BSF Skyland and KAL Preview

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to pick up a skein of Blue Sky Fibers’ (BSF) newest line addition Skyland, it’s a squishy 4-ply DK with a beautiful sheen. The highland wool/baby alpaca/silk blend promises a drapey garment that will keep you warm on cool nights and I cannot wait to start knitting with it. Enter the Calgary Capelet with it’s gorgeous cabled front and combine that with the fact that I’ve been reading Outlander, it’s safe to say that I’ve spend the last couple of weeks eagerly counting down to helping host this knit-along (KAL).

Step one: Does your local yarn store (LYS) carry Skyland?

Mind does! I have a serious knit crush on the Women of Scratch Supply Co from their project choices to the yarn they carry in the store. In fact it’s been made worse by the fact that their podcast makes it feel like they’re hanging out in my family room.

Use BSF’s stock list finder to locate a LYS that carries Skyland near you.

Step two: Pick a color and buy enough yarn for your size.

My friends would be quick to tell you, I have a hard time committing to a color pallet for most of my projects. For starters, I try to push myself to use colors that are outside of my go-to section (blue, green, pink — think watermelon at the beach and you’ve got my color preferences nailed). Add that with I love most colors and hopefully my problem is seen as a desire to be inclusive and not a problem with committing.

As I mentioned above, a friend and I have been reading Outlander together and I’ve been daydreaming about someday traveling the Highlands. With this in mind, I’ve opted to use Comet, a dark green that is within my typical color pallet. Skyland is a yarn I want to wear all the time, so I refuse to feel bad about choosing a color I know matches everything I own as opposed to one I will occasionally wear as a fun pop of color.

Step three: Swatch swatch swatch.

I’ve been burned by swatching before and can probably guess what needle size I need in order to hit gauge (22 stitches and 27 rows = 4 inches in Stockinette), but at the end of the day swatching is informative. For starters, it will ensure that the garment will look the way that Mary Pranica (the designer) intended. More importantly, a swatch will give you a preview of how the yarn is going to knit up (think fabric drape). Personally, I want to make sure that I’m taking advantage of the way Alpaca drapes and that’s enough for me to knit a square before getting started.

Step four: Cast on and show off your progress!

The KAL starts April 19th 2021, aka this coming Monday! That gives you just enough time to grab your yarn (and swatch!) before we cast on together. Not ready to cast on day one? That’s ok, the KAL will run until June 2021. Grab some yarn and join us when you can.

There is going to be more information posted about this KAl on Monday, so join BSF on Ravelry and hangout with us: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/friends-of-blue-sky-fibers

Use #bsfskyland #CalgaryCapelet #CalgaryCapeletKAL on social media so that we can see your work!

I’m off to start swatching so I’m ready for Monday.

Stay tuned for weekly progress updates and possible grumblings that I can’t wear the caplet yet. It’s been so long since I’ve been a part of a KAL outside of Camp Loopy (it’s also been a long time since August 2020 when camp ended!), I’m looking forward to watching everyone’s Capelets work up and seeing how we add our own twist to the same pattern.

My Yarn Stash Fits in a Hat Box

When my sister was younger she and my mother were constantly bargaining on the status of her bedroom, which is a nice way of saying that my sister’s room existed in a constant state of a tornado whipped through. To her credit, it wasn’t clothing that hadn’t made it’s way to the hamper or towels that needed to be returned to the bathroom. No, my sister had a way of bringing toys to her room and leaving them there. I’m talking stuffed animals, dolls, clothes for each, Polly pockets, lego kits.. it didn’t matter. I have many memories of playing house in my sister’s room and adding, much to my mother’s dismay, to the mess.

At first, the bargaining was a plea to get us to play in what we called the “back room” or the room that we were very fortunate to have to ourselves as a playroom. The next attempt was a “you have to play downstairs”. As time went on, it was clear that there was something about the cozy bedroom that lent itself to hours of playing no matter how the rules changed. Realistically, this is probably because my sister and I enjoyed sharing a room together growing up and often slept in sleeping bags on the floor so that we could wake up and start playing right away (a habit we unfortunately grew out of as we got older as I developed into a book worm and wanted to spend my mornings reading). In order to find a compromise, my mother invested in hatboxes and my sister swore that if she had the space to put her toys she would clean up after herself.

Brightly colored hat box.
My hatbox

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember if it worked, especially because my sister seemed to grow out of her messiness as she got older. Nights of leaving toys out so that play could be resumed the next morning were replaced with “I can’t sleep if my rooms a mess” and I genuinely don’t remember if the boxes had anything to do with it. Years later, I would claim one of the hat boxes for myself and start building my yarn stash in it.

