Hawaii Retreat Cowl

I know that people have been taking advantage of working from home to travel. It’s all over my Instagram (no Facebook for this girl!) – the new trails that are being explored, the beaches that are being enjoyed, the different foods that are being tried – but I can’t bring myself to travel just yet. Part of this is due to our Spain trip imploding, we’ve already been burned by a lock down and I don’t want to relive that type of “action mode” again just yet. Some of it is a desire to not get sick/not get anyone else sick. Honestly, the biggest part is that I don’t want to travel if it means things are closed. The freedom to stop and enjoy a random restaurant, shop or museum is a privilege about traveling that I truly appreciate.

That aside, the longer we don’t travel the worse my wanderlust seems to get. I find myself daydreaming of hiking the Scotland Highlands or wandering the hills of Ireland. My partner is from New Zealand and I still haven’t explored the places he grew up. We used to be able to hop over to Canada with relative ease and there’s no end in site for the boarder closure. Needless to say, Simply Sock Yarn Company has been allowing me to travel vicariously through their gorgeous National Park Series. The first three month club focused on the Grand Canyon, Cub Lake, and the Black Hills National Forest and have each been knit up into gorgeous projects: House Slippers, Nelia Shawl, and Age of Brass and Steam. March’s colorway was inspired by Haleakala and it took me forever to pick a pattern that would suit it.

To the yarn’s credit, I felt very limited by the fact that I only had one skein. I thought about knitting a Spring Sorrel and several other DK weight sweaters before accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to get my hands on more skeins. So when I say that I settled on Joji’s Retreat Cowl, I need you to understand that there was still a lot of excitement around this pattern. In fact, the Retreat Cowl provided me with a nice break from a lace shawl that I’m passively working on.

The Retreat Cowl is worked flat after being started with a provisional cast on. After reaching the specified length, the provisional cast on is removed and stitches are picked up so that the lace edging can be worked. Simple, yet interesting. Plus it allows the yarn’s colors to bounce around and do most of the talking. I would knit this again, although probably in a tonal so that the lace edge stands out a little more.

Real talk about the lace edge: my row gauge was off and I was only able to pick up ~70 stitches. A quick search through the projects on Ravelry shows that this is a relatively common problem and results in a snug fitting cowl, even if you go up a needle size for the lace pattern. Thinking I was smart, I picked up two stiches for every stitch and worked 140 stitches (two extra lace repeats). The final result is a cowl that billows a bit at the bottom and is, stylistically speaking: a) not what I was going for and b) not really my style (or anyone else’s that I know of). That aside, it’s so frickin’ practical. The cowl will now sit slightly under the collar of a coat, as opposed to on top of it, and seal in warmth better. It’s a winter hiker’s dream! TBD if it ends up being gifted for Mother’s Day…

Close up of a multi colored ribbed cowl with lace edging being worn on a woman's neck.
Retreat Cowl, Knit by Iswimlikeafish

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).

Garnered Cardigan Test Knit

To start, I would like to remind everyone that this is the third sweater that I have knit for Alicia Plummer this fall. True, I tend to make slight modifications to her sweaters because I lack hips, but otherwise they’re gorgeous perfect creations.

I’m not sure what happened with my Garnered sweater other than whatever it was being completely my fault. The lace pattern was fun and easy to follow. The pieces fit together nicely. My gauge swatch lied to me. Actually, I’m leaning toward that last one being the issue. Then again, the body of my sweater hung correctly. Perhaps the sleeves being a little too long was a fluke?

Knit in Valley Yarn Berkshire, this sweater is soft (although not machine washable) and the lace stitches are nicely defined. When knit in wool, Garnered has the potential to be a warm but stylish addition to anyone’s collection — but I’m bias towards adding it to the collection of a hiker or runner. Just imagine rinsing off after a winter hike, or run, pulling on a pair of yoga pants and this cardigan. Mmmm perfection. I honestly can’t help feeling like a spokes person whenever I have the chance to bring up Berkshire.

