What A Long, Strange Trip It Has Been

With just a few hours left of 2017, I have been reflecting on my year in knitting.  I usually do this during the first week of January, just in case any last-minute orders roll in at 11:59 on December 31 and mess up all of my statistics...but this year I'm taking a chance and doing it early.

My Etsy shop has been open for just over 5 years now, having started it with two items: a wreath Christmas stocking and a Carroll Irish blanket.  The stocking was something I made intending to give it to my uncle's wife...except they divorced before Christmas that year.  The blanket was something I made with a few skeins of Cascade Ecological Wool I found on clearance at a now-defunct LYS.  (Aside...I paid $7.50 per skein for that yarn at 50% off.  It retails now for $23.75 per skein!)  I didn't really need the blanket -- I made it just to see if I could take the Carroll Irish fisherman's sweater pattern and turn it into a blanket.  The stocking sold almost right away, and then I ended up making a second stocking for that customer.  The Irish blankets have since become a specialty of mine.  Who'd've thunk it?

But I digress.

This year, I branched out a bit.  I published my first two patterns on Ravelry.  The first was the Riley Irish Throw Blanket, the second was a Unicorn Hooded Blanket.  I really enjoyed writing these patterns, and am hoping to publish more in 2018.

What had the most impact on me as a knitter this year was attending the WEBS Knitting Retreat in Amherst, MA.  It was three days of classes and camaraderie with other people as obsessed with knitting and yarn as I am.  I couldn't get enough of it...I'm counting down the days until I can register for next year's retreat.  The teachers were nothing short of god-like to me (Franklin Habit and Susan B. Anderson, I'm looking at you!).  One night, I met an indie dyer who makes the most gorgeous colorways (Rachel Kluesner of Dyeabolical Yarns).  I even met the owner of Cascade Yarns (and after we met, Shannon graciously provided yarn support for the Unicorn Hooded Blanket)!  So many people there inspired me to take my knitting to the next level.  

So, as I look back at the 101 projects I completed this year, there are a couple that stand out as my favorites.  First is the Nell Throw Blanket.  A customer reached out to me in the spring, and asked if I could repair or re-create an Irish blanket that his puppy had chewed a hole in.  He sent me several high-res pictures of the blanket and the damage.  While repair was theoretically possible, it would never look right.  So he opted to commission a new blanket.  It took a little time to experiment with swatches to make sure I could duplicate the twig and vine panels, but in the end it came out beautifully.  I'm insanely proud of that blanket.  I really hope it stays safe until his puppy outgrows the chewing stage!

My second favorite project of the year is the Christina Cardigan.  A wonderful customer from down south ordered a Riva Sweater (designed by Heidi May of The Velvet Acorn) for her mother.  Before shipping, I did a photo shoot of it, thinking that it might be a nice addition to the made-to-order section of my shop.  Made from an ethereal bulky baby alpaca yarn by The Rare Creature, it is the most divinely soft and light yarn I have ever encountered.  My best friend/model agreed...and promptly demanded one for Christmas.  "Except I want it with sleeves.  And a hood.  And I'd prefer it to button closed.  Oh, and thumb openings in the sleeves....it totally needs those.  And I don't like this shade of grey, do they have anything darker?"  A month later, I acquired the yarn, thanks to a 30% designer discount.  It took until mid-December to actually carve out the time to design and knit it -- but I got it done just in time for Christmas.  Even after I had to unwrap it at the last minute and add the pockets I had completely forgotten to include.

Everywhere I go, I generally have knitting with me.  I keep a project in my car, just in case I find myself waiting unexpectedly for my son's fencing practice or play rehearsals to end.  (What's in my car project bag, you ask?  The "Time's a Thief" scarf by Kim Bridgeo, in Sugar Bush Yarns Bliss in a gorgeous cobalt blue.  It's only about 3" long so far.)  This summer, my son and I did a cross-country trip, during which I worked on a pair of 7-Stitches-Per-Inch Socks by Ann Budd.  My son is partial to anything red, so these socks for him are made in Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet in Bittersweet.  They felted a bit in the wash, which is disappointing...but they still mostly fit him.  (So much for being machine washable/dryable...)  This year more than most, I knit in all kinds of places.  I knit on planes, I knit on trains, I knit in the car, I knit on docks, I knit at fencing competitions...odds are, if you see me, I have yarn on me somewhere.  

In 2017, my overall number of completed projects went down (from 110 to 101), but the projects I made tended to be bigger and/or more complex -- think fewer Azel Pullovers, more XL sized Irish blankets.  The variety of projects increased this year -- sure, I still did a lot of Azel Pullovers and Unicorn Hooded Scarves (Heidi May, you are the best!), but I did several new Irish blanket designs, some gorgeous baby bonnets, and just last night I finished the Vista Wrap pattern included in my swag bag at the WEBS Knitting Retreat.

If you want to see any of the projects described here, most are on Instagram (@knittingbyjen), and all are on Ravelry (iferjen).  

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

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