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

Voilà! A Trip to the Coast

Last summer while slogging through Covid quarantine days, Marie Greene and her amazing Olive Knits team organized, on short notice, a fun-filled virtual retreat that was so successful so as to necessitate a sequel.  I count myself lucky to have landed a “seat” again this year for Knit Camp at the CoastFor three days, September 16-18, I will join 100s of knitting enthusiasts in 16 unique sessions where we will learn new techniques from a cadre of talented guest instructors.  The class itinerary offers an old nemesis – socks, but also an exclusive pattern with a newly designed stitch and yoga breaks to ease muscles feeling the strain of feverish knitting.  Plus, although well out of my comfort zone but intriguing will be the workshop offered by Heather Best from sew happy janeNot Your Average Kool-Aid Dye Party.  Who knew, all those decades ago when drinking that sugary summer staple (cherry was my favorite) or slurping ice cube popsicles, that the sweet food dye filling the glass would be perfect for “creating gorgeous custom colors for hand-dyed yarns.”  Happy Knitting!

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!

Reading

My Book Clubs – Number Growing

four open books stacked on one another with pages of top book fanned in the light
Photo from Pexels-pixabay

I promised myself retirement would be like my favorite summer, 1976, filled with lots of reading and time with friends.  That was the only summer after high school where I was not taking college classes or working or both.  Nearly four years into this relaxed life, my plan is working although Covid has put the nix (at least for now) on face-to-face time with friends but I am exceeding my reading goals, albeit mostly easy titles that don’t require deep contemplation.  Aiding me in the task of diversifying my reading pleasure have been three book clubs and One Book One Minnesota.

The Directors’ – My library loving, book reading, wine drinking group of retired friends who, in pre-Covid times enjoyed an outing every 2-3 months but now gather every two weeks via Zoom, decided 2021 was the right time for a book club.  While our first two titles have been mysteries with earlier posts, The Thursday Murder Club and The Bookseller, we are switching genres. Next up – Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am.

Knit Camp Reads Club – A new venture for Knit Camp knitters who want to read (or listen) together.  The first selection is fiber related, Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson, a nice tie in with the Knit Camp January workshop and group knit, Fiadh.

UU Common Read – With a focus on justice, the October through April titles have included An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (although I admit I opted for the young people edition); Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson with a movie by the same name; and A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota – a powerful anthology written by 17 Minnesota authors of color that I blogged about in December.

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

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 · 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!