Among those that acquire ever increasing amounts of yarn, almost as harbingers of some soon-to-occur cataclysmic event in which there ceases to be sheep or wool or yarn, I am on the low-end of the quantity spectrum. This may be due in part to the storage limitations of our small house or the practicality of my Swiss heritage, but I have only once purchased a sweater’s quantity of yarn without a specific pattern or project in mind. And, I offer my Foxtrot (my first 4-Day Knit Along (KAL) with Marie Greene) as exonerating proof that I have since turned an impulse buy of approximately 1,400 yards of blended alpaca, merino, and silk into a very wearable sweater.
Early in my knitting days, most of my purchases were simply experiential. I would visit a yarn store and go home with those skeins that had called out, like a sensory siren, to be touched. The frustration came later when I found the perfect pattern but had an insufficient quantity and could not match the dye lot when I needed to purchase more. I started to take a more strategic approach by identifying a potential project and then buying to the designer’s specifications. There are exceptions – of course – as I always treat myself to a skein of something local when traveling. That is how I came to get advice from Stephen West as I stood somewhat befuddled before a wall of “Made in Holland” color on our jet lagged first day in Amsterdam.
I am intrigued by how designers and dyers market their products especially to online customers. Much of what I know about marketing was not learned in a library school admin class but rather as a fan of Mad Men where Don Draper’s genius took a product (any product), identified an audience, created a demand, and always made his ad agency loads of profit. I can only hope two of my favorite sellers are as successful
frabjous fibers & Wonderland Yarns offers the De-STITCH-nation Yarn Kit of the Month Club which features an exclusive colorway based on a travel poster from an earlier era, as well as a pattern appropriate for the weight and quantity, a post card replica of the featured destination poster and steamer trunk stickers. Rather than simply commit to a new skein every month (although that would be fun!) I exhibit restraint and limit my purchases to those locations I have visited. Thus far: Amsterdam, Egypt, Germany, London, and Zurich.
Kristen in Stitches showcases the creative designs of Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich. During 2020, her National Park Hat subscription allowed my COVID quarantined brain to remember the beauty of the parks we’ve explored and dream about parks we have yet to visit.
I started the year with only a few projects in my queue knowing my January – February (and now my March – May) focus would be Fiadh, an Aran sweater designed by Marie Greene. I made steady progress on the body, sometimes even falling into the zen-like rhythm of swirling Celtic cables and the occasional well-placed bobble but somehow got stymied and landed on “sleeve island”, a place where I am not usually marooned. But, with Cubs baseball airing on Marquee TV, I am once again progressing steadily — 24 rows last night as the Cubs swept the Mets.
For weeks, Fiadh was my day-time knit. My evening projects necessitated a little less focus although offered enough variations to keep the design interesting but not so complicated so as to make reading subtitles impossible. The Spiced Ginger and Berry Patch shawls are also Marie’s designs and included in her book, Knit Shawls and Wraps in 1 Week. With blocking complete, my Year of Projects list has two additions.
Or, more correctly, a day to support yarn stores. Today is the brick-and-mortar shop appreciation day designed to bring together fiber lovers of all types whether they knit (my personal passion), crochet, weave or spin as we celebrate our craft and give a most appreciative nod to local entrepreneurs.
Small businesses have it tough in any era slugging it out against big-box stores and online ordering but COVID has dramatically increased those challenges. Kudos to my (almost local) local yarn store, Northfield Yarn, for carefully following COVD guidelines to help keep me healthy and for their marketing flexibility. My online and phone orders arrived pronto via priority mail and, once in store shopping resumed, Cynthia and her trusted sales crew tucked away my special orders until I could find a bright sunny day to travel the rural Minnesota countryside.
