Knitting

Covid Craft Casualty

green and white knit cowl on wooden hanger
Camino de Paz (a path of peace) Cowl – 2017

In September, I was excited to learn that Christina Campbell (one of my favorite designers) was mulling over themes and working on designs for her sixth annual Project Peace knit-along (KAL).  I have been a faithful participant and my completed project list includes seven of her patterns among which are four previous Project Peace designs.  (The 2018 cowl just never made it to my needles.)  At the time, I even thought to create a Ravelry project page as a placeholder just to get ready. 

Then, as the days slipped from autumn into winter without any additional hints of her creative direction, I wondered if this year’s Project Peace might be yet another pandemic casualty.  And, on what should have been launch day, she alerted the readers of her blog that even with a new pattern created, an appropriate theme selected, and original artwork designed, her heart just wasn’t into managing a knit-along and leading a month of daily meditations.  She was “letting go” Project Peace, not for forever but for 2021.  While disappointed from a craft perspective, I applaud her honest courage.  My first thought was, with two of Christina’s designs in my project queue, I would simply substitute one for another and create my own KAL (just without the “along”.)  Then, after a bit of reflection, I decided to follow her example of “letting go” to focus on the six projects already on my needles and leave her beautiful designs for another time.

Knitting

Hitchhiker

three handknit scarves in red, purple and green
Hitchhikers for Lani, Jane & Ann

Among the nearly 1.1 million patterns inventoried on Ravelry, Martina Behm’s Hitchhiker is the most popular and it is one of my favorites as well.  Since casting on my first version of this asymmetrical scarf / shawlette in June 2016, I’ve completed 21 projects – the most recent just off my needles.  I’ve kept and wear only one, all the others have been shared as gifts or fundraising donations.

Hitchhiker is the perfect design to showcase a single skein of fingering weight yarn and can be easily adapted by adding intermittent lace rows or bead embellishments.  The knitter begins by casting on just three stitches, increasing one stitch each row, decreasing five stitches every eight rows to create the zigzag steps and simply knitting until all (or nearly all) the yarn is used.  The yarn’s textures and colors take center stage, although the saw-tooth border along one edge offers a unique sculptural effect.

With the perfect yardage, Hitchhiker will deliver 42 points on the saw-tooth edge, Martina’s homage to The Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy in which the reader learns that the answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is simply 42.  But not to worry, should the yarn run out before reaching the mythical number, the end result will still be perfect.

Knitting

Kool Way to Dye

multi-colored yarn on wooden bench
Top to bottom: Cranberry Chutney, Sage, Tutti Teal, Speckled Peach Melba & Grapefruit Sparkler

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Throughout the week, we tackled a colorway a day.  My original plan was to set up a temporary dye studio in the garage with a borrowed Coleman camp stove as my heat source.  But that was me worrying unnecessarily about Kool-Aid spills and stains on the parquet floor.  Dyeing in the garage required far too much extra work to move cars, assemble a work surface, and collect tools and supplies each day since the Audi Q5 and VW GTI would need to be parked back under cover at night.  Our final production line was in the kitchen with water, heat, and tools all close at hand.

During Knit Camp at the Coast, Heather Best from sew happy jane promised to “turn some pretty skeins into some Pretty Amazing skeins.”  While we carefully mixed our Kool-Aid combos and watched the pot (to make sure it didn’t boil) our skeins of bare merino DK yarn artfully shifted from au naturel to subtle hues.  As a readily available foodstuff, in a multitude of flavors (which translated into colors) the Kool-Aid packets provided easy to mix, manageable quantities that already contained citric acid, thus they eliminated the need to add chemicals possibly less friendly to the environment.  One by one, each skein went through a multi-step immersion process:

  • Soak.
  • Simmer.
  • Steep.
  • (Speckle & steam – just sometimes.)
  • Rinse.
  • Dry.

Two days into our routine, with Kool-Aid Sage twisted into a loose hank and Speckled Peach Melba steeping, I made a discovery – dyeing would not become my new passion.  As the work continued, we had fun creating the lovely semi-solid fibers, as well as sprinkling contrasting specks.  By skein five, I even concocted my own colorway – Tutti Teal (a variation of Heather’s Tutti Fruiti).  But I am comfortable knowing my excitement comes from the craft of knitting – finding the perfect yarn, pairing it with the ideal pattern, and creating just the right gift while, hopefully, learning a new technique rather than playing with pigments.

