How I Learned...

As I look back at my recent (and terribly infrequent) posts, I’m a wee bit embarrassed. But, life around here has been, you know… life. With the arrival of spring, I’ve been making changes to lighten my responsibilities so I can have more time for myself, my family, and to also spend more time with you on Instagram, Facebook, and here on the blog. It’s slow progress, but I can feel the load lessening each day and it’s an awesome feeling. After all, I'm here with you today.

Last month I tried very hard to complete the daily April @yarnlovechallenge on Instagram. I started out strong and I was having so much fun, but later in the month, posting started slipping away a day at a time and then all of a sudden (you know, out of nowhere) May showed up. How does that happen?

So, clearly I’m not cut out for a daily challenge, but May brings a new challenge and this time there are weekly prompts - I can post once a week (which I should totally be able to do) or as much as I want during the dates for that prompt. You can join the fun, too!

 
 

As I was thinking about posting the quick answer on IG, I thought this week’s prompt #HowILearned would also be a great blog post and I hope you enjoy my extended answer below!


I learned to knit in 2001 and I had no idea how two sticks and some string would change my entire life… I was working through some pretty big “life stuff” and needed something to ground me, and I decided that “thing” was knitting. I went to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased the Boye I Taught Myself Knitting Kit (I think the lady with the pretty hair and big smile sold me), some size 11 circular needles (plastic with an unyeilding cord), and ONE skein of Lion Brand Chenille (because, clearly this was all I needed to knit a skirt). It's okay if you're laughing, because how could you not be? It's really funny and I'm giggling now. Thankfully, it was only a short wait for Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘N Bitch Handbook (a book I still recommend for beginning knitters) and she guided me to the light with her great writing style and good tool & yarn recommendations!

I did discover the local yarn shop, but I was quite intimidated in the beginning because 1) I was self-taught, 2) the knitters in the shops seem very tight-knit (pun intended), and 3) I felt like a total newbie because the yarn and everything else was overwhelming. It was A LOT to take in and felt like I was back in high school and the knitters were the cool-kids and I again didn’t fit in. However, what I know now is that 1) many of us are self-taught and that’s awesome (you don’t have to take formal classes to be a "real" knitter), 2) knitters *are* tight-knit, but most are super friendly and LOVE to talk about knitting (I dare you to try and stop us from talking to anyone that seems like they *might* listen), and 3) I had actually developed some mad knitting skills though my self-studying (I am a researcher at heart and probably spent just as much time knitting as internetting about the knitting).

The fear of the yarn shop is one that I hear about frequently at Firefly Fibers and to that I say... get into your yarn shop, ask questions, and support your LYS so they'll be around for years to come! We are here to help and want to do what we can for you to have fun knitting. And, if you have the opportunity, visit more than one shop – most shops are run by one or two people and their personality is part of the shop and you may feel more comfortable at, or like the selection better, at a certain shop. Take a deep breath, walk through the door and get to know them!

I’d been knitting for a couple years when a co-worker told me about the Madison Knitter’s GuildWHAT?! There were actually enough knitters in the area to make a “club”?! Apparently, yes (and several times over). My friend invited me to my first meeting and my knitting universe broke wide open – there were SO many lovely knitters at the meeting and I discovered a whole new world that was full of people who loved sticks and string as much as I did. Until then, knitting was mostly a solitary activity for me and I was so happy to finally find that there was (a lot) more of my brand of freak out there and it's only grown more since then.

Here's where I date myself.... when I learned to knit 16 years ago: the internet was a baby and had very limited knitting resources, yarn was nothing like what we have now (we were coming out of a decade - or two - with A LOT of acrylic and little to no indie dyers) and Ravelry didn’t exist. This last one may be hard to believe, but it’s true. There was a time before Ravelry.

I signed up for Ravelry when there was a wait list, so I entered my email and then I waited to be granted access… I remember the day I got my email notification and signed up immediately – January 14th, 2008 and I am Raveller #64,320.  How do I know my Ravelry number and do you want to know yours? Here’s a fun little trick (you’ll have to do this on a computer):

Hold the Ctrl key and (using the arrow keys) Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.

After doing this, your Ravelry number should appear below your “Raveler Since” date, just like this…

Pretty cool, right? If you give this a try, feel free to leave a note below with your Ravelry number. It's fun to see where everyone falls - especially since as of February of 2014 (over 3 years ago) there were 4 MILLION ravellers!

Speaking of Ravelry… many congratulations to these amazing folks on their 10-year anniversary this month! Knitting and crocheting have grown beyond what I could have hoped for, or imagined, because of Ravelry. They’ve connected knitters and crocheters all across the world with each other and created the most incredible database of patterns and yarn. Knitting and crochet has been transformed because of them.

If someone would have told me in 2001 that future-me would own a yarn shop, design patterns, teach others to knit, and knit the beautiful things I do now, I would have told them they were bonkers! After all these years, I am so very thankful for making that fateful decision to pick up that silly kit with the super-happy smiling lady on the front of the booklet, those terrible plastic circular needles, and that awful chenille (it was purple, just in case you were wondering), because it was the stepping stone to where I am today.

CHEERS!

On the Needles | West Coast Cardigan (#1)

I'm on vacation. Really, I'm ON VACATION! Well... technically, it's more of a 'staycation' but it's still pretty fabulous and I'm enjoying myself. As I'm a little past the halfway point of my time off, I've been spending time getting caught up around the house, cooking A LOT (food adventures are coming soon), knitting and I've been doing a little work - including what I'm sharing today, but it hardly seems like work. 

