Come Knit With Me

 

Current Project:  Breathe and Hope Shawl designed by Casapinka

SQUIRREL!!!  I know I was working on the Throwback Sweater by Andrea Mowry and I still adore it!!!! I do, really!  It's snuggly and classic and the I picked all the colors custom from our studio.  Yes, that's actually a real thing.   Anyone can do it.  Any solid color on any yarn base.  No extra charge.  One of my favorite things about our studio.  Eventually there will be nearly 1000 colors to select from.

But...it's spring outside and the days are more sunshine-y and warm and they just seem to be calling (screaming really) for something that's lighter in both weight and color than the Throwback Sweater.   Add this fact to the huge obstacle that the next piece that needs to happen with this sweater is a trip to SLEEVE ISLAND followed by STEEKing the front (the pattern calls for knitting back and forth but I enjoy Fair Isle knitting in the round so much more so that's how this is knit) and, well, it didn't take a very big squirrel to get me to change course!

May 9 -- Yesterday I cast on for the Breathe and Hope shawl designed by Casapinka.  I haven't been knitting these past couple of weeks due to a whole soup pot full of reasons.  The biggest was that the virtual Maryland Sheep & Wool (MDSW) festival was last weekend and I was a crazy-busy wild-woman the week before photographing and listing items on the website, making sure the special MDSW categories were correct and then testing everything to make sure they would all go live when I told people they would.  Since most of the yarns I was listing were pre-order items that people would have to wait a couple-three weeks (every item had an individual estimated ship date) to ship, I figured we wouldn't really get a very big turnout for it.  Usually we offer in-stock hand-dyed items (with the exception of custom colors) and I felt a bit guilty to be offering pre-order items but with the studio closed for over a month and only running at half-capacity we simply hadn't gotten as far as we normally would have before the week-end of MDSW.  While I was sad for the knitters to have to deal with pre-orders, I was over-the-moon happy that all the Fiber Optic Yarns people and their families were all safe and healthy and I would trade hand-dyed yarn for healthy friends any day of the week!  And that's really saying something since I love hand-dyed yarn!!  So, anyhow, most of the items were pre-order and because of that I felt pretty confident that it would be a rather sleepy weekend.  I actually slept in on Saturday (I've been dealing with insomnia lately so sleeping in is both a luxury and a rarity), woke up well-after the virtual festival went live on the website, poured a healthy-sized mug of coffee and stumbled to the computer to check out the website while I waited for the caffeine to kick in.  What greeted me on the website was what can only be described as a yarnnado of bandwidth activity.  People were everywhere!  I was completely gobsmacked sideways.  Orders came in for items that were specifically part of the MDSW show but even more orders came in for items that were standard website offerings.  Those pre-orders that I thought would make knitters sad?  Well, in some topsy-turvy upside-down though-the-looking-glass sort of way knitters seemed to find them perfectly understandable and ordered without any concern what-so-ever.  Maybe because they felt safe knowing they had knitting in their stash to carry them through until the ship date on the pre-ordered items.  Maybe because there was an appeal knowing that someone was dyeing yarn especially for them.   I'm not sure the exact reasons, but those pre-order items ended up being some of our best-sellers!  A week later and I'm still in shock, awe, and wonder over it.  I knew knitters were a force to be reckoned with but this was beyond all imagining.

This past week flew by packing orders!  Seriously, one of the most fleeting weeks I've ever experienced.   Studio has been such a flurry of activity dyeing Chesapeake gradients, as well as the Peacocks and Printemps colorways this week that most of the dyers were so exhausted they took Friday off to rest up over a long weekend!  They were amazing getting hundreds of items dyed and they were simply and utterly worn out!  Next week the winding, packaging of orders and shipping will keep everyone in the materials bay busy!!!  Somewhere in the happy madness of this past week, I sat down for a couple of hours and cast on my new project, the lovely Breathe and Hope shawl.  I'm not very far into it.  Just past section 2 really.  But, I have to say, it's a breath of fresh lovely spring-time and it's just exactly what I need right now!  I already have grand plans to wrap up in this on chilly evening walks!  In my (admittedly vivid) imagination, it will be a casual yet sophisticated accessory worn with carefree grace around my neck with a white T-shirt and faded jeans.  

 

May 11 - An afternoon of knitting bliss yesterday was my personal Mother's Day gift to myself.  Just to sit and knit and allow myself the luxury of not 'having' to do anything that needed doing.  It was beyond wonderful! 

I'm knitting this shawl in Bahama Mama (solid) and Printemps (multicolored) on our kashmir MCN fingering weight yarn. This shawl is the perfect amount of engagement without being fiddly or requiring me to keep track of difficult stitch patterns.  I have a lot on my plate with the brick & mortar shop reopening tomorrow and we are currently dyeing up all the pre-orders and custom-colors orders from last weekend's virtual Maryland Sheep & Wool.  So even when I'm sitting and relaxing with my knitting, my brain is racing with everything that needs to get done.  This shawl is comprised of combinations of garter stitch and slipped stitches which allows me to zone out a bit and relax and not have to rip back later  because I couldn't pay it my full attention.  I couldn't ask for more in a project right now.

