Minnesota Books Series

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Books and knitting. Knitting and books. It’s impossible for me to pick the front runner.

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When I started graduate school, I had the chance to hear Louise Fili speak about her art director years at Pantheon Books. Complete awe. Instant job envy.

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If my academic exposure to graphic design had come five years later, maybe that could have been my career path. But this was before the digital revolution, and I had piss-poor fine motor skills. I cut Rubylith like a toddler — a toddler wearing oven mitts.

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In creating a blanket series that pays homage to Minnesota books, it wasn’t enough to pick my favorite books by my favorite writers.

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Nope. It had to be my favorite cover for each one of those beloved books.

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More Is More; Less Is a Bore

For many knitters, that headline and sneak peek photo together are enough of a clue. For those still puzzling it out, never fear. Here’s the dynamic duo behind the motto.

Yep, that’s Stephen West s&sand StevenBe.

I took a much-needed vacation day and headed to the self-proclaimed “Glitter Knitter’s” Minneapolis studio a few weeks ago for the “New Perspectives on Knitting with S-Squared” class.

It was mid-February and I was in dire need of some fun and inspiration — and an explosion of color. The Steph(v)ens did not disappoint. It was a solid 3 hours of knitting tips & tricks combined with unfiltered creativity. My favorite moment? Stephen’s unforgettable take on short rows with eyelets, explained through interpretive dance.

What a kick to see so many of their great knits in person. I was particularly inspired by the color play in these shawls. Can you say, dreaming of spring?

westknit-shawlsI’ve been fascinated with the construction of the Enchanted Mesa sweater since it was published and Izzy eagerly assured me she’d like one of her own to wear — a statement sweater with an interesting mix of colors.

So I brought a hefty assortment of yarn colors and weights to the class so I could start on it. Stephen consulted on color and sizing. Then I headed home to cast on and sneak in a few hours of knitting. And play with yarn weights and colors I did — sparkle mixed with mohair, DK with lace-weight and fingering. I’d made it through the sweater’s yoke and was pretty pleased with the boldness. But then I came to halt, knowing it would never work…

mesa-cowlWhy? Well, because I’d decided to let Izzy get creative with her hair…

izzy-squareAnd I knew the choice she’d picked meant that it was time to tone down the sweater.

Don’t believe me? Take a look.

Yep, version 2 of the Enchanted Mesa is now in full swing with a mostly black, white, and gray assortment of yarn.

Who needs a statement sweater when you have statement hair?

More than a Mile of Wool

Life is full of surprises. I know this. Yet, that simple fact never ceases to surprise me.

Back in November, it looked like Minnesota was in for a winter of epic proportions. We’d already logged a record subfreezing streak and more than one heavy snowfall. It looked like we were in for the sort of winter that’s, in fact, been playing out in other parts of the U.S. (Apologies to those who are living it.)

In response, I did what any good knitter does: started a project of equally epic proportions. I gathered up a couple thousand yards of beautiful hand-dyed Aran weight wool and set about creating a blanket that would keep me warm during the knitting — and serve as a lesson in perseverance.

Enter the knitting surprise to match the unexpected mild weather. I flew through the 1.57 miles of wool  in half the time I expected. (And, yes, I did the math. I’m crazy that way.) While I’m just now getting around to blogging the blanket, it was done and blocked before the end of January.

Kex6Pattern: Kex Blanket by Stephen West
Yarn: TFA Green Label (Sand, Brick, Tartan & Robin’s Egg Grey)

Kex2Between watching the yarn color changes play out and the rhythmic-but-not-dull pattern, I loved everything about making this blanket. And I love the FO.

Sure, it’s still mid-February and I know that winter is hardly a done deal. (What would Minnesota be without a March blizzard?) But I’m not worried. I have a fantastic queen-sized blanket to pull me through it.

Creeds on the Winter Solstice

As the teen sleeps in on this dark solstice morning, I’ve been catching up on podcasts. On Being’s “Conversation in Music with Carrie Newcomer” really resonated — the minute the episode ended, I tuned in to the unedited version. And I’m already planing to give it a re-listen today as holiday preparations continue.

