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.

Mars’s Flannel

A mustard yellow sweater wet blocking in a white bathroom sink.
Justin’s Flannel Blocking

While this post doesn’t mark the first sweater I ever made my partner (See: writers block cardigan and Flax), it does mark the first time that I’ve ever used Julie Asselin’s yarn and the first time that Alicia Plummer designed a men’s sweater. Test knitting Justin’s Flannel was so much fun, that I can’t help but see it in every color.

For starters, Justin’s (Mars’s) Flannel is the perfect combination of mindless knitting with a little bit of texture thrown in to keep it interesting. When you combine that with the fact that it’s easy to read your stitches to see where you are in the pattern, this sweater makes for excellent TV, knit night, podcast listening, reading etc knitting. In fact, I had so much fun with it I manipulated the pattern to make a baby sweater for a friend out of fingering yarn (more on that later when it’s finished, also I have it on good authority that Alicia is working on a children’s version as well)!

The next thing I love about this sweater is that it’s actually unisex. While I love Plummer’s designs, I often skip knitting the waist shaping. Though large, Mars’s flannel is a sweater that I could grab and curl up in.

Naturally, even with all my warm and fuzzy feelings I couldn’t help but change a few small details of the sweater. If you like the way the sweater hangs on my partner, you would need to knit the body a total of 16 inches before the ribbing (that’s an extra three inches) and the sleeves 19 inches before adding the ribbing (an extra 1.5). There is also a LOT of positive ease in his sweater, thought it’s been a little while since he’s been measured it’s safe to say that it’s about 5 inches.

Five hanks of Julie Asselin's Nutured yarn in Miel (yellow)
Julie Asselin’s Nurtured in Miel

Speaking of curling up in something, I cannot stress enough how warm and cozy Nurtured by Julie Asselin is. The photo below of my partner shows him in 30 degree (F) weather without a coat. This is particularly noteworthy because he’s from New Zealand and usually has two – three additional layers on compared to what I have. I, as the photographer, am behind the scenes wearing my winter jacket loosely zipped. What a difference! The bloom of Nurtured is also beautiful, meaning that the yarn has an almost felted look to it until it is wet blocked.

One downside of Nurtured is that with the extra warmth comes extra weight. I tend to be someone who knits more with Fingering – DK weight yarns in the interest of my hands and wrists not being the limiting factor while I knit. It sometimes felt like I was knitting with cotton, the yarn doesn’t seem to have a lot of elasticity and the project was heavy. 100% worth it, but worth mentioning because I couldn’t spend a lot of consistent time working on the sweater because my hands needed breaks. Despite this, I would use it again (although I would probably use Nurtured Fine instead, light weight yarn biases and all). Also, doesn’t bother me, but this yarn isn’t machine washable.

All in all, highly recommend both the yarn and the pattern!

A man walking his hound in the woods wearing a yellow textured knit sweater.
Walking on the local snow mobile trail during melt season is the best time to grab a knit sweater.

Speed Knitting: Two test knits in two weeks

Do you ever feel like you’re cranking out knitting projects? Like the yarn is flying through your fingers and magically turning into a garment? I’m not sure what it is about 2020, but I feel like I knitting machine. Projects are taking shape between my eyes, and I’ve been taking advantage of this sudden burst in speed.

Ok ok, I admit it, I’m a fast knitter. I’m not sure when it happened, but I will say around the same time I got faster people started telling me that I knit funny. Now, if you remember my post On Deadlines, you’ll remember that I’m not typically a fan of them. So what has me signing up for test knits and enthusiastically cranking them out?

I think part of my inspiration is coming from feeling a little bit like a knitting machine. As fun as it is to crank projects out, sometimes the speed that I’m cranking them out doesn’t match the speed in which I pick a new project. Both of these test knits came at a time where I wasn’t sure what to knit next, taking the pressure off to find something that I really wanted to work on. That and they both looked fun.

Red hand-knit socks.
Colsie by Alicia Plummer, knit in Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Pure 100% Merino Superwash

The first project I knit was Colsie. Within one repeat of the texture pattern, I had it memorized and found it easy to determine which row I was on. It also gave me the opportunity to practice knitting cables without a cable needle. Actually, I think this pattern has the potential to make really cool sleeves. (Note to self, consider making a sweater with textured sleeves)

The second project was Bulky Abate, which is the child’s version of the Ease sweaters that I’ve made previously. This knit worked up in a strange combination of slow (shouldn’t bulky yarn knit faster than this?) and fast at the same time (I knit it in three days?!). Personally, I love this pattern and was thrilled to test knit it in a smaller size/different weight than I would normally knit it.

Two projects in two weeks, not too shabby. I think it’s going to be a little bit before I sign up to crank out another test knit, specifically because I’m thinking about knitting Trevor in black and gold. Sometimes you just have to let creativity hit you and then go where it takes you. That being said, I will probably regret knitting in black the bulk of this sweater in black, but can’t stop thinking about how awesome it will look. Hopefully, that will be enough motivation as I struggle to double-check what row I’m on…

In Stillness Cardigan

A young woman taking a photo of herself with her back to a mirror in hopes of showing off the texturing of both the front and back pieces of the cardigan she is wearing.
In Stillness Cardigan, knit in Wool of the Andes Worsted

I’ve dabbled in test knitting, most of which was done while I was a new knitter and didn’t want to pay for patterns. During my time working for Webs, a place I would have stayed if the desire to become a librarian hadn’t been so strong, I spent a lot of time knitting up samples for the store in exchange for store credit. And in grad school, I had the pleasure of knitting for the Fibre Company in exchange for yarn, a sweater for a sweater if you will. I’m not a designer, though I hope to design my dog a sweater or two that I can share with other dog lovers, I lack the creative eye that so many designers have. Despite my feelings on deadlines, I would actually love a job where yarn companies sent me yarn to knit up into various garments (seriously though how does one get a job like that?).

When Alicia Plummer posted on her Instagram, I couldn’t help but reach out and politely ask if I could knit up her pattern. For me, it’s hard not to love Alicia’s patterns. They’re simple and often play with texture and color in a subtle way. My only complaint is that I don’t have hips and her waist shaping looks wonky on me — though through no fault of her designing. This is more or less a roundabout way of say I had a fangirl moment when she said yes and had to remain calm when the email with her pattern arrived in my inbox.

A young woman takes a selfie of herself in her bedroom mirror wearing a hand knit grey cardigan.
Wooden buttons selected by Mars, the poet in my life.

I know it was a worsted weight cardigan and I’ve been working in fingering weight, but when you factor in the busyness of the holiday season, it knit up fast. Each stitch sliding across my needles as I listen to my Uncle discuss how he was doing post chemo or my mom discuss the wonders of her new job. Ironically, this pattern helped me sit in stillness during a chaotic time of the year. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I was a little sad to sew on the last button.

The sweater is not for me, it was never going to be for me. As the cardigan began to take shape, I knew it was destined to rest upon my Cioci shoulders. To give her strength when the world tests her, but also to thank her for her love and kindness through the years. Perhaps, and I say this a little guiltily, also because I was charged with seeming and knitting the button bands of one of her incomplete sweaters (she’s a crocheter and doesn’t often knit) and I can’t bring myself to finish it (while seeming does suck, I’m actually worried the sweater won’t fit her).

I can’t decide whether to mail the finished sweater or enjoy the long drive that separates us to give it to her in person. Either way, I think I’m going to modify the pattern by adding buttons to the front (sewn on, probably in the same texture as the top part) and finish seeming her sweater before putting them both into her hands.