The Comfort Zone in BSF Techno

A young woman standing with her arms crossed wearing a plum handknit poncho.

Everyone reaches for different projects – or crafts – for different reasons. While working on my Masters in Library Science, I knit almost exclusively socks, in fact I was cranking out almost a pair per week due to the train commute and the long lectures. In the dead of winter, I find myself reaching for colors that I don’t find often in the winter wonderland outside my door. For whatever reason, summer often has me reaching for thicker wools and larger projects. Despite the hot June that summer brought, the cooler July weather had me dreaming of being wrapped in something warm and fuzzy. Add that to procrastinating a lace shawl I’ve been slowly working on for months (more on that soon, I promise!), and the Comfort Zone poncho by Espace Tricot found its way off my queue and onto my needles. Especially as we transition back to working from our cool (yes even in winter) offices.

Confession time: I’ve never actually knit with Blue Sky Fibers’ Techno before. There isn’t really a good reason for this outside of “I don’t work with bulky or single ply yarns frequently”. That being said, when deciding to cast on the Comfort Zone, I found myself thinking about how warm and snuggly the fabric Techno would create. Plus, being a Blue Sky Maker for a little bit longer means that it’s the perfect time to try new yarn.

Actually knitting with Techno is so much fun, possibly because of the ease in which new strands spit slice together and possibly because it feels like you’re knitting from a cloud. Though fuzzy in nature, Techno does not tickle my nose the way some alpaca yarns do and I don’t feel the need to reach for a lint roller after knitting on my lunch break.

A young woman standing sideways to the camera holding the bottom edge of her plum poncho away from her body.

The Comfort Zone knit up both faster and slower than I thought it would, whether that’s because I anticipate thicker yarns knitting up quicker or not is a toss up. In order to make something that provides a little more movement in the arms, I modified the sizing of the pattern a little bit. Knowing that alpaca and alpaca blends tend to create a heavy drapey fabric, I cast on for size 1 and knit until the ribbing was 4 inches (instead of 6). Then, I increased up to the size 2 stitch count (104 to be exact), which is 4 rows longer than the plan rows following the increases call for. Knowing that the final ribbing would add 5 inches, I measured my poncho with a goal of having around 12 inches and discovering that I had 14. I started the bottom ribbing without knitting any extra rows.

Now that the Comfort Zone is off my needles, I find myself wondering what else I can add to my wardrobe in Techno (Tamarack Blanket Scarf perhaps? Or a sweatshirt style sweater in Club Grey?). The bloom induced by wet blocking has created this feeling of wool armor that’s designed to keep me safe from the cold. Though I’m not one to rush the summer months away, I do find myself looking longingly at the Comfort Zone each time I enter my closet. Is it my fault that I’m happy with the fabric and the fit?

Let’s Knit together: #jojifallkal2021

Logo for joji fall knit along 2021.

Joji Locatelli is hosting her 10th fall knit-along (KAL) this year and I’ve decided to enthusiastically participate! With so many of her patterns either favorited or sitting in my queue, it’s hard to believe that I haven’t participated in one of her fall KALs yet. Having participated in her Starting Point mystery knit along during the summer of 2017 (was it really that long ago?), I’m looking forward to the community of knitters that Locatelli brings together.

As a Wonderland Yarns ambassador, I’ve been trying to work with yarn colors or put-ups that I wouldn’t normally reach for when shopping at my local yarn store(s). This lead to the creation of my rainbow scarf and coordinating hat, a set that was enthusiastically received for one of my dear friend’s birthday. While blacks and rainbow colors are not out of my comfort zone, I’m not someone who’s quick to reach for yarn sets. In my mind, it’s hard to determine what to do with them (even though they come with a fun shawl pattern!). Now that I’ve worked with Combo #12, I have to admit that it’s a lot of fun to work with pre-determined color pallets. They’re a great way to play around with colors without committing to a large skein, which was a fun challenge rather than a “am I ever going to use this” one. I’ve got my eye on a few other combos, but I’m not planning on using any of them for the fall KAL.

While looking through Wonderland Yarn’s catalog, I fell in love with their blossom gradients and set to work trying to find a pattern that would allow the yarn’s beauty to speak for itself. There are so many shawl, cowl and mitten patterns to choose from, but I really wanted something that was going to highlight the gradient no matter what outfit I grabbed for the day. Locatelli released Fading Lines during my first year of what I’ll call “serious knitting” and I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t add it to my queue or favorites right away. Rather, this is a pattern that I’ve enjoyed looking at over the years but never really saw myself choosing colors to work it successfully.

With the help of the wonderful folks at Wonderland Yarn, I was able to choose a gradient that I loved and they found three yarns that would work will with it (this in my mind is the hardest part). From there, many of you voted on my Instagram in order to help me narrow it down from two to the one I’m going to be working with. To those of you who voted, thank you for helping me decide!

Choosing Fading Lines puts me on Team Cardigan and I’m looking forward to the fun that the next six weeks have in store!

Logo for team cardigans for the joji fall knit along 2021

Garden Party Flax Light

Fingering weight superwash merino wool with nylon is a reliable base across yarn dyers. It’s a workhorse that you can reach for with confidence regardless of whether or not you’ve heard of a brand before because fingering weight superwash merino with nylon is predictable. Each skein will have more or less the same amount of stretch and bloom when you block it. Each skein will handle textured stitches in more or less the same way and each skein will provide you with a thin but warm garment. What I’m really saying here, is that buying a skein of fingering weight merino yarn is one of the safest things you can do.

