Step back to a May (nearly June) day one year ago, or two, or three, or four years and you would find me studying pattern release notes and making yarn and color choices for Marie Greene’s annual 4-day sweater knit-along (KAL) but not this summer. Instead, with July’s arrival, I will observe rather than participate in this summer’s KAL since I have a full task list as the co-lead of the church building team.
After spending several years in discernment, in what now feels like it was a leisurely drive on a blue-line road, it is like we are in the F1 pit lane prepping for 78 fast laps on the streets of Monaco. As May began, we purchased 40 wooded acres of urban wilderness, engaged the architects, performed soil borings and tested for Decorah Edge. In just weeks, we will begin listening sessions when we will dream of all this building might represent and then move into conceptual and schematic designs before breaking ground in September 2024 and dedicating a new building in September 2025.
With weekly planning meetings, frequent discussions with the architects, and writing regular eNews updates intended to keep member congregants and friends informed and engaged, the 4-day sweater KAL, just doesn’t gel with my mindset. But my needles will not be still as yarn for a summer silk shawl and two scarves are tucked in the rattan basket by my TV room chair.
I received the first skeins of travel yarn in 2016 from a friend who attended a destination wedding in Iceland. She gifted three skeins of Léttlopi in a deep dark blue that, in turn, became a travel gift for a Swiss cousin. But, even though I had been knitting for years, I did not purchase any yarn on our 2017 retirement road trip – Minnesota to Spokane to Seattle to Vancouver and home again via the trans-Canadian highway. I am sure there must have been yarn stores along the way but none made our travel itinerary.
I corrected this omission during our 2018 European adventure – Amsterdam to Spa-Francorpschamps in Stavelot, Belgium to Ingolstadt, Germany to Switzerland and Italy – with purchases our first day in Amsterdam and on our last day in Zurich. Now I make a stop at a local yarn store as a planned part of our travels, whether I am in Arizona for Cubs spring training (2019) or just two weeks ago while in Tennessee for a mountain top wedding.
These most recent acquisitions to my stash were handdyed exclusively for Smoky Mountain Spinnery in Gatlinburg and represent the four seasons in their Smoky Mountain Collection. Each colorway is based on a photograph that captures the location’s natural beauty: delicate spring flora, the vibrant colors of summer twilight, cascading water amidst fall’s changing leaves, or the bright blue winter canopy over frosty hillsides. With two skeins of each, the possibilities for future knitting projects are endless.
Who doesn’t love a mystery? Whether on paper or film? Puzzle or yarn? As a reader, channeling one’s own powers of detection against the author’s controlled revelation of details which may or may not be clues leading to the discovery of whodunit. As a knitter, reveling in a new stitch and then trying to deduce where the design will go next.
Despite our Minnesota days feeling nothing like spring, it is nearly time for Marie Greene’s spring mystery knit-along (MKAL). Her new pattern will be revealed in four clues, over 10 days, April 3-13. The advance teaser alerted MKAL participants that this will be a triangular shawl in two contrasting colors, knit from top-center down, incorporate texture and special design elements, and the accompanying story will feature the adventures of one rambunctious sheep – hence the title of the MKAL and the shawl – A Sheep Story.
The March surprises in my Sew Happy Jane Hand Dyed Happy Yarn Club subscription could combine nicely for a lovely A Sheep Story mystery shawl. But, my April box arrives on Friday, so I will make my final decision with two new skeins in hand.
My knitting time during these deep winter months (January into March) has focused on small, quick-to-complete projects while I await participation in my first test knit. The sage colored cowl uses yarn I hand-dyed with Kool-Aid as part of a class with Heather Best and I did a stash dive for the wool, alpaca, mohair, silk blend that resulted in the soft, squishy cable bordered shawl.
The pattern I volunteered to test is currently in the making by Jennifer Berg, Native Knitter. While her projects often incorporate geometric images in contrasting colors reminiscent of Acoma pottery or Navajo blankets, a first glimpse of her new design reflects the dramatic colors the raw southwestern landscape. Proceeds from the sale of this soon-to-be released pattern will benefit MMIW – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
While I tracked my first hand-dyed installment from Idaho, I wondered if the new skeins would blend with the predominant hues already in my stash or provide challenges from the color wheel. Both of these thoughts proved true. The solid aqua skein was well within my color comfort zone. The variegated skein is one I definitely would never have selected with its repeating runs of un-dyed natural cream to yellow to coral to burnt orange.
