Knitting

Together / Zusammen

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

Knitting

Stash Sprint

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
yarn stored in containers

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.

Knitting

Vivi KAL 2022

ten laser cut knitting stitchmarkers and gold coil-less safety pins on linen background
Vivi custom stitch markers from Olive Knits

After a wardrobe review, I admit I do not need another sweater. Having knit two in 2021 that I wear infrequently due to our continued Covid stay at home-ness, I initially decided to pass on Marie Greene’s 4th annual January Workshop KAL (knit-along).  But then I was swept up in the enthusiasm of my fellow Knit Campers’ yarn selections and color choices, plus Marie’s newest design features (my favorite) cables!

Ironically, while my September trip to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands was cancelled, I will enjoy Danish artistry virtually with Vivi. Pattern pictures reveal a lattice of cabled diamonds gracing the sweater’s front and Danish stars decorating the sides.  Unlike the intricate colorwork of Scandinavian cousins, these Danish designs rely on subtle stitch definition against a monochromatic backdrop.  And, as always, during the eight weeks of this annual workshop KAL, Marie will share historical background, new techniques via video tutorials, and ethnic recipes for culinary exploration, as well as a large dose of “hygge” – perfect for this lingering pandemic.

Happy knitting!

Photo credit: © Marie Greene

Knitting

Mistakes Encouraged

red, yellow and green pine shape lollipops with red ribbon

When I was little girl, I used a variety of rhymes to help make choices.  You may have as well.  A syllable paired with each point of the finger to choose the grape or the cherry lollipop or to determine which of two sides would kick first in kickball.  Back then, the very act of recitation felt quite magical.  A difficult decision simplified.  As adults we know the decision was made with the first point of the finger because of a set number of syllables.  

And yet, even knowing that in many aspects of our lives there are a set number of syllables, I am always surprised when what appears to be the disparate aspects of my life come together.  How is it that liturgical preparations and searching for a new knitting pattern can blend so seamlessly?

Living with Intention is the theme of my spiritual reflections this month and I discovered very similar language in these meditations and recent blog posts by two of my “go-to” knitting designers.  Christina Campbell in Iowa and Solène Le Roux in France both infuse nature into their designs, whether incorporating leaf patterns or revealing rippling water as yarn is transformed from skein to knitted object.  Both designers take a very holistic approach to their craft.  It is not about just the design or the fiber, but the whole experience; encouraging the reader, the knitter to pause, to develop the muscle of inspiration, to connect with nature and each other; encouraging the knitter, encouraging the person to act with intent.

In Navajo weaving every thread tells a story.  The weaver brings the strands together not just to accomplish a function – a finished blanket or rug – but with the specific intention to communicate the culture, the land, a way of life.  Traditional Navajo weaving requires the weaver to incorporate a mistake.  This is done in homage to the belief that only the creator is perfect and acknowledges the weaver is not.  To live with intention or in this case to weave with intention. 

Now, I admit I have a difficult time with mistakes when I am knitting.  I have been known to rip out an evening’s work – rows and rows, thousands of stitches when I discover a break in the design, something that jumps out as an eyesore.  Even with all my experience knitting the same row again and again, I cannot claim that I have ever come close to knitting anything without error and I am certainly not good enough to emulate the Navajo weavers such that the mistake becomes a design element enhancing the final piece.  And so the advice from English writer, Neil Gaiman, spoke to my heart and hands and I hope his words will resonate with you as well as we move into a new year; a new year in which there are sure to be plenty of unknowns.  Gaiman writes:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Photo credit: Old Fashion Lollipop Recipe from Taste of Home

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.