Happy July 4th!

  1. Pendant Stole
  2. Garden Shawl
  3. Fountain Pen Shawl

 

I don’t have anything special planned for today, and it has been a particularly wet weekend here, so I haven’t joined any of the community outdoor activities either.

But I began watching the “John Adams” miniseries, and while I don’t often feel particularly patriotic, the luxury of living in a free nation I suppose, it makes a big difference to watch a version of history that makes it real.  I feel more connected when I can connect to historical figures through their characters as they are represented on the screen, and to understand the reality of their daily circumstances in the months and years leading up to independence from Britain.

Of course, every account, especially one presented on the screen, is biased and fictionalized to some extent, but I believe that we can learn a lot from fiction, too, and many fiction writers write to teach and to convey a message.  In this case, it is to understand in a way that allows me to put myself in the shoes of some of these historical figures the reasons that they needed to express in a document the truths they held to be self-evident.

Having lived in countries in which people are less free, I know the struggle is important.  In this day and age, we as Americans are still struggling to ensure that these truths, about the rights of humans, that our forefathers held to be self-evident, are manifested in each citizen’s reality, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

So it seems a little disingenuous to me to say “Happy” July 4th, but perhaps “July 4th observed and the struggle continued” is more appropriate to echo my sentiments.  Not as catchy, I realize…

Are you celebrating the 4th?  How are you connecting with the historical significance of the day?

 

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Dew Drops Shawl in Freia Handpaints Ombre Lace

Process knitter is the term people use for someone like me, I guess: I love to knit, but sometimes the finished product is not the motivation.  So, at any given time, I have 5, 10, or 20 projects on the needles, all in different stages of completion.  Over the past few months I have not been very disciplined in completing projects that were not intended for special events or holidays, but I’ve been on a tear recently to make some projects that had reached the bind-off stage actually wearable.  This past week has resulted in the blocking of four projects already, and there is a fifth underway.

Today I want to show you the project that made me fall in love with Freia Handpaints laceweight.  Originally I saw the Dew Drops Shawl worked up in the lichen colorway at Looped DC.  Sadly for me, Lichen was not available, so I chose South Beach instead.

 

Ravelry project link

I really love how this turned out.  The yarn feels magnificent, stretchy and cozy all at once, but also substantial: I’m not worried about wearing this shawl out and about because I know it can stand up to the wear.  It won’t have to be a special occasion item.  There was so much stretch that I could have taken the top border beyond the edges of my blocking board if I’d had the space.  As it is, the top edge is about 68″ across, and the point of the triangle is deep enough to cover my back, which will be fantastic for any trips to drafty or high-AC restaurants.

As I was knitting, my cat spent a lot of time with me.  I would gaze into his eyes to reassure him of my love – because after 11 years, he’s still a little insecure at times – and I realized that this colorway mirrors his face.  He has an orange-pink nose, blue-green eyes, and light- to medium-grey stripes.  People often comment on his beautiful markings, but he hasn’t let it go to his head because he’s the sweetest cat ever.

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Sharing the family stash

Over the winter I was recovering.  The past three years were stressful and traumatic for reasons I won’t go into now.  Suffice it to say, recovery for a knitter involves an awful lot of time in the kitchen or living room starting new projects.

I worked on some lace, including a feather-and-fan throw blanket, one of the few projects I picked up consistently while binge-watching whatever I could find on Amazon Prime, and knitted till it was done, unlike the pile of WIPs in my basket.  There were no seams or buttons to stymie me, so it was an easy win.

Ravelry project link

This blanket came from a batch of yarn my mom’s cousin sent me.  Like many of you, I don’t need any help collecting yarn, but I know her good taste and couldn’t refuse when she offered to send me two boxes of her stash.  There were six pairs of wool and mohair skeins, which seemed like they were destined for a specific project, but she could not recall what.  The yarn was familiar to me: we had purchased some together in New Hampshire ages ago to make these longways garter stitch scarves with fringe automatically included:

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Ravelry project link

It didn’t click until I was halfway through the throw that each yarn pairing was intended for a scarf!  I have about half the yarn remaining, so maybe P will get a rainbow throw one day as well.

