Red Feather Spice

Since before we even started dating, I’ve been knitting for my husband. In fact, by the time we started dating I think I had already made him three pairs of socks and a scarf. One of his favorite stories to tell is how we went into the movie theater to watch The Joker and came out with a half-finished sock (I can knit without looking, but I can’t turn a heel without looking!). In my defense, we were really good friends before we started dating and he’s from an area of New Zealand where it doesn’t really get cold. His first pair of handknit socks were such a game-changer that he literally asked when he could get a second pair as soon as he had them on his feet. He took to my handknits so enthusiastically that for our first holiday season together, I knit him a sweater. And then I knit him another one a few months later, and another one a few months after that.

I’ve almost knit sweaters for the men (ok one man) in my life before. In fact, I was working on an octopus embrace sweater when the sweater curse struck and I realized that the work needed to create the handknit wasn’t worth the relationship! After that, I refused to knit anything larger than a sock (just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of stitches!) for my partners. My husband, who at this point now has 4 handknit sweaters to his name from me, is the first man I have ever given a sweater to. He’s also 100% worthy of each of them and is always willing to oo and aww when I show him progress updates.

Knowing that we had a winter baby on the way, I wanted to make him something particularly cozy this year (after all, there would be a time that he would have to take the dog out on his own). There are about 8-10 sweaters that I’ve favorited over the last few months because I thought he would like them, so I don’t have a good reason for choosing to make a Spice Cardigan other than the fact that my local yarn shop‘s birthday was coming up (they had a giveaway bag if you spent over x amount, which is so easy to do with sweater quantities) and I have been wanting to work with Spincycle Yarns for a while. In fact, it wasn’t until after I purchased both the pattern and the yarn (I snagged some Forge by Hudson + West Co to go with the Spincycle) that I realized the pattern required the cardigan to be steeked. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.

When it comes to sweater construction, I don’t have strong feelings about top-down, bottom-up, or pieces that require seaming. I usually pick a sweater pattern by the design itself and then throw myself into it. Having said that, I’ve never knit the sleeves of a sweater before knitting the body of a sweater. This is not an uncommon technique, many knitters even do it so that they can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch. Andrea Mowry actually wrote Spice in such a way that you knit the sleeves before you knit the body of the sweater. True, it’s easy enough to knit the body of this sweater first and then set it aside for the sleeves, but it was sort of satisfying to have “completed” two parts of the sweater before even casting on for the body.

The colorwork stitches being every other stitch is nice as well, the yarn flew between my fingers as opposed to requiring that I slowed down to pick up a float from time to time.

I suppose this brings me to steeking, that thing I’ve successfully avoided my entire knitting career. Until this sweater. After attempting a few stitches of the crochet reinforcement, I ended up deciding to use the straight stitch on my sewing machine instead. Though nerve-wracking, it was easier than I thought it would be to sew through the knit fabric. Next, I picked up the stitches for the collar based on a suggestion from Tincanknits and tried to knit a row (and put off cutting the fabric a little longer). This method result in a cramped working space, so I ended grabbing my scissors and spending two minutes cutting the knit fabric before continuing the collar.

Now that I have a steeked project under my belt, I can say that it’s honestly not that bad. I don’t see myself seeking out projects just to steek, but I don’t see myself actively avoiding them either. All in all, I would (and probably will) steek again.

An orange cardigan with a shawl collar and five toggle buttons laid flat.

Wide Ridged & Wrapped Shawl

13 mini skeins of fingering weight yarn creating a rainbow gradient from pink to purple.

Every season has elements about them that are beautiful and worth looking forward to, as well as elements that challenge you. Personally, I don’t have a strong preference for summer over winter or fall over spring. In fact, I have specific activities that I look forward to enjoying each season that help me combat the elements that challenge me.

That being said, instead of seasons giving me a harder time I find that there are specific months that I look forward to a lot less than others. For example, where we live, April is an ugly month. The snow is more or less melted (but you can’t rule out a random storm) and everything looks (and is) dirty. Trash and dog poop that was neglected during the winter months suddenly makes an appearance. Hiking trails are half mud half ice, meaning that you spend most of your time hiking trying to negotiate how many times you need to take your microspikes on and off. Usually, if I can get through April I can coast through the remainder of mud season (yes it’s a season all its own here) and on to enjoying summer.

