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.
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 Fiadhsweater 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.
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.
I don’t remember ever buying anything with a bobble. My pre-retirement wardrobe was chosen to set a professional tone, nothing frilly. Bobbles, while proportionally smaller, were like pompoms, to be avoided. Even when knitting for others, not a single hat is topped with a fuzzy ball. And yet…I harbored a secret attraction to the funny little nibs of texture.
Two of my three Building Block Shawls included a 12×12 inch square with rows of bobbles framed by lacy yarn overs. Ever since I completed those squares in October 2013, I have wondered what project might lead me back to that bit of whimsy. Visions of earlier eras, although definitely not simpler times; Bletchley Circle heroines in hand knit sweaters with intricate cables and bobbles.
Intended as easy to pack warmth against the chilly Faroe Islands air where, as the travel literature warns, visitors can experience all four seasons with related precipitation on a given day, my Cable Bobble Hat & Cowlnudged me toward the capricious. Enough so that I succumbed to Knit Camp eyecandy and joined the January Workshop KAL (knit-along). As Fiadh (an Irish name meaning wild) grows on my needles, a controlled tangle of cables is being revealed and, yes, bobbles too.
At the beginning of this holiday month, I joined the Ravelry group, A Year of Projects, mid-way through its July – June year. After years of managing an organization with a fiscal year of those same months, work that included lots of grant applications to secure Federal and state funds, I had planned to treat December as just another month and, once again, do the real work in June. But we all know 2020 has been anything but normal and I have been inspired by my fellow writers’ December summaries. Here is an update on that earlier list:
I frogged the first Hortensia Mitt back to the cuff as I did not like the long strands of yarn on the inside which will surely catch. These await time and more practice with locked floats.
After a yarn delay, my Project Peace 2020 KAL shawl is 12 rows from completion. Currently at 455 stitches (having started with three), each row takes considerable time (made less tedious by a good audio book) as I work towards a final stitch count of 483. Still with a goal to complete in December.
A second delayed shipment stalled my work on the River of Dreams bedrunner but that is underway again and an easy knit during evening TV viewing, sometimes even with subtitles.
I did complete one project in December, the Knit Camp cowl, Selwyn! There is a forthcoming pattern for a hat-to-match which will make a very nice set.
I am deep into swatching and measuring for a new sweater, Fiadh, which the pre-release notes describe as “A textured Irish Aran cardigan with cables, double moss stitch and a shawl collar.” The pattern drops on Monday, January 4 and, unlike earlier projects, my authentic heather gray Donegal Tweed yarn is already in hand. The teases reveal an intricate cable design incorporating four different styles covering the sweater’s front panels, back and sleeves, plus decorative bobbles bordering the ribbed button band. Happy New Year and happy knitting!