Category Archives: KALs

My first year of ‘camp’

camp-loopy-2013Over this past year, as I’ve gotten more and more into the online knitting world of blogs, podcasts, Ravelry groups, etc., I’ve seen plenty of ways in which to get involved – both virtually and in-person. Everything from knit-alongs to sheep and wool festivals and fiber shows that you can attend in your local area (or travel to). I haven’t made it to a show yet, but it’s been a lot of fun to participate in a lot of the online activities that I’ve run across.

One of these that I’d heard of at the tail end of last summer was Camp Loopy, held through The Loopy Ewe (TLE). The store is located in Colorado, but has a large online shop as well, that I’ve become very familiar with over recent months. One promotion that they do every summer is Camp Loopy – kind of a win-win for knitters and store alike.

The way it works is that TLE provides both a knitting challenge as well as a discount on yarn to enable knitters to complete their projects. For example, June’s challenge was to knit something using only one skein of yarn (held singly, not doubled) that you’d never knit with before. You can participate whether or not you purchase your yarn through TLE – but they do offer incentives to buy through them, such as a 20% discount during ‘camp week’ for that month, as well as a free skein of a specially-dyed yarn for those who both buy their yarn through TLE AND complete all 3 months’ projects on time.

Along with the basic monthly challenge and incentives, TLE makes the experience a social and fun one by utilizing Ravelry to divide knitters up into groups for each month’s challenge so that they can share their progress, get advice, help each other out and get to know one another better. Everything is around the ‘camp’ theme – for this summer, June’s groups were themed around mountain-climbing (and knitting of course – I was in the Mount Tinknomore group), July’s were treehouses, and August’s were campfire games.

I was excited to participate in Camp Loopy this year for the first time – although I don’t know if I will do so again next year or not. The first month’s challenge was easy – for the one-skein project, I knit a pair of socks out of some yarn I found by browsing through the TLE online store – Crazyfoot by Mountain Colors. I used the Hermione’s Everyday Socks pattern and they were a fun and easy knit.

July’s challenge got a little more difficult – you had to knit with at least 500 yards of yarn (single stranded) and use a pattern that’s popular on Ravelry (has at least 1000 projects listed or queued up). I went through my own queue and ended up deciding on the Traveling Woman shawl. Finding a yarn was a bit more challenging since my budget was small, but I ended up using one skein of Hand Maiden Mini Maiden – a wool/silk blend that is one of the softest yarns I’ve knit with so far. I chose a dark brown for my shawl, because I wanted it to match a good portion of my wardrobe, and I tend to wear neutrals a lot. The shawl was fun to knit and I finished well ahead of time.

By the time August rolled around though, it was getting a lot more challenging to complete Camp Loopy – this is a really busy month for me to begin with, getting the kids ready to go back to school, activities kick off, and my knitting time tends to be greatly reduced. And for August, you had to knit with at least 800 yards single-stranded. That’s a lot of yarn! I had to go with something on the inexpensive side to be able to afford multiple skeins, so I picked Cascade Heritage and decided to knit a pattern I’d found and really liked – the Drifting cardigan. For my size, it uses over 800 yards of yarn, so I was set.

It was a really, really easy knit – but I did have to really push it at the end to finish. I used two full skeins of yarn (over 800 yards),  and did finish the sweater in time. And it looked nice – and fit, sort of. It was more of a cropped sweater, which was ok – but not really what I prefer. So a week or two later I ended up picking out the bind-off, ripping the bottom ribbing back out, putting it back on the needles and adding a couple more inches from the 3rd skein that I’d bought, in order to make the sweater fit me better. And I’m really glad that I did so.

So yes, I did complete all three projects, with TLE yarn, and on-time. So I was thrilled to be able to choose one of the specially-dyed skeins of yarn and can’t wait to knit something with it soon. I had fun participating – although I really only became involved in the Ravelry threads during July. I was a little intimidated to join in during June – those boards move fast! And in August I was lucky to have enough time to knit, much less keep up with that month’s thread. I was very ready to have some deadline-free knitting time for September!

Overall it was a fun experience and gave me the chance to try a couple of patterns that I’d wanted to knit and some new yarns that I hadn’t used before. And I came out of it with my first sweater that I’d made for myself too, so it was definitely a success all around, I think. :)

I was not asked to mention or promote The Loopy Ewe or their Camp Loopy event, nor was I compensated in any way for doing so. I just like to share about fun knitting-related events and experiences that I’ve found.

My first sweater!

