Advent Yarn Calendar Week 1

Stash Advent calendar shawl, week one

Pulling random leftover yarn balls with no regard to color mixing, in addition to making up pattern as I go along makes me suspicious I might make a Guinness world record for ugliest handknit when this is all over. Thankful two things are in my favor: 1) I work from home so ugly won’t stop me from wrapping myself in it, 2) Playing with yarn is fun.

Vision Mojo

I have not knit much in 8 months, which is something like a personal record. A piece of my ideal life has been strangely absent in order to prevent work injury. My mojo is most happy when I do two things: Get even a brief walk every day somewhere in nature and knit a bit every day. If someone should offer to pay me to knit and walk so those could be the core of my life, that would be even better, but not likely going to happen.

After reading an inspired article about physics and knitting in the New York Times, I encountered this lace designer’s work, Sharon Winsauer. So I bought a pattern and suddenly felt the return of that excited buzz of joy of creation. My mojo was back. I knew without a doubt, I have to attempt this piece of lace, no matter if it takes a year or a decade. The size will be big enough to cover a queen bed, a mandala of a bedspread. And it just so happens, I did enough test knitting last year to obtain hand-dyed, lace weight silk/wool for this in exchange.

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/CrazyLaceLady

Then my brother sent me another great knitting idea where someone took data from his child’s first year of sleeping patterns and turned it into a baby blanket. And “poof” a vision was born for what I would really like to do if I won the lottery. You know that mythical brainstorm board titled “When Money Finds Me”? Mine has gone through a gazillion revisions. This is gazillion and one.

The vision: Host hiking/knitting retreats for nerdy folks from around the world based on nature connection and knitting. Transform data from nature observation (bird songs, fern frond math, Fibonacci, etc.) into blankets or wall hangings, with an option of giving an item away to people in need, like sand mandalas that get blown away, only in yarn. I would invite guest teachers like math nerds who can explain more than I can about mathematical structure, and knitting nerds who focus on a specific expertise of design, while I lead groups traipsing about the woods gleaning nature’s beauty, data, and spirit.

And then this feather fell from the sky literally in front of me. It’s always a sound idea to have a good dream for when money should find you.

Knitting Code

Knitting is code. It’s a thousands years old human craft transforming fiber into fabric. Some of my earliest childhood memories are dreaming in code and texture…I know, I’m an odd duck. A while back, I learned textile mills used punch cards to determine shapes of fabric by 1800, long before our first computers used punch cards. Check out the Jacquard loom.

Weaving, not exactly knitting, but it’s all fabric code

Observing loom punch cards was essential for Ada Lovelace‘s understanding to create the first computer program, solving for Bernoulli numbers and having a programming language named after her, I believe used by air-traffic control even today.

Now this article crosses my path titled, “Physicists are decoding math-y secrets of knitting to make bespoke materials,” and my mind is a little bit more blown by intelligence inherent in knitting. All it takes is a knitting physicist to reduce it to equations. This article relates it to three elements.


It all comes down to three factors: the “bendiness” of the yarn, the length of the yarn, and how many crossing points are in each stitch. 

Ars Technica

But I can see more elements to add to the equation. How many times and how tightly any fiber is plied when spun impacts how the yarn will behave. Whether a knitter throws the yarn or picks the yarn (English versus Continental) will shift the twist in the fiber. Even whether the yarn is pulled from the center of a cake/ball or from outside the ball can impact tension in the fabric, something beautifully described in this Mason Dixon Knitting post, a go-to source to learn about anything and everything knitting.

Everyday Fancy by Fran Jepperson, designer Fidalgo Artisan Yarns

I hope I am not overstepping bounds by posting this photo from their March newsletter, but I had a lot of fun test knitting this beautiful linen garment for Fidalgo Artisan Yarns last summer, and this is my first time seeing it blocked and worn. Thought I’d pass along that the designer is hosting a two-Saturday class (today, right now!) 10:30-12:30, on this Everyday Fancy pattern. Even if you live nowhere near Anacortes, Washington, I highly recommend Fran’s gorgeous and well-written patterns that can be purchased online.

Design Mojo

Morning fog

This week, I experienced a revolutionary creative nudge I needed. (Creative nudge, as opposed to creative fudge where a bunch of creatives swear in frustration and eat chocolate).

I participated in the free 5 Shawls 5 Days challenge, did not complete it in window to qualify for prizes, but also did not give up. I simply tried again the next day. I learned something new from each shape, despite having made a gazillion shawls already.

Francoise of Aroha Knits has developed such an inviting and encouraging system that I’d love to participate in her design workshop at some magical point when I have expendable funds. She says she plans to offer the free shawl challenge twice more this year in addition to a few other challenges, so if you’re interested, there’s plenty of opportunity.

Here’s what’s so revolutionary that I learned from this. You don’t need a lot to be creative. I took this on during a week I did 80 hours of freelance work. I’ve been stressed about bills (my heat requires two large payments per winter) and finally made half of what I need to meet January’s. I even dropped my weekly knitting group the past few weeks, one of my few social events, in order to take on more paid work.

I constantly have design ideas bursting in my mind, some on paper, BUT here comes this little design coach saying, “You can try this for only 30 minutes a day for five days.” For free. Making one tiny exploration sample felt entirely different from following someone else’s pattern. It showed me all I need is 30 minutes to make a prototype of anything.

So late at night after all I could do was done, I worked on a shape, washed the shape, blocked and dried it. Finally, I have proven without a reasonable doubt I don’t need to listen to all those voices in my head telling me, “You don’t have enough space, time or money in your life to design anything. If you focus on this, your life will become unbalanced. Your priority has to be paid work.”

Triangle, experiment with made up as I went lace motif
Crescent – Made up as I went, a bit of stranded colorwork and eyelets, blocking pins created five points at edge
Asymmetrical Triangle – Learned why this shape is not best to attempt a lace motif unless at the widest edge or few-stitch repeat lace. Knit-purl textures a much better fit.
3/4 Square – Eyelet edging worked well here –
this shape gives me so many ideas
Square – Spent most time on this one, three trials to master the first few rows after pinhole cast-on – gave up DPNs. Magic loop worked for me. Now that I have this down, I intend to make the baby blanket promised to my cousin months ago this way.

A few precious moments outside, on Parks & Rec new expanded trails. Thank you, Parks & Rec. Yay!