Most of what she sent was too fine for her to knit, since she has struggled for a long time with rheumatoid arthritis.  There were a few patterns included, so I have offered to knit some up and send them back to her, including this Cable and Lace Raglan from Willow Yarns.

The yarns from the scarf and blanket are from Ward Brook Farm in Candia, NH.  I couldn’t find a website for them, but the Seacoast Harvest Local Food Guide website says this about them:

Sheep farm with a menopausal flock of retired laid back ewes that give wool. The wool is used for spinning supplies, yarn, dyed and spun. Dyes yarn in rainbow colors – the kind you can’t get in a yarn shop.

Hah!

One skein of Freia Handpaints Ombre Sport will get you…

I’ve knitted a shawl and a couple of diagonal scarves in Freia Handpaints that will appear here post-blocking, and now I tried the Ombre Sport for the first time with the Lunar Eclipse pattern.

I think this is the sixth version I’ve knitted so far, and the first one with shifting color.  The arc gives it the familiar stripe going in one direction, shifting from top to bottom, and the edging turns that perpendicular so the shifting color direction is more side to side (sort of – with a crescent shape, all bets are off, as anyone that has tried to drive around New Orleans without a map can tell you!).

Here is a gallery of photos of the hottest off the needles Lunar Eclipse!

 

 

 

Lunar Eclipse – free pattern download!

Over the past few months, I’ve been working off and on on this pattern, Lunar Eclipse, which has been a really fun exercise in what to do with one skein of luxurious yarn.

From the Mountain asked me to design something with a skein of their worsted weight cashmere, which is hand-spun in a fair-trade agreement with Afghan women.  The stuff is beautiful.  It is a soft, two-ply fiber in a variety of natural colors, including ecru, grey, and several shades of brown.

The final result was this initial offering:


 

And then Abby asked me to add two additional edgings:

You could add your own edgings to this template – we’ve offered it in three charted patterns, two originally from Barbara Walker and one from Book 4 of The Stitch Collection by Lark Books.

This is a free Ravelry download, so feel free to share, and please post your final project photos!

Shwook

Generally speaking I am not on the cutting edge of the new patterns that come out.  Occasionally I will finish something within a month or two of its release, but that is very rare.  This hat is not an example of one of those rare occasions.  “Shwook” came out in honor of the 2014 Shetland Wool Week event, so probably all the other Shwook knitters posted their goods long ago.  Lately Ravelry has been filled with the new 2015 pattern, which is adorable and features sheep.

I am thinking now that I should have looked up what a shwook is before posting this.  Any guesses?*

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This hat is using overly-long-stashed yarn in colors that probably went out ten years ago.  At one point, I had an online sale problem and purchased yarn willy-nilly with no project in mind.  In time, with experience and a non-shrinking stash, my habits have changed.  But this yarn was still hanging around: Rowanspun 4-ply, in Sugar, Stone, Squirrel, Temptation, and Turkish.  The yarn was thinner than required, but the end result is a perfectly-fitting beanie.

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I think this is only the second stranded hat I’ve completed.  And it’s definitely the first time I’ve blocked with a dinner plate.

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How do you like that?  Makes the center cap portion look mighty fine, if I do say so myself!

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More specs on my Ravelry project page.

I have almost 600 yards of yarn left (of around 810 total), so I’m now making a garter-stitch shawl that I’ll edge with feather-and-fan.  I’m using the lighter colors for the main garter triangle, and the purples for the edging.

* OK, my curiosity got the better of me and I consulted The Google.  If you want an answer before guessing, visit this link

Smothered in hats. I mean love.

This post is not meant to be sad, but it is a result of my aunt recently passing away. She struggled with cancer for a couple of years, and was very brave in the face of the odds. I was away during much of this time, and all I could do was support her via email. And knit her things. I made her a purple lace shawl, and several hats. In fact, I did not realize how many hats I had sent her until I was up at her house this past month and came across them all. If you can represent caring and love through knitting, I loved her this much, and more.

Baby soakers!

These are super fun to knit and a fairly quick knit as well. I can work on these while talking with friends or on the phone. If I had a TV, I’d probably knit on them while watching it!  There are several more on the way, but here’s a sampling of what’s up in the store.

