Just in time for FOF, a second Little Gansey designed by Marie Greene is off my needles. This version in a deep blue green is for a new great-great niece born in December. The color gives a blended nod to my favorite color – blue and the second time parents who both love the color green. Knit in size 2-4, to let the little one grow a bit before donning this cotton, silk, bamboo, blend.
A retirement gift from my friend Amy, I re-read-Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes for this month’s Knit Camp Reads book club. This collection of travelogues necessitated a different type of discussion as we could not rely on old standby questions about character development, unexpected mystery twists, or conflict resolution. Instead, we talked about which chapter or chapters resonated with each of us. Mine were the chapters on New York and Iceland.
My visits to New York have been limited but each trip holds a Cinderella moment – meandering slowly down the grand concourse of the Guggenheim all by myself at 16, the breathtaking view at a top floor reception in the World Trade Center, my first (and only) taste of caviar in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom. As well as remembering that sense of relief when cresting the Hampton hills just north of Zumbrota on my homeward trek after a summer trip and seeing green which washed away the overwhelming vision of nothing by undulating yellow sheet metal racing and then screeching to red light stops.
Unlike the New York chapter where I could draw upon memories of real sounds and smells, Parkes’s description of her Icelandic fiber tour moved into the realm of wishful thinking but Covid dashed hopes. In 2019, I booked a Rowan Tree Travel tour to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands but the 2020 and the 2021 September trips were canceled and I eventually opted out of the April 2022 rescheduled tour. While I recognize Denmark and Iceland are distinct countries with unique cultural differences, they share a Nordic heritage and a deep appreciation of northern clime woolens. I could easily imagine myself with Clara visiting an Icelandic sheep farm just as I had hoped to spend a day in the home of a Faroese fiber artist with Rowan Tree Travel guides Heather and Suzie. I do have one tangible connection to Iceland in the form of four skeins of yarn purchased by Amy (the same person who gifted me this book) when she was in country for a destination wedding; yarn I later knit into a Solène Le Roux Cable Promenade Cowl.
As we slowly emerge from our Covid existence, I take to heart Clara’s advice: “There is a time for sitting at home in your pajamas, watching and clicking and quietly forming connections in your mind. And, there’s a time for getting out and being with others, for reaching into the picture and becoming part of it.“
Not everything is simply knit and purl stitches. Sometimes the fiber arts includes a field trip with friends on a rainy spring day.
After reading Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool by Clara Parkes, I had an ever so slight understanding of the intricate transformation required to place a skein in my hand. Yesterday’s visit to Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Processing in Hastings moved Parkes’s words from paper into real life. Our exploration began in the barn where I handfed corralled alpacas (no spitting allowed.) We ooh-ed and aah-ed the herd of goats and kids and then moved into the plant for a discussion of practical tasks like washing, before viewing the mechanical processes of carding, spinning and plying (all requiring lots of math, as well as physics.) We did eventually reach the shop where, yes, we bought yarn.
And, our fiber adventure was only half-begun as after lunch we visited MUSE2320 Fiber Co. and met Sara, an entrepreneurial color artist extraordinaire with ties to northern Wisconsin. Even though she was in the midst of dyeing hundreds of special order skeins following last week’s Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop, we chatted about color, yarn, the river, and the naming of her shop: muse – a source of inspiration and 2,320 – the approximate length of the Mississippi River. I am enamored of the MUSE2320 palate. This shop will definitely become a regular source of beautiful yarn.
Reminiscent of a walk along the beach collecting shell treasures, Marie Greene describes her latest design as “watercolor-inspired waves opening into shells and scallops”. Using a lovely merino wool and silk blend, The Aquarelle Shawl is my most recent mystery knit along (KAL) project.
Trusting the designer, I cast on in real time with other Knit Campers on April 1 (no fooling) and watched my project evolve without benefit of knowing a final design other than its crescent shape. The pattern was released over two weeks in four mystery clues and revealed shells constructed with yarn drawn over rows of stitches and then mirrored in lace. The long rows of garter stitch, which anchor the decorative design elements, remind me of tides lines lightly scored in water packed sand.
In addition to the fluidity afforded by the silk, the contrasting colors of the two skeins ripple through the fabric alternating between a solid rich teal and a complimentary fingering with ivory, blue and green tones. The colors flow quite like John Lurie’s watercolors on HBO’s Painting with John proving that The Aquarelle Shawl is true to its painting namesake, aquarelle – a “technique of painting in transparent, rather than opaque, watercolours” as defined by Encyclopedia Britannica.