May 13 - Read the instructions, they told me.  All the instructions, not just some.  Don't assume you know what the designer had in mind.    Remember, they told me, you bested the Knitting Fates on your last project, winning at yarn chicken by less than a yard.  Those same fates are going to be gunning for you.  Knit carefully.

Did I listen?  Nope. Nada. Not even a teeny tiny bit.  I blithely knit on, without a care in the world, never once checking the knitting abbreviations. All the while, I'm sure the Knitting Fates were laughing their fool heads off at how easy I let them win this round with my rookie mistake of never checking the knitting abbreviations and assuming the term 'k1b' meant knit into the back of the stitch rather than what the instructions REALLY meant, which was knit into the stitch below.  This time, the Knitting Fates won 30 rows of knitting, which I just ripped back.  Nice win, KF.  I think I'm going to go pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate your victory (drown my sorrows).  Just remember though, tomorrow is another day and you may have won this fight but you haven't won the war!

 

May 16 - There hasn't been a whole lot of knitting time since the first skeins of the Chesapeake gradient came out of the dye studio.  I've been filling and shipping pre-orders from the virtual Maryland Sheep & Wool (in the order that we received them) pretty much all day.  If all the skeins in the drying room are any indication, this will likely be much of the first half of next week as well.  It's a fantabulously wonderful thing - thank you all for your orders!!

Over the past few days, I did manage minutes here and there of knitting and it added up to a finished (correctly this time) section 4.  I enjoy knitting this shawl a lot!!  It does take more concentration than I initially gave it credit but now that we've gotten to know one another a little better, I'm really having a wonderful time!   I love the stitch achieved in section 4 from knitting the stitch below.  It has this amazing 3-D texture that isn't quite a honeycomb that adds a tremendous amount of complexity to the look of the shawl.  However, I'm more than a little worried about the different stitch gauges and resulting  fabric size differences of the various sections (yes, I DID change needle sizes as directed).  This difference is no small thing in the case of my shawl.  There are more ruffles in it than a first communion dress from the 1950's.  The odd number sections lie smooth and lovely and the even number sections simply billow up and around in a giant undulating mass of frothy knitted-ness.  I know blocking works wonders, but hell's bells,  this rippling mass seems like it is far beyond the capability of mortal means to tame.  I'm a loose knitter (gauge-wise, that is) by nature and I wonder if I should have gone down 4 needle sizes (instead of the 2 recommended) for the even sections.  So now I'm contemplating ripping the entire thing out (yet again) and changing my needle size to be 4 sizes smaller for the even sections.  However I know that generally if I have to rip a major portion of my project back more than once then it's probably doomed to the purgatory of the unfinished project pile.  But then again, do I really want to keep investing time in a project that refuses to behave?  Before you suggest I embrace the ruffles, you should probably know that I have 2 cardinal rules when it comes to my wardrobe...no ruffles and no bows.   So this feels like a very bad second date (after a disastrous first date).  I own the fault of the first date since I didn't read the stitch abbreviations but now this...maybe this shawl is simply not in the cards for me at this time.  Not sure where our relationship goes from here...maybe the fates HAVE won the war.

May 18 - Strike two!  In the past couple of days I received so many lovely suggestions of how to tame the billow-y ruffling in section 4 of the Breathe and Hope shawl.  Most people suggested blocking the project on the needles and this likely would have worked if the differences in size between the sections had been minor.  I know it's hard to see the massive amounts of extra fabric from the photo I posted last time.   My gauge is too blame.  As I've gotten older and find knitting relaxing, I've relaxed my gauge as well...to the tune of TWO needle sizes down from what is usually called for.  So when this pattern suggested using size 6 and size 4 needles, I immediately dropped down to size 4 and size 2 needles.  Although size 4 seems to work well for getting gauge, size 2 definitely does NOT!  Using size 2 in the even sections produces this loose and frothy (pretty but not what is needed) fabric that is far too large to flow well with the knitting from the adjacent sections so it bunches up and ruffles.

I also know that blocking can be magical in changing how knitting looks (thinking of lace here!) but i also know there is only so much it can do and I was asking the equivalent of changing an elephant into a mouse.  I knew in my heart of hearts that it just wasn't going to happen.  So the night before last I ripped out those 30 rows (again) and dropped down to size 0 needles. 

'My hero, Zero, such a funny little hero
But 'til you came along, we counted on our fingers and toes...' 

I wasn't sure this would work but the section alignment is beautiful!  The knitting gauge from the adjacent sections match nearly perfectly and the fabric is well-defined and lovely.  I enjoyed working on it so much, I flew through section 4 (for the THIRD time) and section 5 as well!

'Now, you're here to stay, and nobody really knows
How wonderful you are, why we could never reach a star
Without you, Zero, my hero, how wonderful you are!'

May 24 -- This project is knitting up so fast (once I got the knitting abbreviations and the needle size corrected for my gauge!!).  I haven't had very much time to knit lately but hopefully time will free up a little now that nearly all of the Maryland Sheep & Wool orders are packed and ready to be picked up by the postman on Tuesday.  Thank you for all your orders and for trusting me with the pre-order items enough to put your money on the line.  It means so much to me and I hope you love the yarn!!  I can't wait to see what you make!!

