Even as my head is full of possibilities having just completed the 3-day, Knit Camp at the Coast, VIP retreat with Marie Greene, I am planning ahead for those frigid days when the garden is in its winter rest. As a means of continuing my knitting immersion, I registered for the 2022 Have a Ball Fall Crawl and several Fireside Chats. These virtual activities were created in 2020 as our world went into pandemic lockdown and local yarn stores (LYS) scrambled to stay afloat. Even as brick-n-mortar sales picked up, shop owners had discovered these online events were an engaging marketing technique. Through the wonder of Zoom, local and distant customers could be brought together with far-flung resources which generated sales and kept ledgers in the black.
The five-day Fall Crawl will feature 28 LYSs located in the U.S. and Canada including several that I frequent often – Yarnology in Winona and 3 Kittens in Mendota Heights (always a regular stop anytime I am on my way to St. Paul); several that I only know as online vendors like Knot Another Hat in Hood River, Oregon, as well as shops that are on my wish list of places to visit like Stash in Charlotte, NC (hopefully as part of November 2023 plans to attend Verse & Vino – that library’s major fundraiser). Each participating shop will have 45-minutes to showcase its specialties, share locally designed patterns, and offer discounted sales. Plus, there are will be prizes just for participating!
The Fall 2022 Fireside Chats will connect Zoom participants and designers from California to Denmark, Uruguay to Maine and beyond. The various creators will share the story of their unique fiber journeys, showcase favorite techniques, and describe their latest creative ventures. There will be time for Q&A, pattern discounts, and (yes) more prizes.
After several recent trips with destinations dependent upon multiple flights, I am ready to be a homebody and pleased that my next “excursion” will be virtual – thanks to the wonder of Zoom and WiFi on my screened porch.
Within hours of Knit Camp at the Coast registration going live in May, I was registered for Marie Greene’s third annual knitting retreat VIP package. The itinerary for this 3-Day event imbues a Pacific NW vibe with days full of new knitting skills taught by well-known practitioners. When you add in coastal drink recipes, small group breakout rooms, and retreat swag, it will be the best non-trip trip of the summer.
In prep for Marie’s Pop Knitting class, I am stash diving for contrasting fingering skeins. As advertised, her shared skills will take a simple beanie and embellish it with “bright twists, braids, and other bursts of colorful texture.”
As a fan of short rows, another session will cover the mechanics of different short row techniques, as well provide advice about when and where to use them. Short rows can be a practical devise (to add a smidge of length to the back of a sweater) or an artful design element.
My calendar is cleared; my homework is on the needles; and my excitement is mounting as I count the days to mid-September fun.
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, TheAquarelle 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.
Just in time to tackle a spring mystery knit-along (MKAL) with Marie Greene and to learn brioche with members of the Zumbro River Fiber Artists Guild’s Knitting Group, my WIP (Work-in-Progress) count has been reduced by three on this Finished Object Friday (FOF). The deep heather blue scarf and muted lavender shawelette have yet to find homes but the vibrant yellow sweater will be gifted to a great niece or nephew arriving in May. (Shhhh! It is still a secret for the mom and dad-to-be.)
The small Gansey sweater, designed by Marie Greene, incorporates a cabled yoke for bit of decoration on the practical pullover knit using an easy to care for cotton, nylon, rayon, and silk blend. Knit in a size 2-4, my new great-great niece or nephew will have something to grow into and, hopefully, will have many days of warm wear.
The blue wool scarf is another of Marie’s designs. Reminiscent of barrel staves and trellised grape plants, the French Oak pattern reveals off-center cables traveling the length of the scarf like grape vines. And, I am starting out a new year with another Hitchhiker, perfect for a special person knit in 100% rustic silk with Czech glass beads decorating each tip. This is Hitchhiker #23 in my collection of hand-knit gifts.
In keeping with the theme of #FOFriday – finished object Friday – I am showing off my finished Vivifrom the January/February sweater knit-along (KAL) with Marie Greene. Based on progress postings and Zoom meeting reports, hundreds of other knitters enjoyed this project as much as I did.
This January Workshop KAL is the fourth of Marie’s annual offerings – something new for the New Year. Through her integrated curriculum, this community-based project allows knitters to explore the fiber arts from a faraway place; a virtual vacation each year. During the two month KAL, Marie offered technical lessons on topics such as shoulder construction, provided historical background on Danish “night” sweaters, and even shared scrumptious traditional pastry recipes – Yumm!
The KAL officially launched January 1 although Knit Campers (that’s me) were awarded an early pattern release by a few days. On December 30, I casted on 292 stitches of worsted Berroco Ultra Wool in Chili Red to start this bottom-up construction and I worked my last bind off cuff stitch on February 26. Squishy soft after blocking and plenty warm for chilly spring days.
After a wardrobe review, I admit I do not need another sweater. Having knit two in 2021 that I wear infrequently due to our continued Covid stay at home-ness, I initially decided to pass on Marie Greene’s 4th annual January Workshop KAL (knit-along). But then I was swept up in the enthusiasm of my fellow Knit Campers’ yarn selections and color choices, plus Marie’s newest design features (my favorite) cables!
Ironically, while my September trip to Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands was cancelled, I will enjoy Danish artistry virtually with Vivi. Pattern pictures reveal a lattice of cabled diamonds gracing the sweater’s front and Danish stars decorating the sides. Unlike the intricate colorwork of Scandinavian cousins, these Danish designs rely on subtle stitch definition against a monochromatic backdrop. And, as always, during the eight weeks of this annual workshop KAL, Marie will share historical background, new techniques via video tutorials, and ethnic recipes for culinary exploration, as well as a large dose of “hygge” – perfect for this lingering pandemic.
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 Coast. For 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 jane – Not 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!
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.
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 & Cowlnudged 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.
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!