Knitting

Happy Yarn

white mailing box surrounded by skeins of different colored yarn

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.

Happy knitting!

Photo credit:  © 2023 Sew Happy Jane

Knitting · Reading

2022 Highlighted in Knitting & Books

Taking an inventory of the old year is by no means a unique task.  It is, however, not something I have done previously in this blog.  So here are a few highlights of my 22 knitting projects (some of which you will have already seen) and my titles read – 82 – although to be honest, I indulged in a number of quick read YA fantasies and enjoyed a variety of easy-listening titles while driving to-and-from Eau Claire and hours spent gardening last summer in order to reach this quantity.

Knitting

My Busy Needles

handknit blue shawl with contracting cream colored bands and lace edge
Apple Cart Shawl using Rustic Silk in Niagara Falls and Cape Cod colorways

The word of the day:  précisa shortened version of a speech or written report containing main points and omitting minor details is apropos for this Finished Object Friday (FOF) as I am providing a partial update of what has come off my needles since May.

The most recent project ready to be mailed is the second of two Apple Cart Shawls which features contrasting bands of color, with just enough texture to keep the design interesting.  Both shawls were knit using Ella Rae’s Rustic Silk making them versatile wardrobe additions perfect for Minnesota summer evenings or any time of the year in warmer climes.  This design is one of three in a new series from Marie Greene’s stash buster collection.  Each of the titles in this pattern trio start with A and, from recent reports, the B threesome will be released very soon.

close up of hand knit pick shawl with contracting cream colored bands and lace edge
Apple Cart Shawl using Rustic Silk in Rosenberg and Cape Cod colorways

I commandeered the Ruffled Shawlette for my recent Massachusetts Pilgrimage.  It provided a lovely, dress-up accent for evening dinners and offered a hint of protection in over-zealous air conditioned rooms.  This was also knit using Ella Rae’s Rustic Silk.  It is small, easy to pack and (most important for the well-dressed traveler) wrinkle free.  If you are looking for this kerchief pattern, check out 22 Little Clouds by Martina Behm. 

handknit blue kerchief on wooden hanger
Ruffled Shawlette using Rustic Silk in Graceland

The Mallory Shawl by Heidi Hennessy features a delicate lattice that flows from the tip of the triangle to a wide ribbed base.  Knit using ethically sourced Merino wool from Uruguay, the slightly variegated green tones compliment the interconnecting cables.  The luxurious wrap, perfect for chilly winter days, was a WIP (work-in-progress) from March to September and became my go-to project between other creations. 

handknit green shawl with interconnecting cables twisted throughout
Mallory Shawl using Malabrigo Sock in a Kris colorway

A Suri and silk cowl with a complimentary headband were my first foray into working with lace weight yarn, something that I had shied away from simply due to the super fine nature.  However, in the interest of honest reporting, I did hold the Naturel and Rubia colorways double thus technically making a blended fingering weight mix. The Cooler Side of Warm cowl is designed by Espace Tricot, “a modern knitting shop in Montreal”.

Happy knitting!

handknit coral colored cowl on wooden hanger
Cooler Side of Warm cowl with blended Naturel & Rubia colorways
Knitting

The Aquarelle Shawl

Reminiscent of a walk along the beach collecting shell treasures, Marie Greene describes her latest design as “watercolor-inspired waves opening into shells and scallops”. Using a lovely merino wool and silk blend, The Aquarelle Shawl is my most recent mystery knit along (KAL) project.

Trusting the designer, I cast on in real time with other Knit Campers on April 1 (no fooling) and watched my project evolve without benefit of knowing a final design other than its crescent shape. The pattern was released over two weeks in four mystery clues and revealed shells constructed with yarn drawn over rows of stitches and then mirrored in lace. The long rows of garter stitch, which anchor the decorative design elements, remind me of tides lines lightly scored in water packed sand.

In addition to the fluidity afforded by the silk, the contrasting colors of the two skeins ripple through the fabric alternating between a solid rich teal and a complimentary fingering with ivory, blue and green tones. The colors flow quite like John Lurie’s watercolors on HBO’s Painting with John proving that The Aquarelle Shawl is true to its painting namesake, aquarelle – a “technique of painting in transparent, rather than opaque, watercolours” as defined by Encyclopedia Britannica.

Knitting

Strategic Stasher

skeins of yarn in multiple colors

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.

Happy knitting!

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

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

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

Halley & Fiadh: A pandemic year of projects

There is something oh so satisfying when a project is laid out on the blocking squares.  And, I can claim double the fun (just like double mint gum) having finished Fiadh, my January-February sweater knit-along (KAL), and my friend’s Halley within just days of each other.

Fiadh is a dense Aran sweater with swirling Celtic cables and funky bobbles designed by Marie Greene and knit using Kelbourne Woolens Lucky Tweed in medium gray with white and black flecks for a very classy look.  After some self-psychoanalysis to discover the why behind being stuck on sleeve island, I hunkered down and finished the cabled sleeves, picked up 338 stitches for the ribbed front band, shawl collar, and added the vibrant orange hidden pockets.  All just in time for 100 degree days, a very unusual meteorological phenomenon for June in Minnesota.

Designed by Martina Behm, another of my go-to designers, Halley incorporates a lacy zigzag reminiscent of Halley’s Comet, as well as stars and meteorites crisscrossing the night sky.  Knit using HiKoo Popcycle, an environmentally conscientious blend of 50% bamboo rayon and 50% polyester from recycled plastic bottles.

Knitting, reading and a bit of writing have been my primary activities during our pandemic lockdown.  As we slowly emerge fully vaccinated from home into public spaces my COVID project inventory totals 35 between March 2020 to June 2021 with Halley and Fiadh being projects #34 and #35, respectively.  Quite an assortment of productivity including three sweaters, seven hats, seven shawls, two pairs of socks, nine cowls, six pairs of mittens (fingerless included) and one cabled, reversible scarf.  Swatching for Fireworks is complete but I am waiting for the pattern release on July 1 before beginning Marie Greene’s fifth annual 4-Day Sweater KAL.  And so I find myself in an unusual state of affairs with nothing on my needles.  Time for a quick delve into the project queue.

Knitting

Project Peace – part 3

Project Peace Shawl – a 2020 Knit-a-long with Christina Campbell

And with the end of 2020 came the completion of this year’s Project Peace shawl.  I started with three stitches and, just before midnight, I cast off 483 stitches while enjoying Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse sing and dance our way into the New Year. 

December was another Covid month; all our gifts arrived by mail but also sunny drives in rural Wisconsin, the first shovelable snow, and quiet knitting while enjoying Christina Campbell’s daily thoughts on peace.  Her words reflect my sentiments on both knitting and peace:

Knitting... such a simple act, one stitch followed by the next,
lined up in columns of stitches, twisting and turning, 
openings here and there, 
ultimately creating a beautiful fabric to warm the recipient...
     knitting ... one stitch at a time from one continuous fiber...
     knitting does not promise to be easy...
     knitting does not promise to be without mistakes and flaws...
     knitting does not promised to be a constant state of harmony...
     and so it is true with peace.
           Christina Campbell, December 21, 2020