The point I’m trying to make with this backstory, is that the box I originally choose to start collecting yarn in, the box I still collect yarn in, is large enough to hold three, maybe four, average size stuffed animals. True, this box is well over ten years old and is start to look a little worn, but it’s served me so well over the seven years of serious knitting that I’ve been doing (I’ve been knitting longer than that). With the exception of when I bought three projects worth of yarn this fall, somehow I have never managed to have more yarn than would fit in that hatbox. It’s hard to even count this fall when one of the projects hit my needles right away and didn’t need to go into the hatbox…

I’m not saying that 2020 has completely put in a cramp in my stashing, I actually like having a small stash because it means that I can “cheat” on knitting without feeling bad about it. I can spend time hiking and sewing, going days without knitting without feeling like my yarn is neglected. I can sign up for cast on clubs (like Scratch’s or Simply Sock Co’s) without worrying about what my partner would say (For the record, I’ve yet to feel like I’m not allowed to buy more yarn. He usually tells me to buy more). I can spend time plotting projects and buy yarn specifically for them instead of trying to guess what future me will want to make. Although that’s fun too…

Open hat box with four skeins of multi colored yarn, a piece of cedar wood, a lavender satchel and a sock ruler. See caption for links.
Yarn from top to bottom: Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20 Twin, Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Pure 100% Merino Superwash, The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers Moon Sisters, Uschitita Merino Sock. There is also a piece of cedar and a lavender satchel for month prevention and a sock ruler for quick access.

This isn’t to say that I don’t stash yarn, I totally do! Whether money or space, there has always been a barrier between me and buying all the yarn I touch in a yarn store. Either way, I have usually been in a position to regularly patron a yarn store to touch yarn…

With all this in mind, 2020 has totally put a cramp in my stashing and I’m a little stressed out by the fact that my stash currently has four skeins of sock yarn in it! My box looks sad and empty. Despite having a growing number of favorites and queue on Ravelry, I’m not sure what I want to pick up next. True, I can knit four pairs of socks while I think about it, but it takes time for yarn to be shipped! When you add that to it’s harder to pick and combine colors via a web browser, it hard to to be a little cranky that I can’t go into a yarn store and grope yarn. I was banking on attending wool festivals and tent sales in 2020, perhaps 2021 will have some in store for me (or at least 2022).

Stonewall, Take Two

Yellow orange yarn knit into a stockinet stitch gauge swatch.
Swatching for Stonewall in Wool of the Andes

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something, which breaks down to about 20 hours a week for 10 years. If you break that down into a work week, that’s roughly five hours a day Monday through Friday. If you take advantage of all seven days then it’s around three hours a day. Three hours a day for 10 years in order to reach 10,000 hours or master level. Crazy.

Mind you, the 10,000 hours must be put toward something called deliberate practice or practicing in a way that pushes your skill set as much as possible (1). I learned how to knit sometime around 2006, which is over ten years ago now, but before I call myself a master I need to admit that deliberate practice did not come until I knit my friend a baby blanket for her first born in 2013. That’s only seven years ago.

I’m a good knitter. Socks come together without following a pattern. Sweaters patterns are modified and manipulated to my hearts desire. Cables are created without the use of a cable needle. I test knit patterns and am able to trouble shoot when there is an error. I’m a good knitter, but I’m not sure I can really call myself an expert based upon the above criteria.

About 8 inches of an in progress yellow orange handknit sweater, 3 inches of bottom ribbing and 5 inches of broken seed stitch.
Stonehill body

Recently, Princeton has conducted research to look into Malcolm Gladwell’s popularized work from over twenty years ago with the following question in mind: Why do so few people who take up an instrument such as the violin, a sport such as golf, or a game such as chess ever reach an expert level of performance (2)? Based upon Gladwell’s 10,000 theory, you would think there would be an easy answer: not many people commit 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to something. I think the point of their question, however, was really are people born experts (and then spend time practicing) or can you become an expert via practicing.

Before I get into what the Princeton study said, you’ll need to excuse my minor geek out moment. The study is a Meta-Analysis, which is something that I encourage my students to look for day in and day out. Essentially, a Meta-Analysis is highly transparent and reproduceable study design meant to answer a question using existing literature while minimizing researcher bias. In short, a team of researchers conduct a systematic search of the literature (using multiple databases) and then perform a title/abstract screen using inclusion/exclusion criteria. When that’s done, they then perform a full text screen using the same criteria. The leftovers studies are then used to write the review and if the data across the studies can be statistically analyzed, the team is able to conduct a meta analysis.

Part of my geek out comes from being a librarian and appraising the study before reporting it back to you. They did a pretty good job and followed the PRISMA reporting guidelines, not too shabby.

A yellow orange handknit sweater sitting in a sink filled with water and a splash of wool wash.
Blocking my Stonewall sweater

Anyway, despite their conclusion saying that more studies are needed to really understand this topic, they found that there are factors that influence skills outside of the 10,000 hour mark (think age and working memory). Which makes me wonder if some of the skills that I learned really quickly happened because I took up knitting seriously right after I finished college. AKA when I was looking to learn something new and challenge myself.

