Knitting

Together / Zusammen

I can attest that the normal excitement felt when the FedEx truck parks in front on your house is compounded when knowing that the only expected delivery is an international priority from Damsdorf, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.  My Strickmich! Club yarn arrived today making it a Valentine’s Day treat!  Inside the FedEx mailer were four individually packaged projects.  The recyclable opaque paper bags were designed to keep the mystery alive, but carefully color coded 1-4 to match the Strickmich! Club logo and the corresponding cast-on dates.

  • February 26
  • May 21
  • September 17
  • November 19

The four (just begging to be opened) bags hold one-of-a-kind skeins representing the artful collaboration between four independent European dyers and designer Martina Behm.  Each exclusive skein was specially colored to compliment a new original pattern.  But even if I succumb to a sneak peak (which I have not, as yet) the patterns will remain a mystery since they will only be released electronically on the specified cast-on dates.  And, on those dates, just as this year’s club theme Together celebrates, I will join other knitters from around the world as Martina hosts two Zoom parties – one in German and corresponding to Central European Time (CET) followed by an English workshop at a time conducive to US participants.   As Martina explains:

In Strickmich! Club 2022, the people who make our yarns come from very different places, and every project I design for the club will reflect that. But what’s important is that knitting brings them – and us – together. That’s why our motto for 2022 is “Together”, and we will celebrate that with every design and club project we knit.

Just 12 days until I can open package #1.  Happy club knitting!

Photo credit: © Martina Behm

Knitting

Stash Sprint

Twice before I have started but not completed Stash Sprint with Marie Greene; described as:  “A 6-week stash discovery workshop – complete with stash management tools and resources for happier stash knitting.”  I am not sure what interfered with my intentions on previous enrollments but I hope this blog post will create a sense of responsibility to you, the reader, to make this third time the charm.

You don’t make art out of good intentions.

Gustave Flaubert
yarn stored in containers

An early workshop assignment asks for a stash picture so that workshop participants can cheer on individual progress as organization takes hold.  For purposes of this photo shoot and to honestly share what I have where with my fellow Stash Sprint specialists, I’ve pulled from two locations.  No craft room for me – our house is just too small.  The two 34 inch x 15 inch plastic bins on the left “hide” under the bed – yes, I know that is negative feng shui. Three containers (two woven wicker baskets and one hand thrown pottery pot) on the right are stashed (pun intended) behind my Ekornes Stressless recliner in the TV room where the majority of my knitting occurs.  Ravelry records my stash as 106 different yarns, mostly single skeins but some in quantities of two-s or three-s.  Enough of each for a hat or a cowl or hat & cowl set.  The division (right now) is by weight so I can find what I need based on a pattern’s recommended weight but we will see what changes with Stash Sprint.

Reading

Book Club:  Matrix

cover art for Matrix by Lauren Groff

The Story – – – At a time when women were often considered less than a commodity the farmer’s cow or the nobleman’s land prized above a wife or daughter, Marie de France, by sheer force of will and bolstered by what she believed were divine visions, created a religious stronghold where women were not only safe but valued as industrious leaders.  Considered an unmarriageable orphan within the court of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine relegated Marie to a nunnery.  But rather than allow herself to be forgotten, Marie transformed the impoverished abbey, where the nuns were dying of starvation when she arrived, into a religious center where women illuminated manuscripts (considered a task suitable only for men) and built a cathedral.

While written as fiction, Lauren Groff’s protagonist did exist in the real life of the 12th century although little is known of Marie.  Even her name has been lost to the centuries as she is simply dubbed Marie de France.  Reputable sources – the British Library and the Encyclopedia Britannitica – consider her the earliest known French female poet.

Our Matrix book discussions occurred during two gatherings, the first when The Directors – my library loving, book reading, wine-drinking group of retired friends – ventured into the frigid January weather for soup in St. Paul.  But we were too starved of lively catch-up banter to give this title our focused concentration and hence came back to it on another frigid day, this time over Zoom with everyone snug at home.  Everyone agreed Groff’s stylized writing flowed lyrically off the page even if the degree of enjoyment brought by this “read” varied. 

