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.

Knitting

Halley & Fiadh: A pandemic year of projects

There is something oh so satisfying when a project is laid out on the blocking squares.  And, I can claim double the fun (just like double mint gum) having finished Fiadh, my January-February sweater knit-along (KAL), and my friend’s Halley within just days of each other.

Fiadh is a dense Aran sweater with swirling Celtic cables and funky bobbles designed by Marie Greene and knit using Kelbourne Woolens Lucky Tweed in medium gray with white and black flecks for a very classy look.  After some self-psychoanalysis to discover the why behind being stuck on sleeve island, I hunkered down and finished the cabled sleeves, picked up 338 stitches for the ribbed front band, shawl collar, and added the vibrant orange hidden pockets.  All just in time for 100 degree days, a very unusual meteorological phenomenon for June in Minnesota.

Designed by Martina Behm, another of my go-to designers, Halley incorporates a lacy zigzag reminiscent of Halley’s Comet, as well as stars and meteorites crisscrossing the night sky.  Knit using HiKoo Popcycle, an environmentally conscientious blend of 50% bamboo rayon and 50% polyester from recycled plastic bottles.

Knitting, reading and a bit of writing have been my primary activities during our pandemic lockdown.  As we slowly emerge fully vaccinated from home into public spaces my COVID project inventory totals 35 between March 2020 to June 2021 with Halley and Fiadh being projects #34 and #35, respectively.  Quite an assortment of productivity including three sweaters, seven hats, seven shawls, two pairs of socks, nine cowls, six pairs of mittens (fingerless included) and one cabled, reversible scarf.  Swatching for Fireworks is complete but I am waiting for the pattern release on July 1 before beginning Marie Greene’s fifth annual 4-Day Sweater KAL.  And so I find myself in an unusual state of affairs with nothing on my needles.  Time for a quick delve into the project queue.

Knitting

4-Day Sweater Redux – Actually Anew

skein of golden tweed yarn and swatch with stitch counter

Having become un-Stuck on my January sweater knit-along (KAL) Fiadh, although still not quite finished, I am already gearing up for Marie Greene’s fifth annual 4-Day KAL with Fireworks.  My swatches to test gauge are complete and all that is missing is the pattern – which will be released July 1 complete with a celebratory Virtual Cast On Party (with prizes) at 8 am PDT / 10 am CDT for me.

This commitment to a sweater, or any project, sight unseen is highly unusual for me.  While my first mystery KAL (where portions of the directions were revealed week by week) actually resulted in a very wearable item, I usually wait days or weeks or even years before joining other KAL knitters just to make sure that the pattern is a good fit with my knitting style and preferences.  With great faith in Marie’s classic designs, her well-tested patterns (sometimes by over a 100 test knitters plus technical editing to find every bug) and the cheerleader-like support from the Olive Knit staff and my fellow Knit Campers, I made the plunge and purchased seven skeins of luxurious DK weight, merino yarn hand-dyed by Heather Jane at sew happy jane before the pattern reveal.

While dubbed a 4-Day KAL, pacing can be my own after all, I am the boss of my sweater.  There will be those who will slam through but I plan a more sedate summer project spent on the screened porch with ice cold libations close at hand while listening to our new solar fountain bubble.  This will be 4-Day number three for me.  Foxtrot (2019) took over two months but I greatly reduced my completion time to 22 days for Soundtrack during our COVID lockdown.  Who knows what Fireworks will bring?

Happy knitting!

Knitting

Stuck

knit sleeve with cables still on knitting needles
WIP – Fiadh left sleeve just inches from knitting the cuff

It is not often I admit to feeling “stuck” while knitting.  My list of frogged projects is surprisingly small as only two have moved from my needles back into balls of yarn and into the realm of never more.  Three colorwork projects have drifted lower on my queue awaiting more research on stranded knitting and five are hibernating with yarn purchased just needing time to start.    

While cast on with great gusto in January, my Fiadh sweater is still mid-sleeve with front band and pockets yet to be started.  I am oh so close but so not done.  The only other time I remember feeling this stuck was my first (and to-date only) felted project.  The pre-fulled mittens made it off my needles.  As the pattern directed, the mitts were much larger than any hand (unless the hand belonged to an MMA fighter) but I was intimidated by the wet felting process, so they sat for seven years.  But my sweater delays cannot be blamed on a lack of technique.  I have the stitches covered.

I keep trying to analyze how my January enthusiasm for the interlocking cables and framed bobbles waned.  At first, I attributed my glacial-like progress to the spring temps and the urge to get herbs into the backdoor pots.  That my Fiadh sleeves were stuck mid-bicep, then at the elbow and now just before the cuff because I was gardening rather than knitting seemed a valid rationale.   But not really.  I was not gardening after dark and I was knitting every night and even during the day if there was a Cubs baseball game or Formula 1 free practice, qualifying, or race to watch.  Just not working on this sweater.

I finally realized I deeply associate Fiadh with the many months of our social distanced, masked quarantine.  Previously in awe of intricate Aran designs, the COVID lockdown gave me license to tackle something big and beautiful.  My “stuck-ness“ may be a visual example of my own version of re-entry anxiety; that somehow the completion of this sweater and my re-entry are linked even though I know I control when and how I choose to re-engage.

The revised Re-Gathering Guidelines for church begin with this practical yet inspiring statement. And, when applied to my everyday life, these words remind me to treat myself kindly and help re-infuse my enthusiasm for Fiadh cables and bobbles.

With care for each other’s health – body, mind and spirit – we will move into new phases gradually while valuing inclusion, science, flexibility, and grace.

Knitting

Color & Texture: Choices, choices, choices

Made in Holland – A Wall of Yarn at Stephen & Penelope, Amsterdam, August 20, 2018

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.

Knitting

Two shawls complete & a sweater on the needles: Year of Projects Update

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.

Knitting

A Day to Celebrate Yarn

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.

Happy Local Yarn Store Day!

Knitting

Staying warm until winter is really over

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.

Knitting · Reading

Knitting in the City

Knitting in the City © Penny Reid

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.

Happy reading!