While the list of survey questions is not nearly as extensive as a Myers Briggs personality test, the Knit Camp Stash Sprint quiz does incorporate aspects of actual psychological analysis. Of Marie Greene’s three basic yarn collector types, Fiber Sentimentalist, Optimistic Acquirer, and Strategic Stasher, my profile falls strongly into this last category. Individual traits include:
- Well organized stash. (I pride myself on having every skein carefully cataloged on Ravelry with important details duly noted such as weight, color, dye lot, purchase price and date, including a photo for quick visual ID.)
- Well planned projects and purchases.
- Likely to use exactly-the right-yarn for the job which often necessitates purchasing new yarn rather than substituting.
- Willing to relinquish yarn if a project changes direction. (As proof, 14 skeins found their way to new homes as prizes for the Zumbro River Fiber Arts Guild: Knitting Group’s first ever annual Winter Finishing Fest.)
During my Stash Sprint class I handled every skein with a discerning eye. While deciding what to keep and what to give, I made some discoveries. Fingering weight comprises a third of my reserves but then many of Martina Behm’s designs require this weight and Hitchhiker is my favorite pattern. DK makes up the next largest quantity but that makes sense as well as it is a great weight for sweaters and my first (and to date, only) dyeing project used this weight. I have never knit anything in lace weight yarn and gave away two skeins but sentimentally kept two simply because of when and where I purchased them. Since my access to the Knit Camp Stash Sprint class never expires, it will be interesting to see how my stashing patterns evolve and whether, after taking this online course, if I reframe my approach to yarn acquisition.
Just in time to tackle a spring mystery knit-along (MKAL) with Marie Greene and to learn brioche with members of the Zumbro River Fiber Artists Guild’s Knitting Group, my WIP (Work-in-Progress) count has been reduced by three on this Finished Object Friday (FOF). The deep heather blue scarf and muted lavender shawelette have yet to find homes but the vibrant yellow sweater will be gifted to a great niece or nephew arriving in May. (Shhhh! It is still a secret for the mom and dad-to-be.)
The small Gansey sweater, designed by Marie Greene, incorporates a cabled yoke for bit of decoration on the practical pullover knit using an easy to care for cotton, nylon, rayon, and silk blend. Knit in a size 2-4, my new great-great niece or nephew will have something to grow into and, hopefully, will have many days of warm wear.
The blue wool scarf is another of Marie’s designs. Reminiscent of barrel staves and trellised grape plants, the French Oak pattern reveals off-center cables traveling the length of the scarf like grape vines. And, I am starting out a new year with another Hitchhiker, perfect for a special person knit in 100% rustic silk with Czech glass beads decorating each tip. This is Hitchhiker #23 in my collection of hand-knit gifts.
In keeping with the theme of #FOFriday – finished object Friday – I am showing off my finished Vivi from the January/February sweater knit-along (KAL) with Marie Greene. Based on progress postings and Zoom meeting reports, hundreds of other knitters enjoyed this project as much as I did.
This January Workshop KAL is the fourth of Marie’s annual offerings – something new for the New Year. Through her integrated curriculum, this community-based project allows knitters to explore the fiber arts from a faraway place; a virtual vacation each year. During the two month KAL, Marie offered technical lessons on topics such as shoulder construction, provided historical background on Danish “night” sweaters, and even shared scrumptious traditional pastry recipes – Yumm!
The KAL officially launched January 1 although Knit Campers (that’s me) were awarded an early pattern release by a few days. On December 30, I casted on 292 stitches of worsted Berroco Ultra Wool in Chili Red to start this bottom-up construction and I worked my last bind off cuff stitch on February 26. Squishy soft after blocking and plenty warm for chilly spring days.
I tend to be a monogamous knitter, that is one big project on the needles at a time, but this winter was different. As our world contended with yet another Covid variant and surging infection rates, I stayed home knitting and reading. (Are there any better cold weather tasks?) I alternated between my red Knit Camp knit-along (KAL) sweater, Vivi, and a gray gansey afghan.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines gansey as “a thick, knitted sweater made of yarn, of a type originally worn by fishermen; synonym – guernsey.”
Originating over 400 years ago on the Channel Islands, traditional ganseys were tightly knit for warmth and as a resistant barrier against cold sea winds and salty sprays. Stitch patterns were inspired by everyday objects aboard ship – lines (ropes), ladders, and nets. My afghan incorporates repeats of garter ribbing, double moss, and diamond brocade stitches on either side of a diagonal chevron zigzag pattern; when put together with Berroco Vintage Chunky (for ease of washing) the result is snuggly warm.
PS – If you are looking for a romantic, period piece with a good story which also depicts the isolation of island life, check out The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
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
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
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.