Trees

Hello friends. I let all of July slip past me without blogging, didn’t I?* In truth, it’s been a doozy of a transition back to life in Iqaluit. It’s been a time to focus on family, resting, re-visioning, processing recent events, preaching a series of children’s sermons, and enjoying being outside as much as possible. The knitting has continued, even though the blogging paused. But now, it’s August: the Olympics (and therefore, the Ravellenic games) are coming post-haste, so it’s time to flex the blogging muscles, because I’m diving right in. And I have a couple projects I want to show you in the meantime!

Vacation was about family and friends, reconnecting, relaxing, recuperating, recharging for another year of ministry. But physically being in Pennsylvania and Maryland, as a region, was about one thing: trees. Trees, glorious trees. It was, therefore, good and right that the next Lord of the Rings project to be cast on was none other than Lothlorien: a cabled cape to represent the most beautiful forest in middle-earth.

I have written at length about the yarn I spun for this project. To summarize: my mother dyed it, 4+ years ago, and I took three years to spin it into a 4-ply cabled yarn with one slow color change through green, yellow, red, and brown. It’s a leaf’s lifespan in wool.

I had a fairly major issue, though: instead of 1000 yards of DK, I ended up with 800 yards of worsted. Also, the colors were unbalanced in quantity (intentionally): there was very little green and yellow, a good bit of red, and nearly half the yarn was brown. And the cape pattern was written to be bottom up.

So I made two changes to the pattern, one major and one minor: The minor one is that I cast on enough stitches for seven repeated panels instead of eight. Simple enough after a bit of calculating at the beginning. The major one? I flipped the whole kit and caboodle to be top down instead of bottom up. I’d at least maximize the colors, and running out of yarn… I would solve that problem when I came to it.

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I was still at home in Iqaluit when I cast on because I wanted to be stable and focused during the initial calculations, trials, and errors. I saved myself a little green by doing the inside of the collar in a different yarn (also handspun, dyed the same way, but a 3-ply DK). It took a few tries to get the increases right for the sort of losenge-shaped area at the first cable, as it’s difficult to get sharp increases to look as good as sharp increases. But I found something good enough, so I was good to go.

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I picked up the pace properly on the long drive to Pennsylvania from Ottawa. There were some lovely long hours of watching TV with the kids at the house we were staying (Netflix! Oh, the infinite choices at one’s fingertips!) that brought me quickly through the green and yellow. Not to mention watching the Stanley Cup finals when our friends whose house we stayed in got back to town (Go Penguins!).

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Then there were the many hours driving to and fro in Maryland. Green, green Maryland.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed all the driving. I hadn’t realized before what a break from life it can be to just be in the car for twenty, forty, sixty minutes. Maryland is such a terrifyingly, compulsively, viciously busy place, but the commute is the common meditation. I’m sure we mostly fill it up with yet more noise, and are always looking for ways to make that time productive – what a horrid word to overtake one’s life. But for us, it was an excuse to just sit. We tried listening to NPR, but it was overwhelming. So we talked. We were quiet. I read a book.** And looked at all the trees.

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Single-stitch cables expanded and became more and more complicated. By the time we got back home I was nearly through the second of the four skeins.

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My native land is an explosion of green life, overwhelming, almost oppressive in its humid botanical fertility. But we left it behind for the Arctic summer, with a very different explosion of life, one you have to get up close to appreciate. Now, the only tree in my life is the creeping Arctic willow, with its feathery catkins and soft leaves, its roots a two-dimensional bonsai across the tundra. Two dimensional – not unlike these crossing cables. Everywhere around it are flowers, with so much variety that I can’t seem to go on one hike without finding more, and so much delicacy I can’t seem to examine them closely enough. It was hard, at first, leaving home and family, but I’m falling in love with this place again.

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I’m through the third skein now, and just added the fourth: time to face the music on the issue of running out of yarn. Some math on my part showed that I wasn’t going to make it to the finish line. I had debated whether to cut the whole thing short, just cast off when I ran out of yarn and accept that it might be a dress-up cape for Naomi or an odd shoulderette for myself. But while in Maryland, Mom and I discovered this last skein of sock yarn that I dyed ages ago, and was never sold. We brought it back, and yesterday I pulled it out. It’s a pretty great color match, no?

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Different yarn, different construction, dyed by different people, in different years. But here they are together (the fingering yarn held double), and I know the lighting in this picture is horrible, but it looks pretty good.

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So I brought my trees with me. The mallorns of Lorien and the tulip poplars, dogwoods, oaks, and maples of Maryland, meet the Arctic willow in this pile of wool on my lap. I am content.

*Don’t mind that password-protected post you saw for a while – that was something I had to work out privately, and shared with a couple people. It’s become evident to me that it would not be helpful to share it publicly, so I made it fully private. Trust me, you didn’t miss anything.

**The book: Edwin Friedman’s Failure of Nerve, which is so incredible I haven’t yet had the nerve to get even halfway through it. And lest you believe this portrait of our unplugged virtue, we also got through those eight-hour car rides by setting up a laptop in front of the kid’s car seats and playing the same two episodes of Daniel Tiger over and over again.

3 thoughts on “Trees

  1. Kathy says:

    So glad you had a wonderful visit with family, and so glad you are all safely back home. I love how you worked out matching the different yarns in your tree shawl. They are perfect together! Can’t wait to see you wearing it.

    Like

  2. Kathy says:

    I mean cape.

    Like

  3. […] made my own adaptations, as I’ve detailed before: I knit the whole thing top-down (so as to use all the green and adapt the pattern to my yarn […]

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