I suppose I wonder this because the motivation that existed for me to learn how to knit does not exist when it comes to learning how to better my crochet, sewing or embroidery skills.

This rabbit hole was inspired by my take two of Alicia Plummer‘s sweater pattern Stonewall, which came out a LOT better than take one. Admittedly, the bar was set pretty low when you consider that take one grew about a foot when I blocked it and I had never picked up stitches for a neckline before. The thing is, it’s still not perfect. I ignored all waist shaping because I usually like a boxier sweater, but I should have done a little bit of it. I also maybe should have gone down an additional needle size when knitting the neckline, even though I’m happy with the stitches for the bottom and sleeve ribbing.

A young woman wearing a textured yellow orange handknit sweater.
My Completed Stonewall Sweater

So where do I stand on the 10,000 hours thing? I would say it’s been a while since I’ve really pushed myself on a project, probably because I enjoy knitting that is semi mindless. That being said, I’ve think I understand how stitches can translate into a garment and can create a mental image of how something will knit up in the yarn that I’m using (pooling aside of course).

All in all, I think I’m mostly happy with my second attempt of the Stonewall sweater and think I’m going to continue to knit projects that inspire me.

Works Cited (Vancouver Style)

  1. Baer D. New study destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule [Internet]. Business Insider. [cited 2020 Nov 7]. Available from: https://www.businessinsider.com/new-study-destroys-malcolm-gladwells-10000-rule-2014-7
  2. Macnamara BN, Hambrick DZ, Oswald FL. Deliberate practice and performance in music, games, sports, education, and professions: a meta-analysis. Psychol Sci. 2014 Aug 1;25(8):1608–18.

Holiday Gifting: What I asked my sister to get me.

The holiday season is an interesting time under normal circumstances, everyone is running around stressing about what to get their loved ones and spending money that they don’t have. My partner and I are in the process of fixing up a house that was built in 1910, my sister just had her first baby, my parents buy everything that they need, when you combine everything together and stir it you end up with the following situation: How do I encourage those around me not to feel bad about not spending money on us this year? And also: Should I warn people that we don’t have a lot of money to spend on gifts?

My parents were the easy part of the equation, we’re all more interested in quality time than opening a gift. Assuming it stays safe to do so, I foresee a nice dinner out in our future.

Then there’s my niece. Realistically, I’ll knit her a sweater and add a few books to her collection. It’s too early for her to really want anything special.

My partner’s Mom is also on the list, but we still haven’t sent her the birthday shawl I made (to be fair, she lives in New Zealand). I’m leaning towards sending her a few nice teas, but that’s really up to my partner.

That really leaves my sister and her husband, who have big hearts and generous gifting habits (seriously, I’m often left feeling like I spent to little on them). When you combine that with KnitPick’s Big Sale and the growing list of baby sweaters in my Ravelry favorites, you get my proposed idea: They pick from a selection of sweaters and the yarn links I’ve pared with them and I’ll make my niece a sweater. If all they do is pick a sweater and buy the recommended yarn, they’ll spend at most $20 and I’ll have a surprise sweater to knit my niece. If they don’t feel like that’s a good idea, I set a reasonable budget for us to spend on each other.

A gray handknit sweater with a pink ruffled bottom.
The Tutu Top

The first sweater I picked was the Tutu Top. Scrolling through finished projects reveals grinning little girl after grinning little girl. Two balls of mighty stitch (I’m not usually a fan of acryllic, but I like the sheen this adds, plus it’s economical) in two different colors for a grand total of $15.97 with shipping. Let’s be honest for a second, my niece will find herself in this sweater regardless of whether or not her parents choose this as an option.

A toddler wearing a handknit buttoned cardigan. Half of the sweater is a solid grey and the other half is white and gold stripped. The sleeves on either side of the cardigan are the opposite (the grey side has white and gold striped sleeves, the stripped side has a solid grey sleeve).
Gingersnap

Next up was Gingersnap, also using mighty stitch. I have yarn to make one of these for my coworker’s daughter and possibly for the boy down the street. What’s one more? The yarn I have for the other two sweaters came from the Loopy Ewe. I took advantage of the color cakes (which is “samples” of cascade 220) that they put together. My coworker will get a sweater in dark grey, white and teal. My neighbor might get a sweater in blue red and yellow (we’ve only met them a few times and I keep going back and forth on whether or not to give them one. This sweater would cost closer to $20 to purchase yarn for.

