Slowing down: Longma’s Shawl + Cockle Shell Shawl

Close up on Longma's Cowl, a repeating whale tail patterned worked in a grey gradient.

Knitting is categorically not a fast activity, even the simplest project requires time for the stitches to come together into a workable object. Several years ago, I think I accidently clocked a pair of socks by the number of graduate classes I was able to work the same pair through (it was taking me a bit less than a week and a half for those of you who are curious, now I can work the leg off a sock in a 45 minute tv episode if it’s simple enough). Despite this understanding, I have still been known to attempt to crank out a last minute knit or two during the holiday season.

When seeking a faster knit, I find the secret is in the similicity of the project. Anything worked in stockinett stitch in the round tends to jump off my needles a lot faster than something worked flat or with a pattern that requires more focus (I’m thinking of you, Leaves of Grass) and it’s not that I’m looking for speed when working on knitting projects, it’s just that projects that are typically good for zoom meetings are the same ones that fly off ones needles.

Over the last few months, I’ve started seeking out projects with stitch patterns that slow me down and require me to focus some energy on them. Sure, this means that it’s harder to throw them down when naptime is suddenly over, but it also means that I’m required to be more mindful about my craft. Focus on each stitch and relax into the design.

This started with Alicia Plummer’s Community Cardi, with knits and purls working together to form a waffle pattern and moved onto several other textured knits before moving into the land of lace stitches. Longma’s Cowl is a ten row lace repeat that forms a whale’s tail after the second repeat. The repeat is worked over and over again until you run out of yarn and honestly doesn’t take that long to memorize.

Longma’s Cowl was an interesting experiment in “what happens if I work a gradient set out of order?”. While I’m thrilled with the way the colors look together and the stitch pattern, I’m not sure I love the idea of the two together. I worry that the stripping takes away from the stitches, but perhaps that’s more of a me problem.

Close up of the cockle shell cowl, a lace shell pattern knit up in a light purple color.

The other slow knit I’ve completed recently, or rather ironically cranked out, is the Cockle Shell Cowl. I worked up the 9 inch single wrap, but highly recommend the 7 inch double wrap as it will end up growing width wise in the end. Another easy to memorize repeat, the main reason this project worked up so fast is due to the needle size the pattern calls.

Something about this purple colorway has made me obsessed with purple all of a sudden, I’m planning on using the leftover yarn from my cowl and the dark grey leftovers from my pivotal point shawl to work a hat (Harlow? Vintage Prim?).

All these samples later and I’m still obsessed with Wonderland Yarns — I literally find myself working up their needs before reaching for other yarns/projects in my stash. It’s been such a fun way to work with colors that are outside my typical comfort zone. Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs) :]

Diminishing Colors Cowl

A stripped cowl of grey and blue where the striped start with one color being larger and decreasing and the other color starting smaller an increasing.

Every so often, I love a good knitting challenge. They’re such a fun way to test your skills and can sometimes lead to a high level of satisfaction. This is all to say when Wonderland Yarns reached out to see if I could crank out a sample of their Diminishing Colors Cowl in less than two weeks, I couldn’t help but agree (spoiler alert: it took about 7 days)

This cowl has seen many a baby lead weaning meal, hours of a baby crawling around and a few hours sitting in the sun watching the world go by. It’s survived being thrown when a nightmare interrupted nap time, inquisitive baby pats, and being quickly stuffed into bags for commuting. And then it was done before I really registered casting off the last stitch.

I love being a mom and one of the interesting things I’ve started to see come out of it is a sort of blink and the world around me shifts. Blink she’s rolling over. Blink she’s crawling. Blink she’s sitting up. Blink she’s trying to go up stairs. Blink blink blink. I guess I always thought that when it came to crafting I would see the world slow down a little bit due to the time it takes to knit each stitch, instead, the stitches are flowing much like time is. Blink one color was done. Blink halfway done. Blink nearly there. Blink sewing in ends. Is time still broken from 2020? Am I the only person who’s noticed this about their knits? Is it simply what happens as you get older? Questions I honestly don’t spend too much time thinking about and perhaps aren’t restricted to knitting and parenting.

Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs). This one was a kit if you’re interested or can be worked up with two colors of Mary Ann (my favorite base!), worked up for a trade show so I can’t speak to wearing it all the time. I will, however, be making something for our daughter out of the leftovers because you end up only using a little over half of each skein.

Across the Pond Sweater

This past spring, I had the pleasure of test-knitting Alicia Plummer’s Community Cardigan (I wrote a post about my cardigan). Though the weather has been a little too warm for me to wear it, I have been drawn to the way each stitch caused me to slow down and enjoy the pattern I was working. Itching to work a similar pattern, I picked up In Stillness and thought: What if I worked the stitch pattern across the entire sweater?

The concept seemed simple enough, In Stillness doesn’t have waist shaping the way that many of Plummer’s sweaters do so I wouldn’t really need to worry about the textured stitches getting wonky. Once imagined, the next logical steps seemed to be choosing the yarn and then swatching for gauge.

With a small stash, you’d think I would know everything in it by heart. Or that I would have at least been able to acknowledge that I didn’t have a sweater’s worth of worsted weight yarn in there. Still, I recalled a few leftover skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Skyland from last year’s capelet KAL and was determined to make it work (this entailed buying a few more skeins, color was consistent across different dye lots!).

As predicted, it was easy to maintain the pattern across the entirety of the sweater. Other than the texture mod, my only other pattern modification was to increase two stitches on the back following sleeve separation and to skip the other waist increases. In the end, the sweater still fit as predicted by the schematic and I’m thrilled with the result. Still a little too hot to wear, but come winter I think this is going to be another wardrobe staple.