One of my 2013 goals was to try sweater knitting – and so far, so good. I tackled this for the Alana Dakos knit-along in the Subway Knits group on Ravelry – I’ve liked Alana’s Spring Garden Tee pattern for quite a while and had been wanting to knit it for one of my girls, so this was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to knit the largest size that the pattern is written for – size 14. When I measured my middle daughter, it looked like the size 12 would be just about right for her, but I wanted to make it a bit larger, just in case. It’s always smart to aim for things to fit Hannah – that way if it’s too big, Abbi can wear it, or if it’s too small, Becca can. :)

The recommended yarn for the pattern had been discontinued (Rowan Calmer), so I visited my LYS to see what I could find in a similar-type yarn. I wanted a yarn with some cotton content since it’s a warmer weather garment, but I didn’t want to use straight cotton because there’s no give to it and it’s very difficult to knit with. I wanted something with just a bit of stretch to it – and something washable since it’s for a kid. I also needed an option that wasn’t too expensive since I had to buy around 900 yards of it.

I ended up with Berroco Weekend DK, which is 75% acrylic and 25% cotton (the opposite of the Rowan Calmer). I picked a bright pink since I figured that any one of my three girls would wear it in that color and even though I was aiming for a sweater that would fit Hannah, it could have ended up for any one of them. Plus pink matches just about everything that they’ve got.

I did knit a gauge swatch and was pretty close on the size 6 needles the pattern calls for. My stitch gauge was right on at 6 stitches/inch – my row gauge was off, but I figured that with this type of design, I could just knit the body as long as I wanted it and then stop.

This was a really fun pattern to knit. It’s extremely well-written, which I appreciated since it was my first time dealing with raglan sleeve increases. It’s knit top-down in one piece, which was very easy, and the bit of lace on the cap sleeves gave a welcome change from straight stockinette knitting for a while. I powered through the stockinette on the body portion during a weekend visit at a friend’s house – which worked great since I didn’t have to pay any attention to what I was doing and could easily visit and chat.

The sweater turned out wonderfully and fits Hannah exactly as I hoped it would. It fits, with a bit of room for growth, so she’ll be able to wear it for a good year or two – and then pass it down to Becca once she outgrows it.

I’m trying to decide what I want to knit for my next sweater – I’d love to knit something for me, but that’s a much bigger challenge. Literally – I wear between a 1X and 2X shirt. And I’d be much more worried about gauge since I’d want it to fit me well. I don’t wear a lot of sweaters because I don’t like the bulk, so I’d want to do something lightweight. I’ll have to look through Ravelry and see what I can find – maybe something like the Brise Cardigan or Featherweight Cardigan. Or the Tarim – I already have the pattern for that one.

I took a break from my monthly sock knitting to finish the Spring Garden Tee for the end of the knit-along – but I’m back at it for June with my first Camp Loopy 2013 project. More about that to come. :)

Knitting socially

When it comes to knitting, I’m sort of an island in some ways. Back when I used to crochet during and after my college years, I had one good friend who also crocheted and a couple of others who dabbled in it as well – and it was great fun to be able to ‘talk shop’ and compare and share patterns, yarns, etc.

But I don’t have any friends around here who knit.

Up until this year, I’d gone to a weekly knitting group at church and always loved seeing what they were working on and hearing stories, asking questions and such. This year the timing just hasn’t worked out and I’ve really missed the camaraderie. It’s hard to find a new group – not only finding one that meets at a convenient time, but I’m on the shy side and the idea of going to an already established group where the members know each other and have friendships and such already intimidates me greatly. I’d looked forward to trying a group at a local LYS this school year – now that my girls are all in school full-days, I would be able to make it to their Wednesday morning group. Which I did – exactly once, before necessity kicked in and I lost my free weekdays to a part-time job. Evening groups aren’t a great option since the kids always seem to have something going on in the evenings these days.

So that means that my best options are online. I’ve started to use Ravelry a lot more these days – I’ve always tracked my projects there but it’s got a huge social element to it as well, with groups that you can join and discussion forums to follow and participate in. As with any new group, it’s hard to break in to something already established, but I’m braver online than I am in real life, so I’m trying a little at a time.

Which brings me to the concept of the online knit-along (KAL). It seems like a good way to participate in something that has a bit of a social aspect and gives you a common topic to talk about since everybody’s working on the same project. I found my first KAL this year through the Dream in Color blog – they’re a yarn company and I’ve been buying their Dream Club yarns each month since last fall. They posted in December about a designer who was starting a KAL for a new shawl she’d designed, using Dream in Color Calm yarn. I hopped over to her Ravelry group and looked at the pattern – the Enfolded Shawlette. It’s gorgeous – and since it’s knit in a worsted weight, it looked like a great option for a first-time shawl knitter like me. Plus, I already had a skein of Dream in Color Calm that I’d bought from the November Dream Club. It was pink – not my first choice, but I thought it would make a pretty shawl.

As it did. It was a surprisingly quick knit and I finished it in a total of 9 days. I really enjoyed sharing my progress pictures in the group and seeing what others were doing as well. I already have another of Linda’s shawls in my queue and look forward to knitting it as well.

Shawls are fun to knit, I’m finding! I’ve already completed a second one (as part of another KAL), but I’ll share more about that next time. I don’t know if the online KALs and Ravelry groups are totally filling my need for having people to talk knitting with, but it’s a start.

Just as with any knitting project, it’s all about small steps building to a greater whole. :)