Happy reading!

Other items of interest

. . . and it is racing!

James McMichael – My Uncle “Mac”

Since Formula 1 testing in Barcelona is still 24 days out and we must wait until March 20 for the inaugural F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain, the Hutton household launched the 2022 racing season by watching the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  The drivers and crews are from around the globe, performing in five different classes of cars, making for fast, faster, and the fastest driving, start-to-finish for 24-hours through the night and in unseasonably cold Florida temps.  This race celebrates a 60th anniversary, but there is a deeper racing history in Daytona.  Certainly not ecologically sane by today’s standards but my Uncle Mac gives me a family tie to an early era of beach racing.

Photo Credit: G. McMichael Anderson

Other items of interest

From the Days of Tire Bags

white Porsche 944 at speed

After numerous Covid related postponements, Richard finally had his PT assessment today.  While the physical therapist approved of our TV room Ekornes Stressless recliners, he recommended more lower back support and so this afternoon I had a craft project.  While I readily admit my skills as a seamstress stagnated sometime after I earned my Girl Scout sewing badge, I did manage to make a small 4 inch x 10 inch lumbar support pillow. 

Most of my remnant stash dates from the mid-1990s when I undertook the translation of Richard’s wearable art (jewelry) into soft sculptures (pillows).  Despite having some lovely high quality upholstery fabrics from which to choose, he picked a left over from our Porsche days. 

Most might consider the Porsche 944 a small car especially since its two back seats would only accommodate very young children before the days of safety required car seats.  But we transformed our 1987 944S two-seater coupé into a station wagon on “race” weekends.  We had enough room for suitcases, cooler, tools, jack, and a complete set of track wheels and tires.  To protect the car’s interior when packing the Bridgestone R1s, I made four large drawstring bags using an easily washable cotton-poly blend that matched the car’s maroon leather interior.  The bags were especially needed for the trek home when the wheels were covered in fine black brake dust after two days of driver education classes at the track.

Reading

What to read next?

A pleasantry in retirement and augmented by the ongoing pandemic isolation is time for reading – both good literature and, sometimes, those fun but not so well written books.  I find my next read is just as likely to come from a friend’s casual comment or an intriguing cover spotted among BookBub’s daily offerings as from my lengthy (189 title) Want to Read electronic shelf on Goodreads.  Thus, it is easier to report what I am reading rather than guess what I might read next. 

In eBook format – A re-read of Dune by Frank Herbert spurred on by the newly released movie directed by Denis Villeneuve, which is as impressive an adaptation as critics claim.  The actors capture adeptly the characters’ personalities, the scenery is as harsh as the reader might envision the treacherous desert planet, and the masterful CGI depict the scale of futuristic intergalactic travel.  And, simultaneously, to prepare for next week’s Knit Camp Reads book discussion, The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

And, for multitasking while knitting my red Vivi sweater – #3 in the Cormoran Strike mystery series, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling) in audiobook.

Nothing in paper at the moment; although The Rose Code by Kate Quinn is on the book rack next to the couch and most likely to be the next read among The Directors (my library loving, wine drinking group of retired friends) and thus the logical response to Bloganuary’s 18th prompt:  What book is next on your reading list?

Writing

Bloganuary?!?

Today’s whim – – join a blogging challenge.  I’ve done Squares times four with BeckyB of Winchester, reading challenges with The Uncorked Librarian and this month I signed up for Bloganuary.  (There is even a badge for participants!)  With a promise of daily writing prompts from WordPress, the challenge is intended to nudge writers to write.  Now, lest you worry you will be inundated with posts, I promise only sporadic musings.

With today’s prompt:  “What does it mean to live boldly?” Mary Oliver comes to mind.  While her poems, inspired by our miraculous natural world, might not on first reading seem audacious – they are. And, her advice in Sometimes is bold indeed. 