I knew I needed to use this odd yellow skein right away or it would languish for years. A new shawl pattern from Marie Greene featuring lacy contrasting stripes was released at just the right moment for a February project inspiration.
In the spirit of new year de-cluttering, I joined Marie Greene’s Stash Challenge – a much abbreviated version of her Stash Sprint class. Within the text of five emails sent over five days, she offered “stashtastic inspiration” in manageable micro amounts. Then, I coupled my efforts and transformed a beautiful Merino-Silk blend into this Swiss Dot Shawl from her Stashbuster Series: B is for Bobble patterns.
Martina Behm’s Strickmich! Club has gone on hiatus for 2023 so no squishy packages will arrive this winter from Damsdorf, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Lest I miss the excitement of mystery yarn deliveries, I have filled the gap by joining the Sew Happy Jane Hand Dyed Happy Yarn Club.
Heather Best is an amazing fiber colorist. I used her DK tweed in the Brighter Day colorway for my Fireworks pullover and a matching cowl. The yarn was lovely to work with and that sweater is among my favorites for a bit of warm color on a gray winter day. Using her Kool-Aid formulas, (Yes, the sweet summer drink concoction!) I took five skeins from au naturel wool to subtle hues all the while learning that my passion is not as a dyer.
She begins dying each month’s palate only after club orders are placed. This ensures accurate quantities without overstocking and enables members to choose Fingering or DK weight yarn in single 100g. skeins or to double the fun with a pair of perfectly coordinated hanks – 1 tonal and 1 painted. And, if beautiful yarn is not a prize in itself, each themed box includes curated gifts. Club members may vary weights and quantities each month and even pause participation for a month or two without totally disengaging. The flexible subscription plan is great for participants, although I imagine this marketing approach requires more recordkeeping. Waiting is the only downside of this new yarn service. On these gray January days, while Heather is deep in color-filled production, I must wait to discover the treasures of my February Happy Yarn Club box.
Taking an inventory of the old year is by no means a unique task. It is, however, not something I have done previously in this blog. So here are a few highlights of my 22 knitting projects (some of which you will have already seen) and my titles read – 82 – although to be honest, I indulged in a number of quick read YA fantasies and enjoyed a variety of easy-listening titles while driving to-and-from Eau Claire and hours spent gardening last summer in order to reach this quantity.
With winter storm warnings blinking on my computer tool bar and anticipated temperatures hovering below zero all day, it seemed the perfect time to wear my first ever fulled wool mittens.
The timeline from knitting to fulling to wearing spans nearly a decade. These mittens were knit between February – March 2013 during a course at a local fabric store no longer in business. But the class only provided the pattern and a knitting circle on two evenings. I took my new project home and worried about how to actually create the thick mittens without ruining my work. I finally deduced that whether I ruined the mittens during the hot water agitated washing or if they simply continued to sit at the bottom of a wicker yarn basket, they were equally unwearable. A Covid Finishing Fest hosted by Northfield Yarns in May 2020 gave me the impetus to watch several how-to videos and violà mittens! Not needed with springtime temps, I tucked them away to be forgotten, thought lost, then found, and worn today for the first time.
Happy winter solstice!
Note: The distinction between fulling and felting is one of timing. In the textile world, felting is a done with fibers, not with woven cloth while fulling describes the act of wet finishing the woven cloth or knitted item with water, temperature and agitation.
Since my knitted contributions to this year’s church auction (the Mallory Shawl and the French Oak Scarf) were successful in raising funds and as Brezel, Marie Greene’s new design for her 2023 January Sweater Workshop, is waiting in the wings, I just completed several smaller projects. Using worsted weight tweed yarn in vibrant magenta, the matching beanie and scarf combo with reversible cables was a quick project. Plus, this set gives me a head start on next year’s auction donations.
And for a sneak peak at Brezel details — With a release date of December 30 for Knit Campers like me, Bretzel incorporates Bavarian twisted stitches and German short rows to create an overall design resembling a platter of carefully crafted pretzels. And, yes, the name of the sweater is the German translation of this symmetrically twisted, salty snack. In the weeks ahead, in addition to the knitting lessons shared during this sweater workshop, there is a promise of pretzel baking lessons. Yumm!