I ended up gifting it to my friend, who loves it (or is at least nice enough not to say otherwise to my face). For all of the reasons that I didn’t like this sweater on me I love it on her. Sometimes I picture her throwing it on after a morning of rock climbing or curled up at night on her laptop getting ready to work on a grad school class. Usually when I do I feel a little bit like a creep…

Sweaters are a magical thing that tend to take on a life of their own. Once knit, even something that I intended for one person finds itself really belonging to someone else. As much as they also keep someone warm, I don’t find that hats and mittens have the same destiny. Perhaps when you knit a sweater (and I suppose a shawl too) you have more time to give it life due to the length of time required to complete the project.

Whatever the reason, this sweater came off my needles knowing the home it was going to, even if it didn’t know when the first few stitches were being cast on.

Knitting for Myself

I’ve been following callmedwj on Instagram for a few years now. I think it happened when we were both added to a group for promoting the Fibre Co, but honestly it doesn’t matter how it happened. Her content is so much fun to look at and as more challenging conversations have been happening in the crafting community, her content has been thought provoking.

Lately, I’ve been think a lot about what Dana posted about on her story: how she apologetically knits for herself and that every year for her birthday she makes herself a sweater. Now, Dana knits a lot of sweaters, so it really should not have been a surprise that she took the time to make herself a sweater just for her birthday. For some reason, I felt as though she gave me permission to no longer feel bad about knitting sweaters for myself even though it meant not working on something for others.

I probably didn’t really need this permission, it’s a concept that I’ve been working towards in the last few years, but I started my knitting journey by knitting someone a baby blanket. I literally started my knitting career with the goal of knitting gifts for other people and spent years stressing myself out around the holiday season to get it done. Last year was the first year I decided not to knit for for the holiday season only to change my mind and crank out a few last minute items.

When Dana admitted that she learned to knit so she could knit for herself, I was in awe. I mean, how awesome is that? To, from the beginning, say that this is something special that I do for myself. So, I took Dana’s message and my almost non-existent yarn stash (at the time that this post is being written I only have two skeins) and picked out a few projects on Ravelry that I’ve been eyeing for myself. Then I bought the yarn for them and I’m so excited!

It’s not even super fancy hand dyed yarn, I bought some sale yarn from KnitPicks (ok and some non-sale yarn). The point is, I sat down, let myself get excited and then bought yarn for three projects.

My first attempt at Stonewall, 2015

The first project I purchased yarn for is Alicia Plummer’s Stonewall. This pattern was my third or so sweater and went so wrong the first time I made it. First and foremost, it grew about a foot when I blocked it. Don’t ask me whether or not I did a gauge swatch a) because I did and b) because the circumference of the sweater fit great. The next problem was that I wasn’t good at picking stitches for necklines, so the neckline didn’t lay flat. The last big problem, is that the hip shaping on most of Alicia’s designs look terrible on me.

So here we are, 5 years later. I’m a better knitter and am still in love with the look of this sweater. It’s going to be knit in Wool of the Andes, colorway pumpkin.

Next up is another sweater by Alicia Plummer: Campside Pullover. This is a sweater that has been in my queue for a long time, I think I purchased the pattern the first week it came out. I’m not sure how easy it will be to eliminate the hip shaping, but I’m going to knit it in Capra, colorway Embers Heather. Hello on sale Cashmere blend! I wonder if I can get it done in time to wear it for the Holidays.

The final project I’ve picked out (and bought yarn for!) is Cold Spring Shawl by Kirsten Hipsky. The plan is to blend three colors of Aloft (Celestial, black and Koi) in the hopes of ending up with a warm airy piece. Separately, these colors are in my wheel house, but they’re not something I would have thought to combine.

I’m excited! It isn’t always easy to buy yarn for larger projects and I’ve just purchased yarn for three of them. I’m lucky to have a supportive partner and the ability to jump at yarn sales.