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The High Country Knitwear Newsletter

spring

Dear

Remodelling the website: I thought we should do a little housecleaning, and reorganize the website now that it has expanded into something much bigger than I expected it to be when we started out in 2006. With the help of my daughter Mollie, the webmaster, and lots of back and forth, here it is. I hope you’ll think it has changed enough, but not too much. We hope you find it easier to navigate and use, and that you’ll continue to come by.

We didn’t give it one of those astonishing makeovers that startles you when you click on a familiar site and don’t even recognize it. We did make it easier for you to find older pieces, including two singularly suited to this recession: in Tips & Tricks, and, with a different take, in the articles for Cascade’s newsletters, you’ll find good information on substituting yarns for those specified in patterns you may find in magazines or on the web.

Cider applesGarden work: I’ve been planting with more cider apples. It’s been a fight with the weather, but three more semi-dwarf trees have joined the party this year, joining the big Northern Spy and a young Brown Snout. They are my small contribution to taking up carbon dioxide, and having wonderful cider in abundance, sooner or later.

“Perfect for felting.” During the flush of the interest in felting, the growth of that part of the market seems to have led some of the yarn companies to rejigger their processing and spinning of some of their yarn so that they could advertise some of their yarns as “great for felting.”

I’ve always washed my woolens, but it seems to me that many of the yarns that are advertised for felting are, if used for garments, far fussier than they once were in washing. They seem especially touchy about water temperature.

When I wash a garment, I use lukewarm water and a small amount of a mild liquid detergent, swish the garment without agitating it, let it sit for about 20 minutes, give it a few gentle squeezes, and then rinse until the water runs clear and without foaming. But I find recently that if I don’t match the temperature of the rinse water to the temperature of the cooled wash water, some of the current yarns “shock” and contract slightly.

Has anyone else noticed this? And, if you have, what were the yarns you used? Let me know, will you? I’ve found the problem mainly with newer and less familiar yarns by swatching and then treating the swatch as I would the garment—washing and blocking. But, with some long-established yarns, I’ve made the error of relying on my old notes in lieu of a swatch, only to find out that something went a little wonky at the end.

Obviously, I’m not talking about tossing a wool sweater in with a load of ordinary laundry, in a fit of absentmindedness can turn it into something that won’t fit the cat. I’m talking about excessive sensitivity of a garment yarn to ordinary hand-washing with the usual precautions.

Speed: Not long ago, a friend asked me how I knit as fast as I do, though I don’t think I’m exceptionally speedy. But for what it’s worth, if you feel you’re slower than you’d like to be, here’s how I do it:

Since I’m self-taught, and had few preconceptions when I was learning, I found a way of holding the needles that worked for me, with thumbs supporting the needles and fingers curled down over them, my elbows close to my sides. And instead of sticking the right-hand needle through the loop, I slide the left-hand loop (for a knit stitch) over the right-hand needle (or shove it over the right-hand needle for a purl stitch).My right handworks largely as a shuttle for the yarn.

This method makes knitting a little more ambidextrous than other methods. Once you’re accustomed to it, is easy on the fingers and wrists. I found later out that it’s the same method with which production knitters worked before machine knitting, when country women and whole families knit stockings and gloves to keep food on the table.I also had the good fortune, when I began knitting, to be the recipient of the stash a friend gave me when she stopped.

What I’d thought would be a few balls in something the size of a grocery bag turned out to be a large moving carton full of beautiful yarn. Faced with this abundance, and feeling myself in need of lots of practice, I cast on and knit a full-sized striped blanket. By the time I’d finished, I’d truly mastered knitting and purling (which is pretty much all there is to it, in any event, though one never masters all possible variations in sequence or color). I never would have finished that blanket if I hadn’t upped my speed! The work was even; blocking made it even better.

Doing the blanket encouraged me to think that I had enough speed for larger projects. So did pitching in, with a friend, to make dozens of hats and pairs of mittens for schoolchildren, to be passed out on cold mornings by a school principal we knew. The more you knit, the better you get, the more natural it becomes. I usually keep two projects going at a time: one large, such as a sweater, meant to be picked up when I’ve tucked myself into my favorite chair at home; one small, such as socks or hats or mittens, meant to be portable. Or one demanding, like the neo-Cowachin, for when I’m fresh, and one that is what I think of as Netflix knitting, like a routine sweater-in-the-round, for when I can’t give something complicated the focus it deserves. Sometimes my knitting mojo vanishes for a while, and I don’t knit at all. It’s been that way this spring, when the garden needed all kinds of cleanup, the war against the dandelions has been demanding, and I had four new semi-dwarf apple trees to plant for future cider-making.

Knitting for spring and summer: Is winter ever going to end? It snowed here on April 26th, this year! If you live where the weather is really cold in winter and can be chilly a good part of the year, you likely knit more of the year, and usually with wool or wool blends. If you live where the weather in summer is hot, or, worse, hot and humid, wool is the last thing on your mind, from May to September. But that’s no reason to stop knitting for the warm season; it is a good reason to seek out good cotton or linen blends, bamboo, and perhaps silk.

Either way, spring is a good season for summer projects—pretty short-sleeve shirts, sleeveless shells, lace shawls, mesh bags in cotton or linen to take to the summer roadside stands or greenmarkets—or smaller projects that won’t sit in your lap like a wet dog, in hot weather. It’s also a good time for small projects that will be put away for gifts later in the year. Or, I must say, for making warm things for the times when it snows in April or even May; when I said, back when, that Colorado is an inspiring place to knit, that was one of the things I had in mind.

Knit on,

Pat