Category Archives: shawls

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.

Dreaming in Color

Although I’ve been knitting for several years now, it’s only really been in the last year or so that I’ve really become aware of the gorgeous array of natural fiber yarns that are out there. One of my favorite companies nowadays is Dream in Color – a yarn line carried by my LYS.

I first became aware of Dream in Color yarns when their Dream Club was highlighted in the weekly LYS newsletter. Basically every month from September 2012 through February 2013, Dream in Color dyed up a special colorway and paired it with a pattern designed specifically for that month’s club. Instead of working like most traditional yarn clubs, where individuals sign up and receive yarn shipments directly at home, this one is a bit different in that they send the club packages to the local yarn stores and you purchase them there.

I missed September’s yarn and pattern, but snagged October’s last fall. It was a gorgeous yarn with a mix of browns, golds and a hint of green – totally reminiscent of autumn leaf colors. The pattern was called Autumn Fern Mobius – a beautiful infinity style cowl/scarf that I was very excited to knit.

I did cast the project on in October, but due to holiday knitting – I didn’t finish until January. I love how it turned out though, and I’ve been wearing it often. I’m so not used to wearing actual wool – it’s almost been too warm to wear on many days unless the temperatures have been really frigid. :)

November’s yarn was a soft pink that I really liked, but the pattern was for a pair of opera (up to the elbow) length mitts (called Carmen) that I wasn’t sure I would like or not. I ended up actually using that skein of yarn (plus an extra I bought later) for my Enfolded Shawlette that I knit in January.

I went back and forth about the pattern that came with the gorgeous skein of December Dream Club yarn. Although I really liked the idea of the Seychelles shawl/cape, I just didn’t know if it’s something that I would ever wear. And the yarn was just too pretty to make something I wasn’t totally sure about. So I went searching on Ravelry for an alternative and came up with the Context pattern. It was a very quick and fun knit and it blocked out beautifully after I finished it. It fits perfectly as a scarf or shawlette.

January’s Dream Club was a win-win for me with both the yarn and the Ichigo Tam pattern. This is probably one of the most absolute gorgeous yarn colorways I’ve ever seen, and I’d been wanting a slouchy hat of some sort for myself since I didn’t already have a hat and I’m not a fan of the more tightly-fit ones. I had to wait a little while before casting the hat on though, since I didn’t own either of the needle sizes and lengths required. I cast-on the larger size of the pattern, for a 22” head circumference. But when I got about halfway through the pattern repeats – enough so I could try the brim on, I decided that while it did technically fit, my thick, bulky hair would probably pop the hat right off the top of my head.

So I frogged the whole thing and started over, adding an extra 16 stitches. Oh that was painful! But the end result was well worth it since the hat fits perfectly and I absolutely love it. And I even have almost half the skein left, so I think I’ll find a pattern and knit myself a pair of mitts to match. :)

I haven’t purchased February’s Dream Club yarn/pattern (yet), mainly because my budget is tighter than it had been and I’m not totally in love with the yarn colorway, which is in shades of red. The pattern isn’t something I’d really wear either. I may pick it up later if my LYS has any left over – they have had leftovers of almost every other month so we’ll see. But overall it’s been so much fun to see what Dream in Color comes out with every month and I can’t wait to see if they do another round of the Dream Club this fall!

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. :)