When I first started buying yarn, facing a wall of color in different weights and textures was a bit overwhelming.  Now, I can easily spend an hour or more immersed in tactile and visual sensations enjoying whatever my local yarn store (LYS) has on display.  While, possessing only the most rudimentary understanding of yarn production, I already recognized that a lot of work went into each skein in my hand.  That appreciation has grown exponentially with this micro-dyeing project.  But hand dyeing, to paraphrase the witches in Macbeth, at least for me, is akin to “double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.”  Although, in the interest of full disclosure, my fire and cauldron consisted of a white LG glass top stove and a Marshall Field Marketplace stainless steel stock pot.  Then again, one does have to wonder what colors might emerge if, instead of Kool-Aid, the pot contained any of the natural ingredients from my high school drama role as Second Witch.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
     Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1
Knitting

Yet more virtual knitting fun!

As if Knit Camp at the Coast, a virtual, two-day retreat with Marie Greene, hundreds of other Knit Camp campers, fun classes featuring  nationally known instructors, and “get-to-known each other” break-out sessions, was not enough to fill my Friday and Saturday, there is a virtual yarn crawl this weekend and next.  Through the wonder of technology (one of only a few benefits of pandemic living), 36 small shops, from distant corners of the continent, will be transformed into the viewer’s local yarn store – LYS.   From California to Quebec, Oregon to Alabama with Minnesota well represented.

logo for 2021 Have a Ball Fall Crawl

Using Zoom and Facebook, each fiber entrepreneur will share exciting new products, fun kits, bundles, and unique offerings.  And, best of all:  Prizes!  Registration is free so sign up today and join me at the Have a Ball Fall Crawl.

Knitting

Meditative Knitting – Good for the Soul

blue and teal handknit lace scarf

Released early during our pandemic lockdown, Christina Campbell’s Metanoia Wrap artfully achieves its goal of blending simple garter stitches with classic lace to create a meditative experience while knitting.  Ever the teacher, she offers a translation for the Greek title: 

‘Meta’ means life and ‘Noia’ is change … A knitted journey during a tumultuous time as our way of life changes.

Calling for two contrasting skeins of yarn, each half of the scarf mirrors the other with rippling color.  The repetitive lace segments appear different from each other but this is only an illusion since they match row-for-row.  The Boca Chica colorways in rich blue Hurricane and subtle flecked aqua Seaglass artfully capture the vibrant hues of the Florida Keys for which these limited hand-dyed skeins are named.

Knitting · Travel

Denmark – Not to Be

green grass, small stone houses, mountains, blue sky with white clouds
A picture perfect day on the Faroe Islands
Rowan Tree Travels and fibercraft

It feels like every suspense novel ever read, every film noir ever screened, this waiting to learn of what will be and will not be in our ongoing Covid saga.  This morning’s email made it official — the Rowan Tree Travel Fiber Adventure to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands has been postponed – AGAIN.

The tour planners, Heather and Suzie, have carefully monitored EU travel requirements, health notices for specific stops along the way and they have even gone so far as to take a trip to Scotland to assess just how difficult international travel might be in these strange times.  (Suzie’s blog offers her travel musings along the way with an array of photos such that the reader can almost feel the crisp highland air.)  But in the end, with cases of the Delta variant on the rise in the US, the frequent testing points mandated while traveling, the uncertainty surrounding quarantine procedures in situ for anyone testing positive, and time delays required for laying low upon arrival, even when healthy, all became just too many variables to manage.  The fun of adventure and exploration lost to the stress of pandemic travel.  So I am no longer counting the days and will stay Minnesota bound.