Life has been, well, messy of late. Too many days and weeks of the sort that leave you drained of energy and spirit. Rest assured, the knitting hasn’t stopped even though the blog went on a long hiatus. But the performance of “I Believe” and Krista and Carrie’s reflections on the “so very holy” details of life left me wanting to start a conversation with my blog and Facebook friends.

If you were to write a creed of the earthy details you hold to be true, what would it include? Here are my shared favorites from Newcomer’s song (video below if you want to give it a listen):

  • I believe in socks and gloves knit out of soft, gray wool.
  • I believe a summer tomato is a cause to rejoice.
  • I believe in the kindness of strangers and the comfort of old friends.

Here are a few musings from me:

  • I believe in the steadying feel of wool winding through my fingers and the metal clinking of needles matching my breathing.
  • I believe my pets are Wim Wenders angels that more than earn their keep.
  • I believe in the sacrament of good chocolate melting on my tongue.

What do you celebrate as “so very holy” in your world?

WIP Wednesday: Magical Mystery Socks

When it comes to board games, I’m not that big on Monopoly. But the kiddo is. REALLY is.  Luckily, we found a special edition Beatles version at the cabin we rented. Mix in a new pair of fantastically bright socks and I was ready to play several rounds.

Pattern: AfterThought Heel Socks
Yarn: Regia Fluormania in Neon Flower

FO: Just Keep Swimming Socks

I’m definitely a creature of my surroundings. No surprise, then, that my fish socks demanded serious needle time during our cabin vacation. Finished them up with plenty of time to hold a photo shoot on the dock. (The perfectionist in me feels compelled to tell you that these hadn’t had a good soak yet — that’s my excuse for the wonky colorwork, especially in the gusset area, and I’m sticking with it!)

The socks sure came in handy when the temperatures dropped mid-week and I was otherwise regretting the fact that I’d failed to pack bed socks. Given the double layer of yarn created by the stranding, I’m pretty sure these will be a favorite this winter — whether or not I feel the need to “Just Keep Swimming!

Pattern: Swedish Fish Socks
Yarn: TFA blue label in Deep Sea and After the Sheep Panda in Butterscotch


WIP Wednesday: Cabin Knitting

By the time this post publishes, I should be well on my way to completing one or more of these WIPs. (Thanks, auto-scheduler!) Clockwise from the top: Ombre Cardigan, AfterThought Heel Socks, Swedish Fish Socks, Porthos socks.

And given my tendency to over pack projects for vacations, especially those that are built around lounging, chances are good I’ll return with another WIP to add to the list. Bliss!

FO: Vertices Unite

I finished my Vertices Unite just under the wire of the #tfashawls2014 June deadline. (#tfashawls2014 runs through the summer) Special thanks to Jane for cheering me through section 3 and Patchelle for cheering me through the i-cord bindoff!

Here’s Izzy modeling the blocked shawl last Sunday on her birthday. (Aside: I now have a teen. How did that happen?)


Pattern: Vertices Unite by Stephen West
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts fingering & DK mix (canyon, iris, stone, lucky penny, ravine)

vertices-square2Along with being a fun knit, what I especially love about this shawl is how different it looks when you drape and wrap it different ways. The medium (aka DK) size I created is so squishy and cozy, it’s almost got me dreaming of fall.

Pretty sure another one of these is in my future — a small one would be a good way to use up some fingering scraps. How often do you knit the same pattern more than once?

Friday Finds: The Unexpected Effects of Knitting

As knitters, we know that our time with yarn and needles = relaxation. No need for a study to tell us that. (Come on. Even my pets have deduced that knitting chills me out and improves my mood.) But if the muggles want to study the connection, who am I to object?

Turns out, they discovered something kind of awesome: Knitting can actually change your genes.

Knit on, my friends, in good health and with a clear conscience! And if you’re so inspired, knit a neuron or two.