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
blue and white badge graphic denoting bloganuary 2022 participation
Baking

Chilly Day Chocolate Cake

portion of a square chocolate cake and spatula with frosting

While not the most photogenic dessert (cake decorating has never been a skill in my baking tool box), I can tick off a list of positives accomplishments:

  • Meets Richard’s dessert request
  • An easy mix using Joy of Cooking Quick Cocoa Cake and Chocolate Butter Icing recipes
  • Very moist and deliciously tasty with Divine Cocoa in the cake and Ghirardelli bitter sweet chocolate in the frosting
  • Just the right size (as Goldilocks would say) and, as directed, baked in two-8 inch square pans; perfect for eating one and freezing another.
Knitting

Vivi KAL 2022

ten laser cut knitting stitchmarkers and gold coil-less safety pins on linen background
Vivi custom stitch markers from Olive Knits

After a wardrobe review, I admit I do not need another sweater. Having knit two in 2021 that I wear infrequently due to our continued Covid stay at home-ness, I initially decided to pass on Marie Greene’s 4th annual January Workshop KAL (knit-along).  But then I was swept up in the enthusiasm of my fellow Knit Campers’ yarn selections and color choices, plus Marie’s newest design features (my favorite) cables!

Ironically, while my September trip to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands was cancelled, I will enjoy Danish artistry virtually with Vivi. Pattern pictures reveal a lattice of cabled diamonds gracing the sweater’s front and Danish stars decorating the sides.  Unlike the intricate colorwork of Scandinavian cousins, these Danish designs rely on subtle stitch definition against a monochromatic backdrop.  And, as always, during the eight weeks of this annual workshop KAL, Marie will share historical background, new techniques via video tutorials, and ethnic recipes for culinary exploration, as well as a large dose of “hygge” – perfect for this lingering pandemic.

Happy knitting!

Photo credit: © Marie Greene

Knitting

Mistakes Encouraged

red, yellow and green pine shape lollipops with red ribbon

When I was little girl, I used a variety of rhymes to help make choices.  You may have as well.  A syllable paired with each point of the finger to choose the grape or the cherry lollipop or to determine which of two sides would kick first in kickball.  Back then, the very act of recitation felt quite magical.  A difficult decision simplified.  As adults we know the decision was made with the first point of the finger because of a set number of syllables.  

And yet, even knowing that in many aspects of our lives there are a set number of syllables, I am always surprised when what appears to be the disparate aspects of my life come together.  How is it that liturgical preparations and searching for a new knitting pattern can blend so seamlessly?

Living with Intention is the theme of my spiritual reflections this month and I discovered very similar language in these meditations and recent blog posts by two of my “go-to” knitting designers.  Christina Campbell in Iowa and Solène Le Roux in France both infuse nature into their designs, whether incorporating leaf patterns or revealing rippling water as yarn is transformed from skein to knitted object.  Both designers take a very holistic approach to their craft.  It is not about just the design or the fiber, but the whole experience; encouraging the reader, the knitter to pause, to develop the muscle of inspiration, to connect with nature and each other; encouraging the knitter, encouraging the person to act with intent.

In Navajo weaving every thread tells a story.  The weaver brings the strands together not just to accomplish a function – a finished blanket or rug – but with the specific intention to communicate the culture, the land, a way of life.  Traditional Navajo weaving requires the weaver to incorporate a mistake.  This is done in homage to the belief that only the creator is perfect and acknowledges the weaver is not.  To live with intention or in this case to weave with intention. 

Now, I admit I have a difficult time with mistakes when I am knitting.  I have been known to rip out an evening’s work – rows and rows, thousands of stitches when I discover a break in the design, something that jumps out as an eyesore.  Even with all my experience knitting the same row again and again, I cannot claim that I have ever come close to knitting anything without error and I am certainly not good enough to emulate the Navajo weavers such that the mistake becomes a design element enhancing the final piece.  And so the advice from English writer, Neil Gaiman, spoke to my heart and hands and I hope his words will resonate with you as well as we move into a new year; a new year in which there are sure to be plenty of unknowns.  Gaiman writes:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Photo credit: Old Fashion Lollipop Recipe from Taste of Home