Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Silk Moon Crescent shawl from KnitCircus - Day 2

Ch-ch-ch-changes...

Cue the David Bowie.

The color change I've been waiting for has arrived!

The steady increase of rows is fine, the regular appearance of eyelet increase rows helps break things up into manageable subgoals, but let’s face it: we were all waiting for the color change.  I thought it would appear around row 57—the 5th eyelet increase row—but it took all the way until the 80th row for that hue to shift.

The color change isn’t particularly sudden—you do see hints of it showing up for a few rows and I found I couldn’t exactly pinpoint when blue became purple. It’s not a slow gradient, either—the shift completes in one or two rows.  In a smaller piece, the change might be more subtle, but in these long rows it happens in a perfect rhythm. I get the marvelous sensation that this fiber and pattern were made for each other. Because they were.

It’s a lovely piece, and I’m enjoying myself immensely. I’ve got a holiday party December 8, and I’ve already decided this will be my accessory of choice.  Will I get it done in time? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Silk Moon Crescent shawl from KnitCircus - Day 1

Feelin' good...

This is what I love about knitting. 

When the color is so rich it goes straight to your soul. When the yarn is so soft it takes your pulse down just by touching it. 

When even my dastardly nemesis the garter tab start can’t diminish my enjoyment of launching a new project. 

Delightful beauty. If knitting could be chocolate cake (oh, the very idea!!), this would be the chocolate cake with buttercream frosting of knitting.

I’m in the early, small row stages when progress feels easy and satisfying.  Oh, I know there are behemoth rows ahead of me, rows that take forever to finish, but today is not that day. 

Today the stresses of my life melt away under the gratifying accumulation of soft and pretty stitches. Rows of eyelets pop their eyes to say “Hello! It’s not all garter—we show up every once in a while, too, just to keep things interesting.”

This is “feel-good knitting.” 

Don’t get me wrong—I like “accomplishment knitting,” too.  I welcome projects that up my skill level or challenge me in new ways.


But there is always a place in my heart—and my knitting bag—for the knitting that just feels wonderful. And this is one of those.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

MADISON, WI

Mad about Madison...

I've discovered a great fondness for this Wisconsin capitol city. Come with me, DestiKNITters, to find out why!  Start your experience at:

Dane County Farmer’s Market
2 E Main St
Madison, WI 53703
608-455-1999
Various times and locations
Almost everyone told me the Farmer’s Market epitomized the Madison way of life. From the outdoor version on the square April to November to an indoor holiday market from mid-November to mid-December, and another indoor version January through April, it’s a year-round event where everyone meets everyone else. In short, it’s a whole lot more than just a place to get healthy things to eat. Check the website to see where the market is located during the week of your visit, and launch your Madison adventures like a local.
When you’re ready, head to our fiber find:

KnitCircus
NEW location in November: 
584 Grand Canyon Drive
Madison WI 53719
608-841-1421

This isn’t a yarn shop in the traditional sense. It’s closer to a manufacturer’s showroom—but that’s what makes it so amazing. Because it’s all one vendor, this shop is all about the color—which is exactly the whole point of KnitCircus. Most midwestern knitters know this fiber for the exquisite color combinations owner Jaala Spiro is able to achieve.  Honestly, you look at some of these and think “how on earth did she do that?” The technical marvel that KnitCircus achieves is only exceeded by the amazing things you can do with her yarn.
“I still get excited when a color comes out. I always want to knit with it right away,” says Jaala, who looks happily at home surrounded by the riot of colors that fills her showroom. I visited her in the old space in early October, but things will be even more exciting when the shop moves to its new location this month (November 2017). “I love getting a blank canvas of fiber and turning it into something beautiful,” Jaala says. 

Her love affair with color and yarn started when she took knitting classes while her children were young. That grew into an online knitting magazine and dying fibers in her basement. It didn’t take long for things to expand, and in 2015 she launched a Kickstarter campaign to open her own space and hasn’t looked back since.  The new space should be awesome. I love how the website advertises, “if your local group of friends or your out-of-town knitting/crochet group wants to arrange a hang out in the store, just let us know.” Who wouldn’t want to accept such a friendly invitation?

KnitCircus produces 40 to 60 cakes of color-soaked yarns per day. The majority of their sales come from shows and a vibrant online presence. They’re well known for their design partnerships as well as Jaala’s extensive library of her own designs.  “We partner with knitwear designers to create patterns that are exclusive to us for a while. Many of our designs pair specifically to our gradients so that the colors match up in garments like sweaters and socks for a stunning effect.” In fact, I think kits are the way to go with some of the more complicated projects so that the colors sync just right. If you are a shawl knitter, this place is heaven—every gradient begs to be knit up into amazing accessories.

