Thursday, January 22, 2015

Looking Forward, Looking Back

It's always nice to look back at the previous year and get a sense of what was accomplished.  Although my husband and I have written and sent out an annual letter for most of our 30 years together, the last ten years somehow slipped by.  But this year we got the whole family together for a photo just before the holidays and Peter wrote the letter and I spent a lot of time reconstructing our address list - people move around a lot in a decade! We had it printed, ran address labels and spent a snowy cold day signing our names, writing notes and folding/stuffing/sealing/stamping almost 200 letters.  Done!

 Ravelry, that amazing internet haven for knitters, tells me that I completed 10 projects last year with 5 others that were begun but not completed.  I knit a cowl, 3 shawls, a long cotton scarf,  2 pairs of socks, a summer cardigan, a hat, and one rabbit.   On January 1st,  three cardigans, a Rainbow Afghan and a pair of  fingerless gloves were in various states of progress.  This does not count Old WIPs, just projects begun in 2014.  I have a lot of old works-in-progress, more on some of those later.

The highlights of my knitting year would have to be the two Swallowtail wedding shawls that I knit out of Hand Maiden Sea Silk yarn - one in a natural color for my daughter Hannah and the other in ultraviolet for my nephew Miles' bride, Meghann.  A lot of positive intention was worked into the stitches of those shawls!

I'm also quite pleased with a last minute Christmas gift that I knitted for my son, Robbie.  Robbie's grey pet rabbit, Stewart passed away quite suddenly the week before he came home for the holidays and Robbie was understandingly very sad.  I knew I had seen a good rabbit pattern on Ravelry and I found it in my favorites: Henry's Rabbit by Sara Elizabeth Kellner.  I downloaded the free pattern and looked through my stash listing and decided that to have just the right yarn, I needed to buy some charcoal color Shepherd's Wool Worsted from Stonehedge Fiber Mill.  This is a soft 100% Merino yarn in a worsted weight.  I started knitting on December 15th, squeezing it in between work and all the business of the holiday season and I sewed the last seam and stitched on the eyes on Christmas Eve.  We both cried when Robbie opened that package on Christmas afternoon - he was really touched and pleased and I was delighted. 

Looking forward, I have a number of fiber related goals for the coming year.  I have a weaving related book project that I am working on - I will tell you more about that when I have made more progress. 

In the knitting realm, I will be teaching a new class at the John C Campbell Folk School in October called Knitting Design: Aran & Gansey Style, and to help me prepare for this I just started an Aran Design study with the knitting study group of the Blue Ridge Spinners & Weavers Guild.  I have been leading this group for several years and I really enjoy the opportunities for teaching and sharing at our monthly meetings.

North Sea Knitting Sampler - student & teacher samples
I have designed and knit a number of Aran and gansey sweaters over the years, and I teach a North Sea Knitting Sampler that includes Arans & Ganseys, Fairisle colorwork and Shetland lace knitting, but these are shorter classes with small projects.  One of the wonderful things about teaching at the Campbell Folk School is the luxury of working for 5-6 days on a subject but obviously this also requires more organization, so before I teach a new class there I like to do a focused study. 

For our January meeting, I brought a bag full of sweaters and a bag full of books.  We reviewed the basic design elements of traditional Aran sweaters, talked about choosing stitch patterns that will coordinate and balance and discussed swatching.  Many knitters don't like to swatch - they feel that it is time and yarn wasted when they really long to cast on for the real thing, but a good swatch will give you the information you need to plan a garment that really works and fits.  I talked about practical uses to make swatching more palatable - a swatch can become a scarf, the crown of a hat, a square for an afghan, etc.

Then I gave out a sample pattern for the knitters to take home and work.  I encouraged the knitters to look at sweaters and patterns online and in books and think about what types of cable patterns they like best, and about how they would like to put these together into a panel of stitch patterns for the garment they are designing.  I will report back on how the homework assignments went after we meet in February.

For myself, I would like to design & knit a few baby & child size Aran & gansey sweaters this year as class samples, and hopefully complete a few of the unfinished projects pictured above.  Clockwise from the top: the orange is Thea Coleman's design Dark & Stormy in Peace Fleece Worsted, color Glasnost Gold; the tan is a natural brown sheep colored genuine Aran sweater that I bought in the west of Ireland in 1980; the blue grey is Kristen Kapur's  Dr. G's Memory Vest in Peace Fleece Worsted, color Lakinka Malinka; the red is Juliet Moody's Sparrow cardigan in some Vermont farm wool that my friend Norman Kennedy dyed with cochineal and the brown is Alice Starmore's St. Brigid in Black Water Abbey Worsted, color Chestnut.

What goals are you considering for the coming year? 

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