A year ago, Jane Richmond was experimenting with a Cowichan-inspired sweater in a super-bulky roving yarn and my needles were itching to cast on as soon as she started posting photos of her WIP prototype. In September of 2016 the West Coast Cardigan pattern came to life and the final version blew me away. Just look at this gorgeous sweater... 

  © Jane Richmond

© Jane Richmond

As I was wiping the drool off, I purchased and read through the pattern and, well... my wheels began turning because my inner knitting-geek (well, really, my knitting-geek is pretty much front and center) was TOTALLY geeking out with the techniques Jane has packed into this single design. As you may know, I LOVE technique, so as I was planning the winter class schedule at Firefly Fibers I knew I wanted the West Coast Cardigan on the schedule because I *needed* to share all of the fun techniques with other knitters. But... planning a class isn't just deciding on a project, one of the first tasks is to decide on the class yarn and this proved to be quite challenging.

I really didn't want to bring in a new yarn line at the shop *just* for one sweater, so I tried to find a suitable substitution... my available options were going to be costly for a super-bulky project requiring so much yardage and one of the things I appreciate about Jane is her use of affordable yarn and that just wasn't happening. Also, the yarn in her designs is (generally) easily substituted, but after running numbers (spreadsheets and all that nerdiness) to compare cost and the overall weight of the sweater (because pencil roving is light and airy, so it therefore weighs less and no one needs a 10lb sweater), I decided to reach out to Jane...

After much discussion and enthusiasm on both our parts (many thanks to Jane for taking the time to brainstorm with me), it became clear that the Briggs & Little Country Roving is a unique yarn and perfect for Jane's sweater because of cost, the physical weight, and it's just quite lovely in its sheepy goodness. I contacted Briggs & Little and they are lovely folks at a small mill in Canada that's been operating for 100+ years and I'm so happy to be working with them. As soon as the yarn arrived, I understood why the math was telling me that I wasn't going to find a suitable substitute - there are other yarns that *will* work, but in this case, I strongly feel that the yarn and design go hand-in-hand. Now, I'm smitten with the Country Roving and I can't wait to try it in other projects, but for now... it's all about the project that introduced me to Country Roving and here's mine in progress:

 
 

I'm wrapping up my West Coast Cardigan #1 this weekend and getting ready to cast on #2 because clearly, Firefly Fibers can't be the only one to enjoy a new sweater this winter (besides, it's been in the negative and single digits here in Wisconsin and that's COLD). This first one (in Sheep's Grey and Dark Grey) was intended to be a shop sample, but I think it will be for me. So, I *have* to knit a second one. This sweater has been so much fun to knit that I'm excited to knit another version and I hope you're inspired to knit your own West Coast Cardigan.

As luck would have it... Jane is hosting a KAL for the West Coast Cardigan! Woot! AND... Jane is offering 25% OFF the West Coast Cardigan pattern now through the cast on date of January 10th with code 'WCCKAL' on Ravelry! Full details are on Jane's blog right here. I hope you'll join the fun!

Need yarn? As I'm sure you can guess, I highly recommend the Briggs & Little Country Roving and we'll be placing an order at Firefly Fibers this next week. If you want to make sure you get the colors you want, you can special order from our online shop through Monday, January 9th at noon CST. We anticipate the yarn will arrive on Saturday, Jan 14th or Mon or Tues of the following week and we'll ship orders out as soon as it arrives (really, we'll have it out the door super fast) so you can cast on. Yes, it will be a week or so after the cast on date, but this sweater knits up quickly, so there's plenty of time and it will be worth the wait. And the yarn ships to us like this, and this is pretty cool:

So... are you in? I hope so! 

CHEERS!

Off the Needles | A super awesome green sweater!

This last spring, Woolstok arrived at Firefly Fibers and I didn't even consider casting on a small project, I knew I wanted to knit a sweater - sometimes the yarn just tells you what it wants to be. After much debate, I settled on Pink Memories by Isabell Kraemer and named my version, Green Mountains (shockingly, it's even updated on Ravelry page) because I was going to have it done in time for my family trip to Grand Lake, Colorado in mid-June. I'm nothing, if not optimistic, about the time it takes to knit an entire sweater.

I cast on June 10th and I was leaving on the 22nd, so I knew this was a VERY ambitious goal, but Isabell's sweaters are enjoyable knits that seem to fly off the needles. I spent every waking moment away from work knitting on this sweater and I set my goal for a week. It even went to a Horicon, WI park with me for a special Canyon Spells show.

But, alas... even with taking this with me everywhere I went for almost 2 weeks before my trip, it wasn't done in time. So, I took it on my trip with me and it was awesome to be sitting on the deck at our Colorado cabin knitting away with this amazing scenery. Maybe it's more special to have a little it of my home state knit into it?

So, even though I was actually binding off the last sleeve on the plane on the way back to Wisconsin, knitting this gorgeous sweater in 17 days, really wasn't so bad. I love it even more than I thought and would and when I think of the places it went with me, I love it even more!

It was much too warm to wear it upon my return (we had a crazy hot summer), so it was displayed at the shop for a few months and finally came home with me the beginning of October just in time for Kraut Day

I'm now on my 3rd Woolstok sweater and I might need an intervention, because more are planned in my head. 

CHEERS!