What I Got Up To Whilst Home Part I

by Sarah Lake Upton

As usual, despite my firm resolve to do better this time, I failed to keep up with blogging while I was home, so here are a few catch up posts, and then (fingers crossed) I resolve to continue with my series about natural dyes and history (thank you for the encouragement on that front M.)

I spent my entire rotation home working with indigo to fill an order for the Netloft in Cordova, Alaska.  More on that next post, but for those wanting a preview, the yarn in question is in honor on the Netloft Fiber&Friends: Fisherfolk gathering this summer. 

On the personal knitting front, I was inspired by Kay Gardiner’s Instagram #bangoutasweater knit-along to knit another Icelandic sweater.  The knit-along focused on Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Stop Over, which I love (especially seeing so many of the completed sweaters in so many different color combinations) but I have long been looking for an excuse to knit Ysolda Teague’s Strokkur, so I seized this as my excuse and ran with it.  

In catching up with the Fridge Association blog during my last rotation on the boat I found myself agreeing with Karen’s love of dark icelandic sweaters with light yokes.    And then I took this photo of a sunset off the coast of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica and thought about what a lovely dramatic sweater those colors would make. 

The yoke Ysolda devised for Strokkur already captured some of the feeling of light on the ocean, so all I needed to do was chose a darker yarn for the main color. 


I love everything about this sweater.  On the creative front I feel like it translated the color and texture of the sunset on water, and more importantly I love everything about how the sweater itself fits.  Ysolda is the queen of sneaky waist shaping and short rows to make finished garment fit the contours of the wearer in a way that is flattering but more importantly, more comfortable.   I could not be more pleased with the resulting sweater (though reading about everyone’s Stop Overs and the beauty that is Lettlopi yarn knit on size US 10s I may have to knit myself one next time I’m home).

The #bangoutasweater along was a wonderful and much needed pallet cleanser after the fine color work of Kate Davies Machrihanish, .  A ridiculously over the top Fair Isle vest has been on my dream to-knit list for years but for one reason or another I always found myself working on something else instead. But something about the Machrihanish pattern struck me and I felt the immediate “must knit” response drives us all to feats of knitterly exuberance. Luckily Sam and I share a similar taste, and he was equally struck by the need to wear such a gem.   I chose to knit the vest in exactly the same colors and yarn that Kate designed it with, because it was the colors and texture that drew me to the vest in the first place, and also because part of the beauty of Fair Isle vests (I have discovered) is the way the colors play against each other when the same motif is knit using different color combinations.   (There is a musical allusion to be made here, but the correct words are escaping me at the moment - please insert the obvious clever allusion here). 

When Sam was a sailor and sailmaker ganseys were obviously the necessary thing to keep him supplied with, but now that he is a grad student, a smart Fair Isle vest is clearly required.  We’re both quite pleased with the result.  And now having tackled one, I am very much itching to knit another for myself. 

While home I also managed to steek my Epistrophy, knit in my DK Weight Bluefaced Leicester, but I chose the wrong ribbon to sew over the steeked edges (not quite enough body) and ended up being too busy (and at one point too sick - wretched colds) to make the much discussed foray into Boston in search of good fabric (for different projects) and ribbon, and so the whole project has been sent to the time out corner until I get home.  Sigh.  I’m looking forward to picking it up again.

Fringe Association, Cowichan-inspired Vests, and the Shackleton-along

by Sarah Lake Upton in

During my brief window of free and relatively fast internet I discovered the Fridge Association Blog (I suspect that I am late in my discovery, but I effectively live under an internet free rock for half of the year) and now I have a bit of a blog crush.   I am generally a bit more interested in the “tradition” side of the knitting world than the “fashion” side, but I have definitely been won over by some of her sense of style.  And by her photos.  For a myriad of reasons I have been wanting to learn how to sew for a long time, and scrolling back through her posts about Slow Fashion October (link) I have been inspired to finally take the leap when I get home, starting with the Stowe Bag and then the Gallery Dress (her blog post here, pattern here).  We’ll see if I manage to maintain this new resolve in the face of actually sewing.  I tend to feel about sewing machines and cutting fabric the same way I feel about a blank page, both engender a similar overwhelming sense of potential and fear which generally results in a sudden need to do absolutely anything else (and which can ultimately be quite productive, but not in terms of sewing or writing).

On a slightly different topic, I think I have mentioned FiberTrek’s fantastic Shackleton-along (Ravelry group here).  The basic idea is to work outside of your comfort zone and tackle that huge intimidating project that you have always wanted to do but maybe haven’t quite yet had the courage to start, be it knitting your first sweater or hand-spinning enough yarn for a shawl or learning a new technique.    I have been pondering my project for about six months now, meaning that I am about six months behind.  I am hampered a bit by my work and travel schedule (there is no room on the boat or in my luggage for my spinning wheel or a sweater-in-progress) and by my lack of reasonable internet on the boat (I thought about researching the knitwear worn by the Endurance crew, and replicating some of it) but I think I finally have a workable idea. 

It’s a long story, but one of the chief mates (we have two, they rotate the same way that I do) spent part of his break on the National Geographic Explorer,  which is the Lindblad boat that does the Antartica trips.  He brought me back 200 grams of bulky weight hand spun Falkland. 

The gift yarn in question, looking quite lovely against the backdrop of Manuel Antonio beach, Costa Rica.  I didn't really how tropical the color way was until I started photographing it with palm trees in the background. 

The gift yarn in question, looking quite lovely against the backdrop of Manuel Antonio beach, Costa Rica.  I didn't really how tropical the color way was until I started photographing it with palm trees in the background. 

Inspired by the Fringe Association KAL Cowichan style vest I’m thinking of something Cowichan inspired, which given the bulky yarn and large needles is not something I would normally knit, but given how much time we spend in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska it’s oddly appropriate.  It also ties neatly into a number of traditions and topics that I’ve been wanting to explore for a while, starting with the ways that traditional societies adapted and created craft "traditions" for the tourist trade.  The development and popularity of Cowichan sweaters is also probably roughly contemporaneous with Shackleton’s voyage (I think….). To match the yarn the chief mate brought me I plan to hand spin enough yarn for the rest of the vest, though I haven’t yet decided what fleece to use.  Like most spinners I have one style of yarn that I tend to create on autopilot (worsted, very fine) and I would like to branch out.  Creating woolen spun bulky weight is about as far as one can get from my normal spinning style, and I can (in theory) work it on a drop spindle, meaning that as projects go it should travel well. 

I just flew home the day before yesterday and am still very much in my readjustment period (my plans for the afternoon include knitting and catching up on Top Chef).  I shall think more on this next week.