Honestly, I think my local yarn store only had the one color of Mitchell’s Creations when my husband and I went in to buy yarn a few weeks ago (actually I don’t think I need to correct how I said that, he enjoys choosing colors!). As I poured over the self striping sock yarn, the Garden Party skeins called to him. It was the first skein he picked up and proudly brought over, know that he was contributing to our hunt for gender neutral baby sweater yarn.

I got back and forth with how easy it is to find gender neutral colors as I think our industry is slightly slanted to those with more feminine tastes. So while I wasn’t reaching for pinks and blues (or whites… I’ve never understood why so many people knit white for babies), I was at least looking for vibrant greens and oranges. When he presented his skein of Garden Party, my initial reaction was “are those really baby colors?”. Me, the same woman who knit a hot pink and black baby sweater for her punk friend. Before he even replied with his “I mean I’d like to receive this so my child could wear it” I realized that my own color biases had set in. Adding the skein to the red one I was carrying, I realized that he was right for the same reason I made the right choice to knit a hot pink and black sweater: the baby doesn’t care.

It’s the same reason so many families probably hold first birthday parties for their little ones who won’t remember who was their or what their cake tasted like. It’s a moment for the parent where they get to see everyone surround the little one that they’ve managed to raise for a whole year. Or in the case of this little sweater, a moment where the parent realizes that you’ve paid attention to who they are as people and want them to know they deserve to be warm.

While I want to say that this is my last flax light for a little bit, it’s such a quick little sweater to crank out and has so many modification options that I can really only say it’s my last one for the immediate future. I have a lace shawl that needs to be finished and a cardigan that needs to be started. I’m calling this one Garden Party Flax Light after the yarn’s color way, the “only” pattern modifications is the addition of Justin’s Flannel texturing (I really need to knit myself one of those so that I don’t steal my husband’s all winter!). Despite the colors being more muted than what I typically reach for, I think this little sweater came out really cute!

A handknit multicolored baby sweater with a waffle texture.

September Book Club: The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids

Cover art for the Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids tells the story of Amra, a careful thief who is drawn into the revenge game when her friend is murdered in the middle of the night. While following the trail of his killer, she finds herself thrown in jail for no reason, running from a price on her head, befriending a wizard and closing a hell gate. In other words, this is a very plot focused book where the setting could really be any fantasy town and the character development is minimal.

That’s not to say that The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braid’s is a bad story, in fact there is simply the assumption that you have read a fantasy novel before and have an understanding of what the general rules are. For example: there is a huge power differential between those with money and those without, magic always comes with a price, gods speak through their priests who expect offerings in exchange for favors. The fun thing about the lack of world building and following the tried and true rules is that you can plunk the story into the world of your choosing and imagine your favorite characters running around elsewhere while Amra makes decisions like shaving her head to get rid of lice and maneuvers over cliff edges to sneak into fancy houses.

I don’t see myself reading any more books in the series, but The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids was a fun ride. Perhaps there is more world building in future books, but in my experience first person narratives lead to short scenes due to the limits of narrator perspective. That aside, I do find myself super curious about the eight armed goddess apparently coming out of her prison and wonder how else Amra is going to contribute to that.

It’s hard to believe that I’m already selecting a book for October and that we’re three book clubs away from the end of the year. Let’s hop back into historical fiction and read something from Reese’s Book Club (I’ve never tried one of her recs before!): The Giver of Stars. I’ve read and enjoyed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, let’s find out if this one is also a tear jerker together.

Cover art for the Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

An Ode to Winter

A young woman and her dog running through a field covered in three feet of snow.

Where July brought cool rainy weather, August as stomped in with tons of mosquitos, high humidity and a heat wave. As I sit on our deck appreciating its screens, I can’t help but remember that winter was a few months ago and will return before I know it.

Winter, where my husband and I will bicker about how warm to set the thermostat and how many layers are acceptable inside (I stand by you shouldn’t need to wear shorts in your own house! Grab a sweater!). Where we will try to be patient as we wait for enough snow to go cross country skiing and snow shoeing. When the hiking trails will have less people on them and when hitting a trail without a good pair of microspikes leads to turning around and a disappointed dog.

Yes, the heat is high and the humidity sticky. Yes, we’ve made a game out of who can kill the most mosquitos while taking the dog for a walk. Yes, part of planning a hike means hitting the trail by 6:30 am and the thought of using our outdoor firepit is slightly laughable.

True, we long for the days that we can pull out our wool sweaters and curl up together under blankets. But to summer’s credit, when those days come we find ourselves longing for long summer nights and listening for the peepers to make their annual appearance. We laugh about the days when we were sweating as we rub a little warmth into our hands and try to remember what it felt like to struggle to walk down the street without melting.

So as I sit on my porch enjoying yet another freeze pop, I appreciate the feeling of being warm while remembering what it’s like to be cold. Knowing that before I know it, I won’t be able to sit out here and will be remembering what it’s like to be too hot.

A young woman and her dog playing in a field covered in three feet of snow.

Ode To Winter by: Matthew Holloway

Ode, ode to the winter
What music plays to sonnet
While a world drifts to sleep
Leaves curl and flowers bow
Birds take flight to a further place
A touch of frost creeps in
Stealing the landscape of its colour
Soon all shall be held motionless

In the still of a winters season
Now in all its changing
The beauty and perfection of life
Is left open to be witnessed
Savoured by the eye of an artist
To feed the soul, nourish the heart
This melancholy season
This changing landscape
What beauty it reveals
In an ode to the winter