The Perfect Backpacking Sweater

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It is coming on ten years since I starting packing for my through hike of the Appalachian Trail. I had completed college in May and was home until beginning my journey in March. My dad and I took over my parents dining room to lay out all of the “essential” items for my adventure. It looked like an awful lot to carry on my back and it felt that way too, but surely I had already parted with everything that I could do without! Of course, my story is the same as most thru-hikers. I mailed home a heavy package of gear within a week. Then, with help from a discerning friend, another package a month later. The longer I was on the  trail, the less I needed. Two t-shirts (one at a time) got me through five months of camping. I still wear the same outfit that I had for the second half of my thru-hike on backpacking trips. The synthetic shorts were purchased in Waynesboro, VA. A size too big, but comfortable and with pockets. I found the mostly cotton-partly wool Mountain Hardware shirt at a specialty store in Delaware Water Gap. With well over 100 wears each, I am impressed by how well the shorts and t-shirt have held up.

Now I am on a mission to knit the perfect sweater for backpacking. It must made of light but strong wool. Warm but not too warm. The fit must have enough ease for a shirt or two underneath, yet slim enough to fit below a jacket and a backpack without bunching in the armpits. Raglan or yoke? Quarter-zip, three buttons, or a crew neck? Opinions on what makes the perfect hiking sweater, please!

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Goldenrod

DSCN9221September has arrived and the goldenrod is glowing. I spent my morning admiring its abundance at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island.DSCN9253

Last summer I tried my hand at natural dying using goldenrod from my mother’s back garden. The wool ame out a soft yellow. Paler than the plants blossoms. I have enjoyed looking at it for the past year, but must admit that yellow is not a color that I wear. Fortunately, G looks excellent in yellow. Someday he will receive a goldenrod sweater. Someday distant…

Replacing Memory

I just completed listening to About This Life – Journeys on the Threshold of Memory by Barry Lopez, one of my favorite authors. Replacing Memory, written in 1999 or earlier, was notably topical and I keep thinking about.

Lopez explores how photography – the act of capturing photos and the practice of looking at them later to invoke memory – affects first hand experiences and memories of those experiences. The topic of this essay is something I think about a lot. I spend my share of time browsing photo posts on social media, but it bothers me how many people seem to feels that experiences are not worthwhile unless they have been capturing on “film”. A while back, I starting limiting my social media posts to knitting-related shares because it gives me a sort of freedom. I take many photos (too many?), but my No Posting rule releases me from the burden of wanting affirmation of my daily activities and allows me to focus more on the present.

Earlier this year, my mom took photos of the most important event of my life – the birth of my baby. These photos were taken with the intention of being just for me. I wrote a journal entry about my experience shortly following the birth and then waited a month to look through the images. The photographs have stuck in my mind. My memories shifted to include a view from outside myself. I haven’t looked at my birth photos a second time but am glad to have them to return to if and when I am ready. For now, I want to recall the experience through my eyes and my hands and my ears.

Do you love to take photos every day? Only of important events? Rarely? Do you think taking and reviewing photographs improves or detracts from memory?

Another Hat

Western New Yorkers are fortunate to have the Western New York Land Conservancy working to permanently preserve ecologically valuable land. A couple of weeks ago, G volunteered to carry out their annual monitoring at the Bryant Hill Preserve near Ellicotville.

Here he is at near the preserve’s entrance sporting the only project that I have finished in many months – a colorwork beanie made of fingering weight yarn.
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It is knit from Quince and Co Finch yarn and comfortable. More details on Ravelry here.

Changes

My life has changed in wonderful ways since my series of posts about Nova Scotia last year. We adopted two kittens and then welcomed a new human to our family.
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The kittens are always nearby and ready to pounce on and eat any yarn that they see. As a result, I have had fewer opportunities for knitting than I would like. Than I need.

This lull simply can’t go on because I have too many projects in my mind and two neglected works in progress on my needles, including my sister’s 2017 Christmas Present (eek).

Island

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Island by Alistair MacLeod is a beautiful collection of short stories by Cape Breton, Nova Scotia‘s most beloved author. The unromantic lives of Cape Breton’s people are shown with simple, lyrical language.

The stories were written between 1968 and 1999, and touch on themes including family obligations, loss, tradition, and change. The land and sea of Cape Breton are essential characters in each. With each story, I reflected on my impressions of the places we had briefly visited on our loop of the Cabot Trail.

My only criticism is that all the stories have a similar tone as though there is one speaker, although they are each written as a different person. MacLeod tries but does not convincingly write from a child’s perspective, and he does not even try to write from any woman’s viewpoint. This tome took me over three months to make my way through as I usually took a break between stories, but it was worth all the library overdue fees.

Lupines in Wool

Route 4 through Nova Scotia does not have the vistas offered by many of the other roads in the province, but it does have lupines. In June, the verges were lined for miles with tall purple, blue, and pink inflorescence. Nothing, it seems, is more purple that a purple lupine.

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Upon returning home, I started knitting lupines. This is something that I have tried out with before without satisfactory results. It turned out that buying almost every purple available from Jamieson and Smith was essential, and I was able to design a motif that unmistakably represents a lupine in full bloom.

I have wanted to knit a sweater for my mother for a long time, and for a long time I have wanted it to be purple. This is because she once owned a purple Archie Brown & Son yoke knit of Shetland wool. She says that she bought it in 1983 while vacation in Bermuda. Sometime in the 80’s, the sweater was stored away in the basement and it remained there until my sister and I found it around 2000. There were dozens of moth holes, and I wore holes and all it for a decade before discovering darning. It now has mends, some more visible than others, as well as elbow patches, and I wear it regularly.

Shetland_SweaterThis photo was taken about two years ago, before the elbow patches.Shetland_Yoke

Using Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern as a template, my sister and I decided to knit a lupine cardigan for our mother’s birthday. In July 2017, I shipped main color yarn to M, she knit the sleeves and shipped them back to me, and then I joined them with the body before knitting the yoke. When my mother’s birthday came in early August, I had just joined the body and sleeves. She was patient through the fall and early winter as I finished knitting the yoke, cutting the steek, and painstakingly sewing a ribbon over the steek’s raw edge.

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For those interested in knitting details, Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern is available as part of her YOKES book. Kate Davies’ sweater sits nice and flat across her chest, but this is not the case for many other knitters. Based on Ravelry photos, I think that knitters have struggled with the yoke shaping and the neckline sits high and wide on many women. I modified the yoke, beginning with extra short rows in the back at the join of the arms with the body, and then more short rows at the top of the colorwork. I also decreased more within the yoke than is called for in the pattern. This allowed for a closer neckline that is wide enough not to scratch our mom’s neck. I cut the steek without reinforcement and then hand stitched it in place, rather than using a crochet reinforcement. The method that I used is described in Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting and works well with Shetland wool. My Ravelry project page is here.

We are all three – M, Mom, and me – very happy with this cardigan and hope it sees decades of wear.