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

Fireworks

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!)

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

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

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

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

A Year of Projects – part 2

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!

Selwyn – A Knit Camp cowl KAL
Knitting · Writing

YoP – A Year of Projects

I consider myself a fastidious Ravelry user.  I have taken pictures and recorded new yarn in my motel room within hours of visiting a yarn store and project pages are a must.  Maybe there is a secret cataloger lurking in me that desires to keep an orderly record or it could be that with 154 projects (to date) my memory can get a bit fuzzy about what I have knit when and with what yarn. 

Not surprising with over 13,000 Ravelry groups some so small they only include 2-4 people and others with memberships well into five figures there is a discussion forum for bloggers.  A Year of Projects blog-a-long offers a framework to keep track of what can be a chaotic mix of actual works-in-progress (WIP) and those that are only dreams; while encouraging writers to write all with the added bonus of a built in audience among the participating bloggers.

Having just re-joined the blogging sphere in May, I have yet to suffer from prolonged writer’s block and who knows if Knit+ Librarian will continue beyond this pandemic sequester but A Year of Projects could be useful as an online writers’ group.  As I am joining the group mid-year, my list of projects yet to be tackled (with or without an accompanying blog post) includes:

  • Hortensia Mitts and Hortensia Hat from Solène Le Roux – WIP
  • Project Peace 2020 KAL with Christina Campbell – awaiting yarn
  • River of Dreams Bedrunner – WIP
  • Selwyn a Knit Camp KAL with Marie Greene – WIP
  • New Knit Camp patterns as they are released monthly by Marie Greene (specific details to follow)

Knitting

Three to Get Ready

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!

Knitting

Project Peace 2020

During a week of rollercoaster emotions but definitely a big add in my positive column, is the news that Christina Campbell will host another Project Peace knit-along.  Since 2016, I have joined her and knitters from around the world by picking up my needles and conscientiously focusing on peace during hectic December days.  What started five years ago as a unique idea to conduct a knitting “peace-along” after the electoral dismay of 2016 has continued each December. Every year Christina shares a new themed pattern and daily meditations.  Project Peace 2020’s theme is “peace in place inspired by the need to connect with place during the pandemic and find peace in the now.”

My Ravelry project page is built and I am anxiously awaiting yarn suggestions (November 18) and the pattern drop on November 30. I am already imaging the fiber loveliness that will become an elongated, textured shawl since Christina’s previous patterns gave me these crafted beauties.

You can even follow everyone’s progress on Instagram: @thehealthyknitter by checking the hashtags: #projectpeace2020 and #knitforpeace.