November, despite Thanksgiving and the break that tends to come with it, is my other pain month. Similar to April, it’s a dreary month often marked by freezing rain and naked trees. Getting outside becomes a game of “do I have enough waterproof layers to stay warm” and the world around you turns grey while it waits to be blanketed in the first snow of the year.

A large rectangular shawl knit in 13 different colors creating a rainbow gradient from bright pink to purple laid flat on a blue towel to dry.

To combat the gray weather, I found myself knitting a wide version of the Ridged and Wrapped Shawl by Stephanie Shiman out of a 13 mini-skein pack of Mary Ann by Wonderland Yarns. Though the stitch pattern is simple, transitioning from red to greens to blues to purples kept the project interesting. This project saw me through this year’s Great British Bake-off competition, some light reading, and the first couple of episodes of the Wheel of Time (which we’re enjoying, even though it differs from the books).

Though I’ve worked with wonderland yarns before, I always find myself drawn to the vibrancy of their colors. True, the Mystery & Danger pack boasts loud and bright colors, but even their pastel collections are rich and beautiful.

The hardest thing about this project, for me, was deciding where to “randomly” place ridges. How far apart was too far and am I accidentally creating too much of a repeating pattern were the two most common questions going through my head throughout the entire process. Also, it took me a long time to work through this shawl because, though worth it, it’s a bit of a marathon. I highly recommend setting goals (I’m going to knit this many skeins this week), and/or having other projects (in my case sewing) to pick up when you need a break.

As with any long project, I tend to develop a wandering eye, which means that the start-itis now that it’s complete is real! I have so many knitting (Spice, Mini Gale, Sorrel Mini, Peperomia Mini, Birds of a Feather, and Camera Mits to name a few) and sewing (at least two pairs of PJ pants!, Josephine Sweatshirt, a button-down…) projects lined up that I haven’t decided where to start.

Scrunched up rectangular shawl of 13 colors creating a rainbow gradient from bright pink to purple.

Leaves of Grass in Woolstok Light

As I write this post, I have to own up to still basking in the glory of finishing my second pi shawl. For starters, the stitch detail in this pattern is incredible, which means the project required a lot of focus to complete. AKA it required lots of counting, chart checking and zero distractions (not a project to work on while watching TV or participating in zoom calls). Next, it’s a deceptively large shawl where moving onto the next chart also means at least doubling your stitch count. This means that the further along in the project you get the longer it takes to complete a row, something that should have been obvious before I got started. Finally, this was a project with a deadline which means that the break I took from the project lead to a period of “you can’t knit anything else”.

A green lace circle shawl folded in half and wrapped around a young woman's shoulders

Leaves of Grass has been on my radar more or less since I originally joined Ravelry. It’s a gorgeous pattern that’s influences speak to my inner wood elf, and a pattern that I’ve owned for years before finally sitting down to knit it. If I’m being honest, this was not my original choice of project when I learned that I would have the privilege of working with Woolstok Light to help promote it as a Blue Sky Maker. Having worked a lot with Woolstok over the years, I actually planned on knitting a light weight colorwork sweater with the new yarn. As my sample skein sat on my craft table and I waited for the colors I picked out to come in, I found myself coming back to Leaves of Grass. Unlike Woolstok, Woolstok Light is a single ply yarn. This doesn’t mean it’s not usable for colorwork projects (check out the Bainbridge Tam and Cowl!), but it does mean that it had the potential to be beautiful for lace projects.

Minus using a needle that had me slightly off gauge, I’m very happy with the way this shawl turned out! Woolstok Light is spun with multiple colors of yarn that combine to create the color that you see. This technique provides a level of depth that you can’t get with yarns that have been dyed using a tonal technique or with single colored skeins. In addition to the stitch definition provided by the single ply, the shawl also has a light halo (which I love!).

A green lace circle shawl draped over a young woman's shoulders so that it hangs like a poncho.

My only word of caution, which is really a “here’s another use of this yarn”, is that I think it will felt very easily. I worked the final two chart repeats with (incredibly) hot hands and my final stitches along the edge did join together a little bit. Also, split splicing to join a new skein of yarn takes like three seconds.

I don’t see myself reaching for the Leaves of Grass pattern again any time soon (although I did seriously consider knitting on in a worsted weight yarn during chart C), but never is a long time and you never know!

Close up of a green lace circle shawl.

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.