These two soakers will fit 6-9 month olds in cloth diapers, and possibly up to 12 months old – they have been size-tested on a very large 10-month old! Links here and here

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So what if I never finish?

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This weekend, someone in my life asked me to face one of my demons. This was not an intentional discussion, and I suspect that if this person knew me better, the conversation would have gone in a different direction.

So much of knit blogging discusses stash, Flash Your Stash, Latest Stash Acquisitions, photos upon photos of the endless stuff that we all collect. I even did this in the last post, but mainly to show off a yarn dyer that I like who runs her own business and was raising money for charity.

The consumerist nature of most of it fatigues me a little, but on the other hand, it IS exciting to have all this potential at one’s disposal.

I said something along these lines recently to Mel over at Purling Plans: What is important to me about having a wheel, fleece, a camera, needles, yarn, even dye, is the potential for creation that exists within each of these sets of tools. We combine them to not only create beautiful materials, but eventually produce a garment, which we like to photograph and stick up on the blog. Not all of my materials are used. A lot of them currently sit by the wayside, waiting to go to Good Will or be selected for a project. I’m a self-proclaimed packrat, and I have a hard time getting rid of anything, even those ugly, lonely skeins that I bought way back when, before I knew how to plan my yarn purchases. (Back when I was utterly astounded to read that Eunny kept no stash at all. How was that possible?)

But, this post is not so much about stash. It is about the value of finishing things.

The day after the conversation I haven’t yet told you about, I opened my Interweave Spring 2009 to work on the Fountain Pen Shawl. Pulling out the shawl was a direct result of a previous conversation about finishing things – I picked up a UFO and started working toward finishing. In the magazine, there is a one-pager by Vicki Square that encourages us to start as many projects as we like. The idea is that finishing just for the sake of finishing doesn’t feed the creative juices. There are many other aspects to the type of knitting we do now (compared to the utilitarian fare of my grandmother before, during, and after WWII for example) besides just binding off and sewing on buttons.

My intent is not to just start a million projects and never finish any. But I suppose I have different levels of investment in each object’s finished status. If it’s cold and I really want to wear it, I’ll finish. If a baby is coming along, hopefully I’ll finish! When my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, I knit three hats in no time flat. Socks – I wear ’em lots, so I finish. Holiday gifts? Usually.

If there is a hard deadline, of course I finish. Not a problem.

But for me, knitting is a state of being, a constant activitiy, and part of that state wants meditative repetition, creating a tendency to put something down when I reach a hitch in the work. Another part wants experimentation, which leads to seeking out new patterns, new yarns, new techniques, new visual experiences. So, sure, many times I stop before finishing. This doesn’t mean the project is doomed, but frankly, it bothers me not a bit if it takes three years to complete. Not a bit.

The other day, I was confronted by someone completely confounded by this approach. I was told that I should not start so many things. I was told that the time I spend on knitting could be spent on other activities (Like what? -work. Work!). Sure, I suppose that’s true. I could clean more, read more, watch more movies, exercise more, cook more, pick up another hobby, or simply finish more knitted objects.

I’m content to ignore the advice, because I find that I’m interested enough in finishing. Most of us are more interested in starting, and I find no problem with that, unless you’re broke or there’s no more room in your house.

The aspect of finishing that is not so interesting is the elimination of potential. I know I keep using that word, but I find it’s the essence of why I collect stitch and pattern books, why I swatch, why I like having skeins or bumps hanging around and imagining their final destiny. Once finished, they’ve met their fate, and there isn’t so much left to the imagination.

Maybe my projects are more like large swatches, with the potential to actually become something one day. Would anyone wonder about finishing if all I had were a big box of swatches instead?

Don’t get me wrong, there is a great sense of satisfaction once something is finished, when we wear it around and someone asks about it, even knows that it could be handknitted. We all know that bashful pride when we say, Why yes, I DID make this myself.

In the mean time, I’ll keep plugging away on anything and everything that catches my fancy. This is my pastime, which feeds my need to create, to have color and texture in my life. I see my (slightly disorganized) collection of materials in my living space as a studio, in which I am responsible only to myself.

So what if I never finish?