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!)
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.
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?
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.
While my Ravelry project page certainly records sweaters, specifically nine before 2020, sweaters were not my go-to knitting project. The amount of work and time required coupled with horror tales of projects gone wrong with elephantine results kept me working on lots of shawls and scarves. Items where gauge and size were less crucial. Then I found Marie Greene and her 4-day sweater challenge. Admittedly, my Foxtrot took over two months to complete but I was so pleased with the results that I selected another of Marie’s patterns, Houghton, to knit a sweater for Mom using a lush English merino-mohair blend. Then, thinking ahead to fall travels (in pre-Covid times) I knit the same cardigan for myself using the same yarn in the same color and even the same buttons. This became the first of my 2020 sweaters. Soundtrack, another 4-day challenge completed in 22-days, was sweater #2.
Now, just off the needles and the blocking squares is Happy Hour. Designed around the pre-Covid memory of outings with friends for happy hour, the sweater includes a colorwork yoke with a 3 PM, 4 PM or 5 PM pattern repeat, as well as a fanciful repeat on each sleeve. I opted for three pattern repeat with a nod to an early toast at the end of the work day.
In this very strange year when daily wear is almost exclusively comfy casual clothes with only an infrequent ZOOM meeting to show off three new sweaters I have transformed 4,397 yards into three sweaters all within 41 weeks. My far flung Knit Camp buddies have offered encouragement and instruction making it all happen, as well as another 18 smaller projects for family, friends, and fundraising service auctions. Happy knitting!
Who knew it could be done, a sweater knit in 4-days? Well, Marie Greene for one. While I did not make an actually four-day finish line, I did complete my version of Soundtrack in less time than allowed for the 2020 knit-along (KAL), July 1-31. The pattern officially dropped on July 1 for the thousands participating in this KAL but as a Knit Camp camper I had 24-hour advance availability. With yarn purchased from my local yarn store (LYS) Northfield Yarn and my swatch meeting gauge in hand, I cast-on on June 30 and completed my second sleeve on July 21. My final progress report with ends woven in and sweater off the blocking squares was posted on July 28. Soundtrack is a top-down sweater with rows of colorwork representing LP record grooves, hence the name. My progress reports incorporated some of my favorite albums in keeping with the KAL theme.