A garter stitch sweater hanging on a clothes line. The body of the sweater is blue, the sleeves and chest are white and there is a blue strip along the top of the sleeves and neckline.
French Macaroon

Their third choice is French Macaroon, a garter stitch sweater with subtle striping. Two balls of Swish DK should do the trick (~$17)? I’m probably under estimating and being overly hopeful that this isn’t the one they pick. At least it’s a free pattern and Knitpicks ships fast! As a side note, I thought Macaroons where the coconut cookies and Macaron was the meringue cookie? Perhaps I’ve been watching too much of the Great British Bake off….

A little girl facing away from the camera wearing a sweater that fades from pink to blue to green.
So Faded Pint Size

The final option that I sent my sister was So Faded Pint Size. I’m not sure when I added this pattern to my library, but this is another one that’s been in there long enough that my niece will get one of these sweaters either way. I suggested a Stroll Tonal Mini Pack. Since the packs are $20 before shipping, this is the most expensive option.

I’m excited to see if this is something that comes to be. It’s a different way to incorporate someone else into my knitting, while still proposing options that I would enjoy.

Camp Loopy 2020: August Challenge

Let me start by saying, August is always the best month because you typically have the most freedom when it comes to meeting the challenge. As I write this post, my August project is sitting in my bathtub. Admittedly, I was up until late last night working the final rows despite having five more days to finish it. The challenge was as follows:

Yarn for August: Socks that Rock and Dream in Color

1. Your project must use 800 or more yards in one single project, singly knit. (Singly knit means an 800 yard project as opposed to a 400 yard project with the yarn held double to use up 800 yards.)

2. To celebrate our science theme, your project needs to fit into one of the following categories of science: Physical Sciences, Earth Sciences, or Life Sciences. It can fit in there by pattern name, pattern design, pattern designer, yarn name, or yarn color.

3. Yarn for your project (800 yards) needs to be purchased from The Loopy Ewe, July 10, 2020 or later. If you purchase during Camp Store Week (July 10-17), you can request a 15% discount on the yarn for your project. You’ll need to leave us an order note with the name of the yarn that you’re using for your project, so we know where to apply your discount.

4. The project needs to be started August 1, 2020 or later, and finished no later than August 31, 2020, with a photo of the finished project uploaded to our Camp Loopy Photo Gallery on our website by midnight on September 1st. You upload the photo on your Loopy account page.

Usually, I read through the prompt and spend HOURS trying to decide what to make. Hemming and hawing about how I want to spend the last month because the yardage requirement is typically the largest. This year, however, I hoped that the final prompt would have something Geology related because I’ve had my project picked out since May.

Normally, I’m intimidated by Stephen West’s designs. They contain so many different colors and I have a hard enough time selecting colors for stripes. I’m not sure what happened this year, but suddenly I’ve been drawn to his shawls. Striped Esjan, Skystorm, and Mosaic Musings hit my queue one right after the other as they popped up in my instagram feed (West has put together some new kits over the last few months). When Lava Lake was released, I fell in love with it and was itching to cast on.

Camp got in the way of a speedy cast on. Between Precamp, June and July, my yarn budget, and knitting time, was focused. That and the hope that August would pose a challenge that Lava Lake would fit nicely into. 1647 yards later, it’s done.

As I mentioned before, I have a hard time choosing colors to put together. This isn’t because I’m bad with color, I love color. Blending it, making it pop, etc etc. The problem I run into is I have a hard time making a choice. This problem is worse when I shop online, and since I’m not local to The Loopy Ewe I had to bite the bullet and ask for help.

Halfway mark, all decreases from here

This is the part where I tell you that I love local(ish) yarn shops. Their attention to detail and their enthusiasm for what they do is truly remarkable. Not only did they politely point out why the colors wouldn’t work as well as I thought, to my credit it’s hard when you can’t put them next to each other, they took the time to find colors that did (thank you Sarah!). Sure, maybe that’s their job (after all I worked for a yarn store and it is what we did), but I still think it’s going above and beyond. Finding colors that suit someone else’s vision is a skill and I really appreciate(d) it.

So what’s the vote on Lava Lake now that it’s done? Honestly, I can’t really believe that it’s done. Lava lake provided me with a simple yet interesting project. The repeat was easy to remember, but the color changes and the shaping were engaging. Admittedly, last night I entered the knitter zen of “this is getting finished tonight” and this comes with “how many more rows do I have to do?”, but I was almost sad to finish casting off.

When I started this project, I kept thinking about how it might be fun to knit it all in one color. Now that it’s done, and I’m left trying to figure out what to knit next, I still think that might be a good idea.

Just about to the blending of the last (first) two colors!

We’re in the middle of fixing up our fixer upper, which is a fancy way of saying that my yarn budget and ability to take on complex projects, is small. I’m not sure what I’ll knit next, but at least there’s some beautiful yarn in my stash to help me get started.

Since my shawl is still in my bathtub, I’ll share the final photos via instagram and my project page.

Edit: Because I just laid the shawl out and am in love with how HUGE it is.

Lava lake shawl laid out on a porch rail.