With spring-like temperatures, the need for wool beanies greatly diminishes although, since this is Minnesota, the weather can quickly snap from balmy to blustery. In a December Year of Projects post, I reported the forthcoming Selwyn Beanie was in my project queue. While I waited for the pattern drop from designer Marie Greene, my early winter evening TV knitting was the matching cowl, dubbed Selwyn Petit as it was a smaller (cables only) version of the original Selwyn knit in heather gray. The Petit cowl and beanie uses a vibrant sunflower heather yarn from Kelbourne Woolens. Good for shooing away the winter blues. With cowls and beanies complete, now the challenge is determining the lucky recipients.
When launched as a Covid coping tool, Knit+ Librarian was intended to highlight my current reading without being too book-reportish. However, a quick review of recent posts reveals a dearth of titles and lest you think this librarian has given up on books – not to worry. I have simply opted not to report each book title-by-title. My Goodreads account is a finely-tuned tool that provides titles, dates and ratings on a five-star scale, as well as a list of what I am reading and an ever-growing want-to-read list. At the moment I have six titles open:
Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare – a YA paranormal fantasy audio book for multitasking while I knit
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and A Good Time for the Truth, an anthology edited by Sun Yung Shin – for upcoming book discussions I am leading at church (reported on earlier)
The Bookseller by Mark Pryor – the first in the Hugo Marston murder series for the upcoming The Directors’ bookclub
The Art of the Wasted Day by St. Paul author Patricia Hampl – a recent gift from a friend
Knitlandia by Clara Parkes – another gift from a friend that I come back to chapter by chapter.
Let me recommend – – – For light reading with a knitting tie-in, author Penny Reid, provides the right combination of good things – character development, dialogue, humor, all set against a Chicago backdrop – in her Knitting in the City series. I have finished Book 5: Happily Ever Ninja and downloaded book 6 to my iPad. These contemporary romances can be read as stand-alone titles but there is a nice flow between the books as we meet seven good friends who gather every Tuesday night to knit or crochet all the while enjoying adult beverages and offering great worldly advice. As with every title within this genre, the expected occurs – girl meets boy, attraction, romance and love happen albeit with some challenges. Unlike some series where the characters are so interchangeable so as to be cardboard cutouts from one title to the next, the women of Knitting in the City are as unique as any collection of your friends. Reid uses knitting as a connecting thread week-to-week as the story and relationships develop sufficient to keep any fiber lover happy but without overwhelming the non-knitter. Sometimes she even slips in references to Ravelry patterns. And, for the really knit-nerdy, Reid offers a companion title that includes 27 patterns based on her characters’ knitting creations.
I don’t remember ever buying anything with a bobble. My pre-retirement wardrobe was chosen to set a professional tone, nothing frilly. Bobbles, while proportionally smaller, were like pompoms, to be avoided. Even when knitting for others, not a single hat is topped with a fuzzy ball. And yet…I harbored a secret attraction to the funny little nibs of texture.
Two of my three Building Block Shawls included a 12×12 inch square with rows of bobbles framed by lacy yarn overs. Ever since I completed those squares in October 2013, I have wondered what project might lead me back to that bit of whimsy. Visions of earlier eras, although definitely not simpler times; Bletchley Circle heroines in hand knit sweaters with intricate cables and bobbles.
Intended as easy to pack warmth against the chilly Faroe Islands air where, as the travel literature warns, visitors can experience all four seasons with related precipitation on a given day, my Cable Bobble Hat & Cowlnudged me toward the capricious. Enough so that I succumbed to Knit Camp eyecandy and joined the January Workshop KAL (knit-along). As Fiadh (an Irish name meaning wild) grows on my needles, a controlled tangle of cables is being revealed and, yes, bobbles too.
And with the end of 2020 came the completion of this year’s Project Peace shawl. I started with three stitches and, just before midnight, I cast off 483 stitches while enjoying Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse sing and dance our way into the New Year.