Knitting

Voilà! A Trip to the Coast

Last summer while slogging through Covid quarantine days, Marie Greene and her amazing Olive Knits team organized, on short notice, a fun-filled virtual retreat that was so successful so as to necessitate a sequel.  I count myself lucky to have landed a “seat” again this year for Knit Camp at the CoastFor three days, September 16-18, I will join 100s of knitting enthusiasts in 16 unique sessions where we will learn new techniques from a cadre of talented guest instructors.  The class itinerary offers an old nemesis – socks, but also an exclusive pattern with a newly designed stitch and yoga breaks to ease muscles feeling the strain of feverish knitting.  Plus, although well out of my comfort zone but intriguing will be the workshop offered by Heather Best from sew happy janeNot Your Average Kool-Aid Dye Party.  Who knew, all those decades ago when drinking that sugary summer staple (cherry was my favorite) or slurping ice cube popsicles, that the sweet food dye filling the glass would be perfect for “creating gorgeous custom colors for hand-dyed yarns.”  Happy Knitting!

Knitting

Fireworks

It has been years since I twirled sparklers in the warm dark of a summer night at the lakeshore but I almost wish I had some handy to celebrate the completion of my new Fireworks sweater.

With needles poised at the ready, hordes of knitters cast on as soon as Marie Greene’s latest 4-Day knit-along (KAL) pattern dropped on July 1.  Working simultaneously on the same project with 1000s of others, mostly in the U.S. but also scattered worldwide, is a unique experience. And the new Knit Camp app enabled regular progress reports from fellow “Campers” as near as Zumbrota and as far away as Yokosuka, Japan.

Fireworks marked Marie’s fifth annual sweater marathon which she describes as “A celebration of life, friendship, and new beginnings.  The unique firework stitches in this design cascade down the yoke like streams of light in the night’s sky.”  While I never intended to race to completion in 96 hours, I am proud to report that cast on to bind off took just 33 days.  My beautiful Fireworks is off the blocking squares, photographed, the subject of this blog post and now neatly folded away just waiting for our Minnesota weather to cool (which it definitely will!)

Knitting · Travel

Two months & counting the days

sheep and snow crusted rural mountain landscape
© Rowan Tree Travels

Two months from today*, I officially begin my Danish adventure in Copenhagen.  As a small tour company, Rowan Tree Travel continues to satisfy.  They have a great sense for just when I might be edging toward anxiety and need information.  This morning, my in-box held a detailed, 20-page itinerary with a link to their customized travel app (after all “…there is an app for that…”) so I can keep the details on my new phone.  The app also hosts a private messaging service to chat with my yet to meet fellow travelers and fiber-enthusiasts.

This international trip, originally scheduled for September 2020, will be a big first as I come out of our Covid quarantine.  To date, my travels have included only small jaunts — two hours to Eau Claire to visit Mom and my recent two-day excursion up-north with my retired friends, The Directors.  Certainly nothing far away and nothing by plane since February 2020.  And, while I am sure I will cope, it will be strange traveling solo which should make great blog fodder. 

Bon voyage or, as they say in Danish:  “hav en god tur.”

*Although technically my two month countdown for a Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Paris (CDG) to Copenhagen (CPH) flight began July 22.

Knitting

Sommer Camp: More knitting fun

square of gold knitted yarn on maroon background
Fireworks Swatcheroo

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it is off to Sommer Camp I go!

As you can never have too many projects on your needles and I love the idea of joining knitters from around the world, whether brought together for a shared project or to celebrate a creative designer, I just cast on a new shawl for the first day of Sommer Camp with Martina Behm.  And, yes, Sommer is spelled correctly as Martina is hosting this six-week event from Germany.  In addition to podcasts and prizes, the bi-lingual discussions may also serve to re-draw a few of my long dormant neural pathways as some posts may be written only in German.  My goal is to use Google translate as a last resort to verify my translation guesses.

While the rules of Sommer Camp allow for any pattern, I chose a two-toned shawl designed by Martina that she describes as looking a bit like Intarsia but without the worry.  Since stash-diving is always a laudable goal, I can check that task off my list as the two contrasting yet complimentary skeins were purchased as souvenirs during pre-pandemic travels; perfect for the project I have dubbed Zwei Farben (two colors).

All the while, work continues on my Fireworks sweater as part of Marie Greene’s 4-Day knit-along (KAL).  The top-down, yoked pullover features a new stitch which resembles bursts of light against the night sky on the 4th of July or bright celebrations when the home town baseball team wins a game. The yarn fireworks are anchored by a row of delicate bobbles; a capricious design element that has only now, in retirement, entered my wardrobe.