4. ” … But it wasn’t a dream. It was a place, and you and you and you and you were there…No, Aunt Em. This is a real, truly live place…”
    Glad your suitcase came back home, too.

  5. A class with Cat Bordhi, I’m green with envy. I attempted a cast on yesterday and had to give it up until my copy of the First Treasury arrives. I think we should all nag her until she makes a DVD!

  6. I got to take a moebius class with Cat last fall, and it was a hoot. I can’t wait for the new sock book to come out.

  7. The whole weekend sounds lovely, and I’m hugely relieved for you that you got your yarn, er, luggage back, but I’m extra-super envious of your G.Dead-inspired hotel room.

  8. As a recovering math major and stats grad student, this Moebius sounds thrilling.
    As a newbie knitter, terrified seems like a more appropriate response. All this talk of hair-raising cast-ons and exploding heads is certainly intriguing, though…

  9. OH YEAaaahhhh… Once you start the moebious thing, that’s it. I was obsessed with this for about 5 months last year. They are incredibly addictive. Love your version. I will have to try one with lace. Congrats on reconnecting with your yarn. Have fun!

  10. I’m so glad you’ve been reunited with your suitcase! That poor yarn would have been so lonely if it had been stuck in some abandoned luggage warehouse!
    The moebious sounds fascinating. I’m going to have to make one now just so I can work out how the cast-on works!

  11. Delurking to say, yay, you stayed at Kennedy School! My girlfriends and I leave our husbands and children at home in Seattle every fall and drive down to PDX for shopping, massage, cocktails, etc. and always stay at Kennedy School (love the soaking pool).
    Sounds like you’re having a ball. When will you come to Seattle?

  12. I see you drank the Cat kool-aid. It must have been tasty! I might just need to check out that sock book. Maybe. I’m curious as to whether you were able to crash the Imbert Marthallwer wedding and get some cake. And hey, Dutch Bros. Coffee ROOOLS!!!

  13. Didn’t I say the class would be a hoot – and you wil never forget the cast on – I have to try that pattern you used on your mobius — it sounds easy enough for even me to remember 😉

  14. I think my head might explode..and I think my favorite phrase of this post was “you nutcase redneck”–hahahaha..

  15. Oh, my nooooo….not ANOTHER mobius scarf. I completed my third back in oh…February or so. Your chevrons make me want to run home for my long circ.
    Like I need yet another scarf….but one in Sea Silk…yes, I can see it.

  16. Does the border on the wall in your room really say what I think it says? Who knew the Dead were interior design inspiration!

  17. I see you sampled the Dutch Bros. coffee! Even though I don’t drink coffee, it’s my favorite place to get chai – and the coffee hounds I know love the Bros. Did you get any of their stickers?

  18. Awwww ~ teasing us like that… but then again we would not want you to be bashed by that size 35 knitting needle for divulging a secret! We will just have to wait for the book. Very big sigh!!! I am intrigued! I am just about to learn to knit my first sock. Any need to wait and just learn Cat’s method first?

  19. What a wonderful trip! Portland is now on my “must see” list.

  20. Thanks ladies! I did the Moebius Festival last year and really, really enjoyed it (although we didn’t get that ray of sunshine on the beach). And I will tell one and all that Cat’s new sock architecture is amazing. You would probably be even more impressed if you knew classic construction first. Wish we had known about the Kennedy School. We chose a well placed and pleasant hotel near the Rose Garden, all fine except the bathroom was so small, you had to stand in the tub or on the toilet to close the door. We did a MAJOR LYS crawl in Portland and all the way to the coast and back. Abundant Yarns was our last, and one of our favorites.
    Moebii are really addictive. You just keep having ideas and they have a wonderful flow to the knitting. Picked up the cast-on from Cat’s book and did it easily on the first try, so don’t be afraid of it, it is quite clever. Plan on seeing Cat next week at Sock Camp!!!
    Ann, what was the cast-on for your moebius? A multiple of 7?
    And I forgot to mention, last year your book had just come out and Cat told us about it. She and Nancy were already knitting log-cabins and whatever it was, Cat finished hers and wore it…with ends hanging!!! Gotta love her.

  21. Your mobius is wonderful. I had no idea that there was that chevron effect.

  22. Sounds amazing – I love the knitting with walking sticks photo, looks like a frat house hazing ritual. And speaking of hazing or hazy, those photos. Maybe a black bar across the middle? Too, too funny.

  23. MUST see the organic cotton chenille – would it be suitable for little shrug to wear over evening gown? What? Don’t we all wear handknits over evening gowns? I never blog in anything else.

  24. Moebius madness! I was completely addicted this summer and made many baskets and “shawls.” How incredible to spend a weekend with Cat’s brain – blows me away.

  25. Ann! You’re totally twisted!
    No, but seriously. Miss that coast. Miss all those McMenamin’s too (the dudes who did Kennedy School have a whole gang of neat old converted places). Went to college out there, Uncle has a time-share out there… miss that coast. I read your found object commentary about the coast and if you were where I think you were, it WAS a movie set. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest boating scenes were filmed there. There you have it. Maybe your next career should be as a Hollywood location scout. Not that you should stop with the knitting. Just, you know, when it’s time to get away from the kids, seek out new yarn, a little side-job freelance thing.

  26. Wow! Sounds like a great time, and your moebius looks lovely! I eagerly await Cat’s new sock book – until then, I’ll have to content myself with the complexities of the toe-up sock.
    Knit on!

  27. Thanks again ladies for adding so much fun to the weekend! I absolutely love how your moebius came out, Ann! I will be giving that pattern a try too some day. I got my post up on my blog if you want to see some photos of yourselves! Moebiusly yours, Kristin

  28. Love, love, love chevron,,, how many did you cast on for the scarf ? And i’m not sure what you mean by you made one stitch to the left, could you explaine ??? Thanks so much , Judy from Alaska ~~~

  29. “A mathematician confided
    That a Möbius band is one-sided,
    And you’ll get quite a laugh,
    If you cut one in half,
    For it stays in one piece when divided”
    I’ve tried explaining it to hubby. He knows Mobius from math not scarfs. Why put a twist in a scarf? Oh, bother.

  30. What was this, a secret blogger convention? I am chartreuese with envy. Maybe even puce. Or lime.
    Everything looks absolutely stunning and DUDE you had a hotel room with Grateful Dead lyrics going around the ceiling border, HOW did that happen?
    Y’all are just cooler than a beer at the Floribama.
    And the Grand Canyon from the plane? That’s the best part about flying to Portland (besides getting there).


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