December was another Covid month; all our gifts arrived by mail but also sunny drives in rural Wisconsin, the first shovelable snow, and quiet knitting while enjoying Christina Campbell’s daily thoughts on peace. Her words reflect my sentiments on both knitting and peace:
Knitting... such a simple act, one stitch followed by the next,
lined up in columns of stitches, twisting and turning,
openings here and there,
ultimately creating a beautiful fabric to warm the recipient...
knitting ... one stitch at a time from one continuous fiber...
knitting does not promise to be easy...
knitting does not promise to be without mistakes and flaws...
knitting does not promised to be a constant state of harmony...
and so it is true with peace.
Christina Campbell, December 21, 2020
At the beginning of this holiday month, I joined the Ravelry group, A Year of Projects, mid-way through its July – June year. After years of managing an organization with a fiscal year of those same months, work that included lots of grant applications to secure Federal and state funds, I had planned to treat December as just another month and, once again, do the real work in June. But we all know 2020 has been anything but normal and I have been inspired by my fellow writers’ December summaries. Here is an update on that earlier list:
I frogged the first Hortensia Mitt back to the cuff as I did not like the long strands of yarn on the inside which will surely catch. These await time and more practice with locked floats.
After a yarn delay, my Project Peace 2020 KAL shawl is 12 rows from completion. Currently at 455 stitches (having started with three), each row takes considerable time (made less tedious by a good audio book) as I work towards a final stitch count of 483. Still with a goal to complete in December.
A second delayed shipment stalled my work on the River of Dreams bedrunner but that is underway again and an easy knit during evening TV viewing, sometimes even with subtitles.
I did complete one project in December, the Knit Camp cowl, Selwyn! There is a forthcoming pattern for a hat-to-match which will make a very nice set.
I am deep into swatching and measuring for a new sweater, Fiadh, which the pre-release notes describe as “A textured Irish Aran cardigan with cables, double moss stitch and a shawl collar.” The pattern drops on Monday, January 4 and, unlike earlier projects, my authentic heather gray Donegal Tweed yarn is already in hand. The teases reveal an intricate cable design incorporating four different styles covering the sweater’s front panels, back and sleeves, plus decorative bobbles bordering the ribbed button band. Happy New Year and happy knitting!
Each morning a smidge of peace arrives in my mailbox; just a click away from a longer meditation. From December 1-21, in addition to a wonderful knit-a-long pattern, Christina Campbell shares daily reflections on her 2020 theme “peace in place”. Her creative writing, landscape photographs, and peace building challenges are inspirational. I am writing more and reflecting on her definition of peace “…cultivating right relationships with self, others, and the Earth”.
While Phoenix is not our stay-in-place place in these Covid times, I remember a quiet walk through the Desert Botanical Garden. The trails wend through flora exotic to my Midwest field and forest eye. The garden offers brilliant pops of color against the subdued desert backdrop, as well as sculpture placed so artfully so as to merge with the landscape. Certainly what Chihuly intended with his Glass Towers. In another era we might have asked: Is it live or is it Memorex?
I consider myself a fastidious Ravelry user. I have taken pictures and recorded new yarn in my motel room within hours of visiting a yarn store and project pages are a must. Maybe there is a secret cataloger lurking in me that desires to keep an orderly record or it could be that with 154 projects (to date) my memory can get a bit fuzzy about what I have knit when and with what yarn.
Not surprising with over 13,000 Ravelry groups some so small they only include 2-4 people and others with memberships well into five figures there is a discussion forum for bloggers. A Year of Projects blog-a-long offers a framework to keep track of what can be a chaotic mix of actual works-in-progress (WIP) and those that are only dreams; while encouraging writers to write all with the added bonus of a built in audience among the participating bloggers.
Having just re-joined the blogging sphere in May, I have yet to suffer from prolonged writer’s block and who knows if Knit+ Librarian will continue beyond this pandemic sequester but A Year of Projects could be useful as an online writers’ group. As I am joining the group mid-year, my list of projects yet to be tackled (with or without an accompanying blog post) includes: