Story of Myrtle

Story of Myrtle

“Would you knit me another one?”

THUNK went my gut when Mom asked me that. She had just tried on the Myrle cardigan I’d knit for her and the fit was too tight. Fortunately, we were on the phone, so my body language was probably not as nonchalant as my voice.

“What bothers you about the fit,” I asked.

“Let me send it back so you can wear it.”

 

Daylight shines through the lace cardigan as it hangs in window

According to my project post, I cast on this sweater on August 1, 2019. Ah, yes, I took it with me on our 2019 sailing vacation. Too much concentration and dark yarn in the cabin at night meant I worked on other projects.

Autumn 2019 was full of local government campaigning, so there wasn’t much time to knit. Turns out, this wasn’t a great traveling project in the early months, too. In December, I pulled it all back and started over.

By February 2020, as I neared the finish line, I discovered that I placed the armholes incorrectly. Rip back, add a repeat and go for it again.

March 2020 began a time of interior updating and downsizing as we decided to move. It wasn’t until September that my evening knitting returned to the Myrtle. Mom was so patient. “I’ll be happy whenever I get it.”

Myrtle is a lace cardigan knit in fingering weight yarn in one piece from the bottom up. Its main lace panels were repeats of 19 stitches over 16 rows, with the motifs leaning left or right to mirror each other. You can read my notes on how I mapped out the pattern in my Ravelry project.

I made several modifications to the sweater that Mom did like:

  • Lengthened body by one repeat before binding off for underarms.
  • Chose a jewel neckline instead of a scoop neckline, which required three more repeats before binding off.
  • Worked stockinette for the underams instead of the mesh pattern. This created narrower upper arm circumference, which I hadn’t remembered to consider.

We couldn’t find the perfect buttons, so I made Dorset buttons using crewel embroidery wool. Mom loved the buttons, so I’ll do that again.

Dorset buttons on a lace cardigan knit by Alanna Nelson

Yes, you heard it. I’ll do just about anything for my Mom. It makes sense to profit from my muscle memory and lessons learned while it’s still fresh.

So this long-term effort was a good practice run?

Mom went to her LYS and ordered the same yarn again. She sent me the pdf.  I’ll copy and paste the pertinent sections of the pattern so I’m not flipping back and forth as I did the first time.

It’s a lot of knitting, but winter is still long. Cheers to good evenings and cups of tea.

What should we do with the lovely lace sweater she doesn’t want? Me wearing it would require gargantuan mental reframing. Let me use that effort elsewhere. I’m not quite at the point where I can just drop it off at the consignment shop…. your ideas, please!

Message me on Instagram or Ravelry.

An homage to Annie Modesitt

An homage to Annie Modesitt

The bike riding, no nonsense, ever exploring Annie Modesitt passed away on October 1, 2020.

She leaves behind two adult children she adored and a legacy of knitting encouragement, discovery, books and ModeKnit Yarn. An early active user on Twitter, I got to know her when she was the guest teacher on a Tactile Travel tour of Lazio and Umbria that I organized in 2010.

She enjoyed bike riding in Rome (what bravery!), tasting pastas made with potato, corn and grains other than wheat, and shared a wide range of knitting tips and tricks with our small group.

 

Here she is with Kath, the intrepid knitter and traveler, making etchings near the entrance to Villa d’Este. 

Villa d'Este Prints

Kath brought charmeuse scarves and fabric pastels and etched herself some lovely memories. Annie was delighted to join in. Note her lovely knitted hat with brim. 

Rainy days, sunshine, there was always something that made her laugh or indignant. Straightforward, she was unwilling to let anything hold her back, and her determination was admirable and a reckoning. 

 

Annie's not wet.

Annie was a good friend of the Common Cod Fiber Guild. She joined us at the very first FiberCampBoston – just out of her jammies via Skype. While that seems ever so commonplace now, in 2009, that was cutting edge.

Annie came and spoke to the Guild in 2011. She spent the night at our place, tired after flying from Minneapolis, giving the talk and the next day, she was headed to Rhode Island to teach over the weekend. Her first thought was for her kids, and she could hardly wait to check in.

This afternoon, her children arranged a “Modemorial” for her via Zoom. More than 130 people logged in to share their memories, their condolences and their grief.

May her enthusiasm for life live in her children and us all. Thank you, Annie, for all you gave us.

Patience in the Studio

Patience in the Studio

If you popped by my place during the Melrose Open Studio Tour, perhaps you noticed that it was not a sparse space. A large design surface held tidbits of several projects in hibernation. Fabric sprung from the wire drawers, disguised by a fabric curtain. Wool roving fluffed out of boxes, with screen and bubble wrap rolled under the work table and bottles of soapy water stood at the ready. Pencils, ink tense and HB2, mending, ephemera and of course my sewing and felting machines covered my other table. The space was… busy?

While keeping my tools at my fingertips makes sense, the idea to sort, clean and paint hibernated the winter. After vacation in February, I decided it was time to shake up my fiber den.

Easily said. Done without difficulty, but it did require infinitely more time and patience than expected. Touching everything in drawers, bins, shelves took time. Nostalgic, restless, ebullient, anxious moments rolled into hours. Patience, Alanna, patience.

Fortunately, friends offered to help with the painting, so there was a deadline to get through it all. As they arrived, the remaining items were stuffed, pushed away, and boxed up. Let the wall prep and painting begin – both ceiling and floors. Thank you Sandra and Laurena!

Eventually, the chaos relented, but there were days like this!

With everything boxed up, I took the time to think about the components of my practice. Felting, sewing, knitting, stitched together with writing and marketing shape my creative life. It felt good to recognize all of these components, and give space for each in my studio.

It also feels good to keep only necessary materials at hand. I’ve decided to keep it that way. There are so many possibilities and yet so little time! Patience, Alanna, patience.

The studio “shake up” coincided with COVID-19 social distancing kick up. On the day that Sandra and Laurena came over, a WhatsApp message from a friend who lives in Hong Kong warned, “I worry about the US not taking this virus seriously. Do what you can to stay safe.” March 11 was my last regular day. Patience, Alanna, patience.

Meanwhile, I’m participating in a weekly seminar organized by Creative Capital, “Building Community for a Sustainable Creative Life,” led by Sharon Louden. There’s plenty of material to soak up, ideas to consider and connections to make in the next few weeks.

Clearly this year teaches me to reexamine my creative space – both physical and mental. Balancing enthusiasm and patience is a good exercise for me. This spring, I’m patiently feeding the future of my studio. Let it be a fertile place!

Knitting 2019

Knitting 2019

Alanna’s Knitting Year in Review

January 2019: Open the closet door, gaze at my yarn stash and the knitting priority was obvious: Finish those WIPs (works in progress)! Thus began a humbling yet joyous year.

There are still several projects yet to complete, but I let myself off the hook. Remember, this is a hobby! Then again, there are two sweaters that just need piecing. Not teaching in yarn stores during most of 2019 helped keep temptation at bay. However, I didn’t completely abstain from yarn purchases.

For that late winter stir crazy moment, Cardizen was cozy, easy knit and there was no super bulky yarn in my closet….

Late spring sent me to Marblehead for the Women’s Sailing Conference gave me the perfect chance to detour to Circle of Stitches to indulge in a bit of Mericash fingering from Skeinny Dipping Yarns to knit Sibella.

In August, Mom sent me the yarn to make the Myrtle cardigan for her. This lace, fingering weight cardigan is knit in one piece. Casting on at the beginning of our sailing vacation wasn’t my best life choice. Poor lighting at night, full concentration and flying pattern pages gave me a rough head start. I could really only knit on it at night below deck. Progress was slow for several months. In mid-November, I ripped back 5″, starting the lace pattern again. Note to others: start complex sweater patterns with the sleeve – it gives you the chance to learn the pattern with smaller repeats! The Myrtle cardigan is making progress and will probably be on the needles for the first quarter of 2020!

Also during the autumn, a gorgeous teal gradient pack of Dirty Water Dyeworks Lillian emerged from my stash with the plans to become a scarf using Sequence Knitting techniques. Fingering weight yarn just doesn’t do the patterning justice. I do recall Cecelia mentioning that. BTW: Cecelia will speak at the Greater Boston Knitting Guild in March 2020!

Ripped back and cast on Canady by Bristol Ivy. The pattern requires much more yarn than what I have, but I will deal with that then. Stephanie’s teals are always a popular seller, so I imagine it will work out.

Knitting hopes for 2020!

What I need to knit? Mittens and hats. What I’ll probably knit (after I piece together those two sweaters)? Well, there’s a pattern I designed with concepts from Knitting on the Diagonal to finish then knit. Plus, I have a couple sweaters worth of yarn for lighter season cardis. One will be Flaum.

Reviewing my 2019 knits was a worthwhile exercise. It’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities for 2020, but it’s time to enjoy my stash and not accumulate more. My last stash free moment was 2005. Running tours for knitters in Italy and New England, plus living in a fiber lovers’ heaven made accumulation a joy. Five years of working in two yarn shops meant I bought and knit much of their yarn, but none of yarn I’d discover on my travels. Now it’s time to pull out those joyous moments and create!

Do you have any knitting goals for 2020?

A New England December Yarn Bombing

A New England December Yarn Bombing

With apologies to Thomas Oliphant and John Thomas…

"Deck the street with knit & crochet
Fa la la la la la la la la
They do mark "Clues from the Quilt "
Fa la la la la la la la la
Yarn and banners at seven places
Fa la la la la la la la la
Tis the yarn storm now in Melrose
Fa la la la la la la la la"

Oh, yes, a December yarn bombing it was.

Vine Street Melrose History Quilt Yarn storm 2018
The Vine Street Yarn Storm honors the many citizens whose names are on the Melrose History Quilt.

Seven locations in Melrose, MA were hit by a “yarn storm” during December 2018, as part of a the Melrose History Quilt homecoming celebration.

What is a yarn storm?

Also known as a yarn bomb or graffiti knitting, it’s an installation of knit and crochet items with a goal of expressing a public statement or to just personalize a sterile public space.

I’ve participated in a few yarn bombing and public art projects, but this was the first time leading one. From these experiences, here are five things I learned:

  • Define a goal to the yarn bombing (maybe your goal is just to brighten a place!)
  • Involve community ideas about the yarn installation.
  • Organize public knit and crochet sessions for contributors to mix.
  • Identify allies: craft guilds, knitting groups and yarn stores.
  • Ask for permission to install the yarn storm on private property. It doesn’t hurt to mention it to the public works department when installing on public property.

For “Clues from a Quilt,” the yarn storm (I chose a less violent term, although storms can be quite terrifying) kicked off in June, with World Wide Knit in Public Day). Thanks to support from Lucky Cat Yarns, there were monthly meet up sessions evenings and day time sessions at the Melrose Public Library. Winter yarn bombings could benefit from these tips…

  1. Use large base components. Of course, you could have everyone make two inch squares or tiny sea shells and put your yarn bombing together, but similar sizing and larger sizes facilitate joining pieces and making an impact. We asked people to make squares and rectangles using multiples of six inches (i.e. 6″ x 6,” 6″ x 12,” 6″ x 18″), which was perhaps on the small side considering we targeted seven locations in town. Either fewer locations or larger base pieces would create more impact.
  2. Use support structures that can be installed indoors, then set up quickly outdoors. At two locations, the yarn blocks and banners were installed on fences, which went up quickly. At other locations, old campaign yard signs, wooden shipping supports and wire tomato cages were decorated indoors, then set up outside. By joining pieces as they were contributed, it made installation at the end less daunting.
  3. Stitch together contributions as they arrive. We installed the yarn storm during the week after Thanksgiving. Having snowed shortly before Thanksgiving, the soil was pretty hard. Cold temperatures and stiff winds reduced the amount of time mitten-less fingers could properly function.
  4. Plan time for yarn bombing maintenance. Depending on the goal of your yarn installation, keep in mind that winter weather can be difficult on yarn bombings. If you can assign group members to check on the installation, many hands will make light work. For “Clues from a Quilt,” a 42″ tomato cage tipped over in high wind. There wasn’t enough top soil to truly support the taller structure (the 36″ tomato cage did just fine).

“Clues from a Quilt” also included banners to direct people to the web site. If I ever organize another winter yarn storm, those banners will be printed on fabric or mesh to better withstand the wind. Whew! This is one place where you don’t want to skimp on your expenses.

After the homecoming was over, we took down the yarn storm pieces, washing them and storing for the next opportunity to….

"Deck the streets with knit and crochet, 
Fa la la la la la la la la..."

Melrose Snowflake Block Pattern

Melrose Snowflake Block Pattern

You’ve heard about the Melrose History Quilt project

What? Didn’t I talk about this on the blog yet? I guess that was a few months ago. So, let’s catch up!

In May, the Melrose Historic Commission were very supportive of the project! Catch me at their booth at the Victorian Fair on September 9. In June, at the Melrose World Wide Knit in Public Day, knitters gave me good ideas for the Yarnstorm. Such great energy! Many signed up for the newsletter and will decorate Melrose with yarn creations while the quilt is in town. For more info, head over to the Melrose History Quilt Yarnstorm to learn about how you can be part of the action.

Inspired by the Snowflake block, I created a knit version for the Yarnstorm. Many thanks to Paula Velluto for test knitting the bulky version of this pattern. At this time, the pattern calls for bulky weight yarn, but there’s no reason you couldn’t take the basic instructions and work them in any gauge. Download the pattern on Ravelry to add it to your pattern library, or find this knit pattern on my web site.

As written, the pattern calls for a 10.5 US/6.5mm knitting needles and a total of about 190 yards of bulky weight yarn (110 yards Color A, 30 yards Color B and 50 yards Color C). The Victorian inscribed quilt is red and white, so you’d need 110 yards of red and 80 yards of white.

Worked in garter stitch with a stockinette border, the pattern begins at one corner, increases and works diagonally to the other corner. Stitches are picked up on both sides of the center block and out to the corners. Triangle stitches are picked up from the center and along the edges. Working in the round, the final border completes the square, which measures 20″.

Once the Yarnstorm passes, this block could be used to create cushions or a car seat/stroller blanket.

Go ahead and download the Melrose Snowflake Block now!