The imagination doesn’t stop at colors, however. I’m particularly tickled by the inspirations and even the yarn names.  “The names have to make us laugh before we’ll use them,” comments Jaala. “My favorite is still ‘Vampire Boyfriend’.” It just adds to the charm—I mean, who doesn’t want to knit with Princess Bride themed “As You Wish” yarn, “Thanks for All the Fish,” or “Mischief Managed”? 

The best way to get in on the fun is to subscribe to their weekly newsletter or join one of their three clubs: the Gradient Club, the Four Seasons Club, or the Sock Club. These insider’s groups get new colors exclusively before they go public. 

Here are a few projects to consider:

Be Simple Variations
Carolyn Glauz-Todrank’s gently expanding asymmetrical triangle shawl pattern gives you the drape you need while making great use of the color changes in one skein of Impressionist Gradient or a matched double cake sock set.  Stick with garter, add an edge, or throw in eyelet rows—the spectrum of color does most of the work for you so you can play with any number of variations. There isn’t a yarn in the showroom that wouldn’t look fabulous in this pattern.

Amy’s Favorite Toe Up Socks
As you can imagine, KnitCircus is a huge hit with sock knitters. No more guessing if your sock gradients will match—pre-wound dual pairs ensure your success! Jaala’s go-to pattern is this one by Amy Detjen that comes with access to five how-to videos to take you through every step of the process. Perfect for newbies or those ready to launch their sock obsession (and who isn’t?). Seriously, once you wear these gorgeous beauties, nothing else will ever come close.

Aeque Cowl
A cowl goes from simple to splendid with the right yarn, and this pattern lets the fiber shine. Some end up too bulky and rustic for my taste, but the classic garter stitch border and asymmetrical shape of this cowl adds just the right touch of style. The fine yarn and small stitches (size 3 needles) give it a versatile elegance that can be dressed up or down. If you dislike knitting in the round—and some do—this one is worked flat and seamed up at the end. Go dazzling or subtle—it’s up to you.

Our Knit Along: the Silk Moon Crescent
I’ll be knitting this beautiful garter crescent dotted with eyelets for extra appeal. Again, you don’t want to overwhelm this gorgeous color with a lot of stitch-work, and this simple top down pattern lets the yarn take the lead. I’ll be working with Opulence cashmere/merino blend—oh, so soft—in a lush “panoramic gradient” of blues and purples called The Knit Sky. Tactile bliss, I tell you!

Once you’ve satisfied your color cravings at KnitCircus, it’s time to satiate an appetite of a different kind.  Head for lunch at:

Monty’s Blue Plate Diner
2089 Atwood Avenue
Madison, WI  53704
608-244-8505

Business website
montysblueplatediner.com
You know me, I go where the pie is…and this is the spot. Of course, some may tell you it’s the milkshakes that steal the show here, but hey, who’s stopping you from sampling both? This is one of those classic diner places where the meatloaf (even the meatless meatloaf!) is grand and the hash browns inspire poetry. 

Madison Modern Market
310 State St
Madison, WI 53703
608-257-1555
Nifty gift stores are part of any DestiNITions adventure, and this one delivers on a variety of fronts.  I’ve become a big fan of Swell Bottles, and they have a nice selection here. There’s a charming little kids’ section, too. Don’t be a gift card grinch this holiday season—stop in here and find something unique instead.

Red Elephant Chocolate
119 State St
Madison, WI 53703
608-448-3900
Badger or Packer truffles? Get’em here in this friendly cafe that makes some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  Big Cheese truffles? Well, this is Wisconsin, after all. I don’t know how I left without trying the aged cheddar and sea-salt caramel ganache in white and dark chocolates—they sound surprisingly delicious. Slightly more expected is the Brown Cow peanut butter chocolate combo.

A Room of One’s Own Bookstore
315 W Gorham St
Madison, WI 53703
608-257-7888
DestiKNITters, you know what to do: an indie bookstore means you’ve got to do your part and give them your business. Author events, audiobook memberships, and new and used books help give this store a great local character. Check out their “Rec Room” of staff picks in loads of inventive categories.


Colectivo Coffee
583 State St
Madison, WI 53703
608-709-1911
Colectivo website photo
In case you didn’t get your caffeine at Red Elephant (or even if you did), this local coffeeshop is tops according to my sources. The skull motif is indicative of the inventive, original atmosphere, even though this qualifies as a “chain” with multiple locations in Milwaukee, Madison, and even Chicago. If the day is fine, the outdoor seating can be as splendid as the brew.

