Even as my head is full of possibilities having just completed the 3-day, Knit Camp at the Coast, VIP retreat with Marie Greene, I am planning ahead for those frigid days when the garden is in its winter rest. As a means of continuing my knitting immersion, I registered for the 2022 Have a Ball Fall Crawl and several Fireside Chats. These virtual activities were created in 2020 as our world went into pandemic lockdown and local yarn stores (LYS) scrambled to stay afloat. Even as brick-n-mortar sales picked up, shop owners had discovered these online events were an engaging marketing technique. Through the wonder of Zoom, local and distant customers could be brought together with far-flung resources which generated sales and kept ledgers in the black.
The five-day Fall Crawl will feature 28 LYSs located in the U.S. and Canada including several that I frequent often – Yarnology in Winona and 3 Kittens in Mendota Heights (always a regular stop anytime I am on my way to St. Paul); several that I only know as online vendors like Knot Another Hat in Hood River, Oregon, as well as shops that are on my wish list of places to visit like Stash in Charlotte, NC (hopefully as part of November 2023 plans to attend Verse & Vino – that library’s major fundraiser). Each participating shop will have 45-minutes to showcase its specialties, share locally designed patterns, and offer discounted sales. Plus, there are will be prizes just for participating!
The Fall 2022 Fireside Chats will connect Zoom participants and designers from California to Denmark, Uruguay to Maine and beyond. The various creators will share the story of their unique fiber journeys, showcase favorite techniques, and describe their latest creative ventures. There will be time for Q&A, pattern discounts, and (yes) more prizes.
After several recent trips with destinations dependent upon multiple flights, I am ready to be a homebody and pleased that my next “excursion” will be virtual – thanks to the wonder of Zoom and WiFi on my screened porch.
Within hours of Knit Camp at the Coast registration going live in May, I was registered for Marie Greene’s third annual knitting retreat VIP package. The itinerary for this 3-Day event imbues a Pacific NW vibe with days full of new knitting skills taught by well-known practitioners. When you add in coastal drink recipes, small group breakout rooms, and retreat swag, it will be the best non-trip trip of the summer.
In prep for Marie’s Pop Knitting class, I am stash diving for contrasting fingering skeins. As advertised, her shared skills will take a simple beanie and embellish it with “bright twists, braids, and other bursts of colorful texture.”
As a fan of short rows, another session will cover the mechanics of different short row techniques, as well provide advice about when and where to use them. Short rows can be a practical devise (to add a smidge of length to the back of a sweater) or an artful design element.
My calendar is cleared; my homework is on the needles; and my excitement is mounting as I count the days to mid-September fun.
The color combos and at-gauge swatches knit in beautiful yarns as shared by my fellow Knit Campers proved too tempting. With today’s cast-on (after wavering earlier this month) I joined Marie Greene’s sixth annual 4-Day knit-along (KAL). Free patterns (always well designed and precisely written) and advance access prior to the actual pattern drop are among the many Knit Camp membership benefits. So while this KAL officially begins tomorrow, I already have Comfy worsted cotton in a lovely mix of silver sage and planetarium blue on my needles.
Sailaway is a top-down cardigan which takes its inspiration from the current popular Coastal Grandmother Aesthetic fashion style – classic, loose fitting designs, often in natural fibers, and perfect for a summer in the Hamptons. (Imagine Diane Keaton or other older women living in luxurious oceanfront properties.) Having just celebrated 70, with a swatch of purple contrasting against my more salty coiffure, I definitely fall into that demographic group sans the beach house.
I am vacillating as to whether or not to join Marie Greene’s six annual 4-Day sweater knit-a-long (KAL). While I do not aspire to knit a sweater in just four days, I can satisfactorily attest to the success of my previous 4-Day KAL participation. Each of my three projects, Foxtrot in 2019, Soundtrack during the summer months of our 2020 Covid quarantine and last summer’s Fireworks, resulted in sweaters that are worn regularly and (quite pleasantly) receive lots of compliments. All points in the pro column. Add to the positive list that this summer’s 4-Day pattern, Sailaway, was designed to accommodate different yarn weights and even different fibers. So while I don’t really need another wool sweater (lovely as they are), it is quite tempting to consider knitting one using a plant-based blended yarn. My previous cotton projects have been dishcloth gifts so definitely a more challenging endeavor.
While Marie’s summer designs always integrate a new stitch to hold KAL participants’ interest, the 4-Day pattern strives for simple lines should anyone actually feel the need for speed. This summer’s top-down, seamless cardigan fits that prerequisite. The knitter (that might be me) can opt for two contrasting colors on a slip-stitched yoke or a pattern with a little less fuss where the featured mini sails are revealed in just one complementary color. This version also sports a slightly taller collar and pinstripes.
Decisions, decisions – just like Hamlet, to KAL or not to KAL that is the question and then to decide, with or without buttons.
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, TheAquarelle 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.