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

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

Color & Texture: Choices, choices, choices

Made in Holland – A Wall of Yarn at Stephen & Penelope, Amsterdam, August 20, 2018

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.

Knitting

A bit of whimsy…

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 & Cowl nudged 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. 

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
Art · Knitting · Writing

Project Peace – part 2

Chihuly: Nature of Glass – Desert Towers, 2008

Each morning a smidge of peace arrives in my mailbox; just a click away from a longer meditation.  From December 1-21, in addition to a wonderful knit-a-long pattern, Christina Campbell shares daily reflections on her 2020 theme “peace in place”.  Her creative writing, landscape photographs, and peace building challenges are inspirational.  I am writing more and reflecting on her definition of peace “…cultivating right relationships with self, others, and the Earth”.  

While Phoenix is not our stay-in-place place in these Covid times, I remember a quiet walk through the Desert Botanical Garden.  The trails wend through flora exotic to my Midwest field and forest eye.  The garden offers brilliant pops of color against the subdued desert backdrop, as well as sculpture placed so artfully so as to merge with the landscape.  Certainly what Chihuly intended with his Glass Towers.  In another era we might have asked:  Is it live or is it Memorex?

Join me on this peace filled journey at the Healthy Knitter.  Knitting not required.

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.  

Knitting · Reading

Fox in Socks

Fox    Socks    Box    Knox    Knox in box.  Fox in socks.

After my toe-up Ruisseau Socks, I swore off knitting this particular clothes item.  Too fussy.  All that work to complete just one and, of course, one is not enough so you are done but not done.  Then the September Knit Camp project was (you guessed it) SOCKS.  So, ever the practical person (after all why pay for classes and then skip them) I tackled another pair.  Designed by Marie Greene and dubbed Milkshake Socks because this is “An old-fashion recipe for plain socks that you can shake up with your choice of colorful yarns. … Think of your yarn choice like adding flavor to your milkshake.” 

Gauge for Ruisseau required US #1 needles.  My first time working with something that small and my sock learning experience was to continue as Milkshake necessitated a #0 based on my tension and this yarn.  To get a sense of size – pull out a ruler with metric measurements.  A #1 needle is 2.25mm in diameter and the #0 a fraction smaller at 2mm.

New socks.  Two socks.  Whose socks?  Sue’s socks.  Who sews whose socks?  Sue sews Sue’s socks.

No new yarn was purchased for this project as I did a stash dive for this orange-turquoise-gray self-striping skein called Enceladus (one of Saturn’s ice moons).  The color combo was unique to Northfield Yarns and purchased during the 2015 YarnVenture shop hop.  At the time I had yet to knit a pair of socks or even add them to my project queue.  I picked up the exclusive hand dyed skein solely because as it was featured by what I now dub my local yarn store (LYS).

With my Milkshake Socks complete, I think I may really be done with socks – – – Thank you Dr. Suess and Fox in Socks [or not!]

Knitting

Traveling to the Beach – Virtually

After years of attending library conferences that were defined by long days, lots of sessions, vendor meetings, networking and tasty meals shared with colleagues, as well as visiting unique locations – Wrigley Field, Independence Hall, or walking the Golden Gate Bridge, I am experiencing conference life – Covid style.

Repos Hat in a squishy Merino & cashmere blend

Just this month, I participated in restful meditations while knitting my Repos Hat with Solène Le Roux, a French knitting artist whose work I love.  Her Zoom and Facebook Live sessions featured daily themed meditations in French and English, as well as stitch instruction that complimented her most recent five part mystery knit-along (KAL). (French to English translation: repos – rest)

After those quiet days, I joined the exuberant Marie Greene and her Olive Knit team for the inaugural beach and camp themed Knit Camp at the Coast.  I joined hundreds and hundreds of knitters from around the world.  (Although, I was in a couple of breakout groups with people from Carver, Rochester and Zumbrota, Minnesota – small world!)  I learned new techniques for socks and stranded knitting which I can incorporate into current projects on my needles, tackled my first Brioche sample (that is going to take a lot more practice) and even took restful breaks led by Yoga for Knotted Knitters – great for my tense shoulders.

My comfort level with traveling in this time of Covid is very low (non-existent actually) so while I hope to join others in real places for future workshops and tours, the virtual learning and crafting opportunities are just right for 2020. Happy knitting!