Spend the remainder of your afternoon touring the Wisconsin capitol building. It’s the tallest capitol building after DC, and the granite dome over the rotunda is worth your attention. Make sure you go up to the observation deck to, well, observe the stunning 360-degree view.  Or turn your attention to the UW campus—this is a college town as well as a capitol, after all.

If you need a spot for drinks or dinner, I’d recommend nearby:

The Cooper’s Tavern
20 W Mifflin St
Madison, WI 53703
608-256-1600

I’m always appreciative when a spot teats me well as a lone diner, and my server was friendly and helpful. This is clearly a specialty beer spot, but the food was delicious, too. I had a tasty salad with crispy goat cheese and chicken, but lots of people rave about their turkey sandwich and cheese curds. All in all, a nice way to end a Wisconsin day.


There you have it: a lovely day of fiber and adventures in the Wisconsin capitol.  Up next, I cast on the luxurious Silk Moon Crescent shawl.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Asheville Scarf from Friends & Fiberworks - Done!

It's easy being green...

I have to say, I really like how the crochet bind off edge came out—very smooth and clean. Totally worth the extra effort. This is a technique I will definitely use again!

Like many hand-dyed fibers, this one required patience in its final soak. It took nearly ten rinses to get the water clear—those deep greens are a stubborn sort, to be sure.
Still, it’s a small price to pay for such gorgeous colors.  I’m already envisioning this with a red sweater for the holidays.

The simple design and generous length make for all kinds of wearing options. Knotted ends, multiple wraps, long and draped—the possibilities go on.

And yes, it softened up nicely.


Thanks, Friends & Fiberworks, for a great knitting adventure!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Asheville Scarf from Friends & Fiberworks - Day 4

The long end of it...

This is a bind-off that takes a time commitment. I can crochet, but not well, and I don’t really enjoy it. However, given my sketchy history with getting my bind-offs to have the right elasticity, I’m always in the market to learn a new technique that might lead to success.

The single crochet bind-off uses a hook the same size as your knitting needle, crocheting into each stitch as you slip it from your left needle. You get a lovely edge and a nice amount of give, but it’s not a quick process, especially for a long edge like this.  It took me almost two hours to accomplish this task. Granted, it might have gone faster if I were not watching something as engrossing as Stranger Things, but be warned this isn’t a quick finish.


Bella chose to pose with the scarf, too
Now, of course, I’m itching to give this pretty little thing a bath and see how it transforms.  With the fiber soften, will the edges smooth out and the stitches open up? Stay tuned and we’ll see.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Asheville Scarf from Friends & Fiberworks - Day 3

How do you know?

I’ve been clipping along at such a great pace that now I’ve got to answer an essential question: when to stop? 

Since the rows keep getting longer, I need a way to measure how many rows’ worth of yarn I’ve got left so I don’t start a final row only to run out in the middle.

How?  I employ the tried and true tactic of weight. 

Usually, weighing what you’ve done and what yarn remains helps ensure you have fiber enough for a second sock or mitten. Here, I conduct a few experiments to measure how many grams of yarn a row requires so I can evaluate how many rows are “in” my remaining ball.

I walk you through it step by step:

1) Weigh the remaining ball of yarn. This is most easily done on a food scale using grams (ounces are too big). While I don’t own one, I’m told a postal scale works well, too.

2) Knit one row.
3) Measure the ball again, noting how much lighter it is after the row. In my case, 2 grams.
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 to confirm your findings—again, in my case 2 grams. I also unwind two grams off the scale and place a knot to test it by length as well as weight.

5) Since my ball after these steps weighs 22 grams, I now know I’ve got roughly 10 rows of yarn left. So I’ll plan on 8, ensuring I have sufficient yarn for the single-chain crochet bind-off the pattern calls for.


See? Math can be your friend, in life as well as in knitting. If a writer—a words person rather than a numbers gal—can befriend math, you can too!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Asheville Scarf from Friends & Fiberworks - Day 2

The least crazy thing...

I’ve had the craziest of weeks. Plot twists (and not in my books!), surprise issues, things that didn't work the way they were supposed to…you know, life.

If I were knitting a complicated lace project right now, I don’t know that I could pick it up. I'm not sure I'd want to pick it up. Seriously, I don't seem to have enough brain cells left at the end of these days. 

But this scarf? It fits the bill perfectly. I was in another meeting last night (my 3rd!) and I could simply sit and listen and knit. I can’t express how wonderful that was. 

Even if nothing else went right in my day, that row would still be done, I’d be that much closer to the finish line on this project. I can’t say that about much in my life right now. Things seem to unravel as fast as I put them together.

Soothing. That’s the word for this project. The lush greens and easy stitches are soooo soothing. I smile as it grows into itself, stitch by stitch. My breath slows and my pulse rate goes down.


Ah, knitting. What would I do without you?