The interesting thing about suddenly taking so many pictures of oneself after a year of avoiding the camera (I didn’t really take pictures of myself while pregnant in an interest of keeping it off social media and in an attempt to maintain a healthy body image), is that it’s forced me to really look at myself again. Honestly, you don’t really realize how vain you are until you’re postpartum and you’re glaring down a pair of jeans that you want to fit again. True, all my pre-pregnancy clothes fit again now, but it’s amazing to go from thinking you had a healthy mindset around your body to realize that you had a healthy mindset as long as your body didn’t change.

Over the last several months, I’ve learned to appreciate each tired face (our kiddo’s got a cold and isn’t sleeping well) a little bit more. This is parenthood. It’s not always beautiful or perfect, sometimes I’m covered in spit-up and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I have time to knit and sometimes I go a week without picking up my needles. It’s a dance that’s constantly changing, and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

November 2022 Book Club: Such a Fun Age

Cover art for Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

I feel the need to start this review by discussing the title. Is the fun age that Briar is a toddler? That Emira is navigating her 20s? That Alix is looking back to her high school years without much fondness? Or that she’s navigating life as a working mom of two in her 30s? Or is the point of the title that you can find struggle no matter what your age is? Since such a fun age is often said with a hint of sarcasm, I’m leaning towards the last one.

It was interesting to be launched into the story via conflict (Emira being accused of kidnapping Briar) because it set the tone very early on (we all knew that video was going to be released). It started a very interesting dialog around race in the very beginning a) Emira being worried she was going to be fired for the incident and b) the Chamberlains being wary of coming across as racist and causing Emira to quit. To me, it really demonstrated how little each knew of the other and how they didn’t really have much of a relationship despite Alix wanting Emira to be seen as family.

A lot of focus is actually put on Alix’s high school experience coming to light when Kelley starts dating Emira. Apparently, in high school, Alix sent a note to Kelley with information about how to enter their house and it fell into the wrong hands. When Robbie and some other kids showed up to crash Alix and Kelley’s intimate evening, she called the cops on them causing Robbie to get arrested and lose his scholarship. This led to Alix losing any social standing she had and Kelley suddenly gaining it as well as the two breaking up.

Real talk: I felt like too much emphasis is placed on Alix calling the cops and Robbie losing his scholarship. This may be an unpopular opinion, but why is it Alix (then Alex)’s fault that he had coke in his pocket and that he chose to break into her house to take advantage of her parents not being home? Don’t get me wrong, Alix was a bit crazy for other reasons, but I sort of agreed with her that the driveway was long enough that they could see the cops coming. Where I disagreed was that she should have tried to ask them to leave first and that Kelley didn’t step up and do the same.

In the end, it seemed like a competition between Alix and Kelley to see who could be more “woke”. Alix trying to save Emira and Kelley insisting that Emira post the video he recorded (there are other moments too, but this one is ultimately why the two started to get to know each other). Neither person seemed truly supportive of Emira and I found that sad. Though she was still figuring out what she wanted to do in life, Emira is a strong thoughtful woman who pays attention to those around her. There were so many moments in this book where I found myself internally screaming “Emira you deserve better!” and then cheering when she walked out post-interview.

I went into this book a little skeptical but walked out thinking that it was really well done and wondering what Reid’s next novel will be like.

It’s hard to believe that our final book club of 2022 is just about here. For our December club, we’ll be reading: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo. This is another book recommendation via Goodreads, specifically, their most popular new fantasy list. Let’s see if we align with popular opinion!

Cover art for the Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo.

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice. 

Grist Shawl

A purple and pink striped crochet shawl laying underneath a owl russian doll yarn bag.

I was in high school with my paternal grandmother passed away, which means that I inherited my grandmother’s crochet hooks and sewing basket at a time in my life when I wasn’t intently crafting. I wasn’t looking to learn new skills and I didn’t have regular access to craft supplies. My aunt was regularly encouraging me to knit by gifting me nice yarn and needles when my birthday rolled around and I had enjoyed sewing during home ec, but otherwise, I’m not sure why I was thought of when it came to finding a home for the crochet hooks and sewing basket filled with notions. They aren’t things I grabbed for myself with the intention of thinking of her while I used them, these things were items that someone else thought I would enjoy having.

The interesting thing is that they weren’t necessarily wrong. These hooks and sewing notions have moved from apartment to apartment with me, patiently waiting until the day I decided to take up a new craft. Sewing reentered my life when I bought a $20 vintage machine in 2018, earning the notions a permant location on my craft table. Crochet and I have a more tentative history, one where I bring the hooks out every couple years determined to actually learn how to use them. The last time I opted to try learning was back in 2016, where I made my first dish cloth, scarf and baby blanket. In 2020 I tried again, making up crocheting in the round to make a couple of coasters. Setting my sights on a few crochet projects that popped up in my instagram feed, I signed myself up for a few classes this year. Thinking perhaps 2022 would finally be the year I switch my ravelry filter from only knitting to knitting and crochet, I signed up for a few project based classes at Gather Here and one at Webs Yarn.

Grist, by Victoria Myers, was my first attempt towards this goal. It’s the first project I’ve completed using a pattern, as well as the first one I’ve attempted that manipluated increases and decreases in order to create a shawl shape.

One of the tricky things about learning something new is that you have to anticipate the project not looking perfect at the end, which means it’s hard to justify spending a lot of money on nice yarn. The flip side of this, is that once you’ve worked with nice yarn, it’s hard to justify forcing yourself to work with lesser yarn. To combat this dilema, I used leftover yarn and converted the shawl into a cowl when I ran out of yarn.

The final result is a finished object I will never wear! I probably would have been better off blocking the shawl and enjoying a mini Grist than working a cowl that looks funny. Oh well, you live and you learn. At least I learned how to read a pattern and am ready to move on to more complicated crochet things :]