My knitting time during these deep winter months (January into March) has focused on small, quick-to-complete projects while I await participation in my first test knit. The sage colored cowl uses yarn I hand-dyed with Kool-Aid as part of a class with Heather Best and I did a stash dive for the wool, alpaca, mohair, silk blend that resulted in the soft, squishy cable bordered shawl.
The pattern I volunteered to test is currently in the making by Jennifer Berg, Native Knitter. While her projects often incorporate geometric images in contrasting colors reminiscent of Acoma pottery or Navajo blankets, a first glimpse of her new design reflects the dramatic colors the raw southwestern landscape. Proceeds from the sale of this soon-to-be released pattern will benefit MMIW – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Martina Behm’s Strickmich! Club has gone on hiatus for 2023 so no squishy packages will arrive this winter from Damsdorf, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Lest I miss the excitement of mystery yarn deliveries, I have filled the gap by joining the Sew Happy Jane Hand Dyed Happy Yarn Club.
Heather Best is an amazing fiber colorist. I used her DK tweed in the Brighter Day colorway for my Fireworks pullover and a matching cowl. The yarn was lovely to work with and that sweater is among my favorites for a bit of warm color on a gray winter day. Using her Kool-Aid formulas, (Yes, the sweet summer drink concoction!) I took five skeins from au naturel wool to subtle hues all the while learning that my passion is not as a dyer.
She begins dying each month’s palate only after club orders are placed. This ensures accurate quantities without overstocking and enables members to choose Fingering or DK weight yarn in single 100g. skeins or to double the fun with a pair of perfectly coordinated hanks – 1 tonal and 1 painted. And, if beautiful yarn is not a prize in itself, each themed box includes curated gifts. Club members may vary weights and quantities each month and even pause participation for a month or two without totally disengaging. The flexible subscription plan is great for participants, although I imagine this marketing approach requires more recordkeeping. Waiting is the only downside of this new yarn service. On these gray January days, while Heather is deep in color-filled production, I must wait to discover the treasures of my February Happy Yarn Club box.
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.
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:
(Speckle & steam – just sometimes.)
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
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?
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.
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.
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!