In the spirit of new year de-cluttering, I joined Marie Greene’s Stash Challenge – a much abbreviated version of her Stash Sprint class. Within the text of five emails sent over five days, she offered “stashtastic inspiration” in manageable micro amounts. Then, I coupled my efforts and transformed a beautiful Merino-Silk blend into this Swiss Dot Shawl from her Stashbuster Series: B is for Bobble patterns.
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.
Not so new art installed
After a four month wait, we were quite excited to experience supply chain improvements with a November rather than a February delivery of our Stressless™ recliner. But then came the real challenge – what art to hang where as the seating configuration in that corner of the living room no longer resembled what had been. Having quickly discovered the comfy leisureliness of an afternoon nap, the empty space necessary for the recliner to do its thing – that is recline – simply demanded to be filled. As it turns out, the right piece of art was hanging in the closet.
In September 2006, we drove to Knoxville, Tennessee to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s 50th anniversary. This family occasion also included a visit to the Knoxville Museum of Art located in the World’s Fair Park. With a diverse collection, the museum “focuses on the rich culture, old and new, of the Southern Appalachians” and the museum’s perquisite gallery shop provided an eclectic sampling of local artists’ work. While I had packed appropriately for all of the various anniversary festivities, I found a beautiful woven stole –the perfect wardrobe upgrade for the celebratory dinner. The loosely woven wool shawl includes shimmering gold thread, a trio of silk ribbons running the entire length, and Czech crystal bead embellishments.
Due to its size (21 inches x 96 inches) and its elegant structure, I tended to save it for special occasions like my aunt and uncle’s 50th anniversary, Minnesota’s sesquicentennial celebrations at the Capitol when I presented Governor Pawlenty with two sesquicentennial flags that had flown over the state’s public libraries or library meetings when power dressing sent the correct message. I never imagined my 2006 purchase would offer a complementary color palette in our renovated space, as well as provide an acoustical benefit in a room with a new red birch hardwood floor. The shawl that was safely tucked away amidst layers of tissue paper is now installed as art.
My Busy Needles
The word of the day: précis – a 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Boost the FOF Tally
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.
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.
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.
Project Peace – part 3
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
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!