I'm currently in the middle of section 8 (of 10 total sections).  The even numbered sections are each unique with horizontal texture that comes from knitting into stitches in the previous row, while the odd numbered sections repeat the same slipped stitch pattern to create vertical columns of color.  I love the juxtaposition of vertical and horizontal design, smooth and textured sections, individual and repeating areas, solid and multi-colored yarns.  All of these seeming contradictions play off and enhance one another to produce a beautifully cohesive design.  Two more sections to go and then this baby is getting blocked!

 

May 27  -- I'm afraid the time left with my Breath and Hope shawl is limited.  I just finished section section 10, which is only 6 rows and then the bobble-y bind-off completes this project.  It was tremendously fun once I came to understand it's little quirks (knit into the row below, I'm looking at you!) a bit better (and read the instructions/abbreviations completely - that always helps). 

I have no idea what comes after this.  I adore the new Chesapeake gradient.  As in it is currently my favorite gradient.  I think about it several times a day - pretty sure this makes it either a crush or an obsession, but probably not too dangerously off-balanced, in either case.  I especially like to imagine it paired with Tuscan Gold.   Maybe that makes me more of a match maker?  But, alas, even though I have the perfect color mates, I haven't found the project yet that I want to make with them. 

Part of the issue is that, much as I adore Chesapeake and Tuscan Gold (a lot!!), I am kind-of feeling the urge to knit something with REALLY bright colors.  I'm usually an earthy colored person.  I know this throws some of you for a loop, considering the intensity and brightness of many of our colors.  But a fabulous earthy color is much more challenging to create, from a chemistry standpoint and I've always had a weakness for a good challenge. 

So, bright colors...shouldn't be too hard to find some of those laying around, right?!?  I'm not particularly picky about WHICH bright color(s) I use, but I would kind of like to find a project where bright colors aren't the norm, just to shake things up a little. Something that lots of knitters have made out of more subdued colors...you, know - maybe a school ma'rm cardigan or a shawl made with natural wools or ...

I'm such a color fanatic that, more often than not, what appeals to me in a project isn't necessarily the design (although a fabulous design is always a bonus), but rather how well it works with the colors I want to knit with.  Color first...project second.  Still, though, no idea what I'm going to make or even what colors I will use.  Maybe I need to schedule a trip to sleeve island while I think about it...I hear The Throwback is delightful this time of year!

June 10 - Wow!  Two weeks between the last entry and this one.  I'm definitely an emotional knitter - I knit mostly when I'm happy.  It's my meditation space and I need to be reasonably calm and somewhat peaceful to do it.  Otherwise I'm just too edgy to sit still and clear my mind and knit.  It's taken me 2 weeks to work through the bind off for this shawl, working on it a few stitches at time and then setting it aside.

Recently, I haven't seemed to be able to knit more than a few stitches without getting frustrated with it; the endless slowness of it, the lack of immediate satisfaction, the overwhelming feeling that nothing ever changes with the project.  This is such a strange feeling for me - I'm a devoted process knitter.  I revel in the fact that it's a slow process since it helps keep my mind from racing and (usually) is tremendous comfort to me.  I'm at my most creative when I'm knitting and can give my imagination free reign, even if this means I'm paying less attention to the project than I probably should and will shortly be ripping back to where I actually did pay attention to the pattern.

But clearly, knitting wasn't happening to any significant degree.  I've been feeling horrified, enraged, heartbroken, and guilty over current events illustrating the racial division and inequalities in our country.  Sometimes these feelings come in turns and other times they wash over like a tidal wave all at once.  Sometimes I feel stable and other times hopeless.   There are so many fractured thoughts and feelings that I need to process...feelings as a mother, as a white woman, and as an American.  Like the grieving process, this feels like something that will be forever with me.

While I may not yet have a handle on my emotions, the one thing I am absolutely sure of, is that I need to be part of the solution without adding to anyone else's burden.  Racism is a huge problem, a systemic problem that has been hundreds of years in the making - so much a systemic problem that it has convinced most people that it doesn't exist in the mainstream.   I'm a chemist.  I have absolutely no experience in this arena and no idea how to help.  So I'm starting with two things - donations to a few organizations that have the knowledge, experience, and infastructure to help.  There are many worthwhile organizations positioned to help that can use money to make a difference - if you are interested in donating, I encourage you to do a bit of research on the internet.  The second is deep learning.  I've compiled a list of lists of books recommended from various sources, all dealing with various aspects and perspectives of racism.  It's not going to be a comfortable process, but it's got to be a lot better than where we are at currently, right?

Just like my knitting, this isn't solely about 'project' but also very much a process.  It has to be, since it's a whole educational process and growth.  But I'm good with that; I've always excelled with the process anyhow.  This is  a lifelong endeavor.  There will be times of mistakes, of ripping back and reprocessing.  Times where maybe I don't focus and pay attention like I should -- I know my mind wanders and my imagination takes over when I let it.  But these are the times when I also make the most progress in my knitting and, hopefully, this will be the case here too.