when the stars align

A couple weeks ago, Dylan and I went to New York City for the weekend. We had planned the trip to the last detail - where we’d eat, shop, stay and see entertainment - since we only had 2.5 days in the city. But the weather had a different idea. 

When our flight on Friday was canceled and rebooked to Saturday, we looked at our plans and started trimming. Our main goals were: Olafur Arnalds concert Saturday night, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Sunday, Brooklyn General Store and Purl Soho (yarn shops for me), Rough Trade (LP shop for D), and Dirt Candy (amazing veg food). 

I am happy to report, the stars aligned. 

Knit the Stars

My copy of pompom quarterly, issue 26 with the softest, swankiest yarn by  Magpie Fibers

My copy of pompom quarterly, issue 26 with the softest, swankiest yarn by Magpie Fibers

Leading up to our trip, I had been working on the Ixchel Sweater - the amazing colorwork pullover that was on the cover of Pom Pom Quarterly, Issue 26. The first time I saw the sweater on the cover model, I immediately knew I would knit it. I had to. I never considered another option. Before the magazine even hit the shelves, I purchased a copy, and Donna at the Black Mountain Yarn Shop ordered me the yarn, Magpie Fibers Swanky Sock in Empty Night and Moon Beam.

I clearly wasn’t the only one who felt that way, seeing as the magazine quickly sold out and they reprinted it, which they don’t typically do. (In fact, I think this was the first time that ever happened!) When I discovered that the woman who wrote the pattern for the magnetic moon sweater owned Brooklyn General Store in New York, I made it my mission to knit it - and wear it - to her shop. 

The only hiccup in my plan was that I was relatively new to colorwork. I had knit the Underwing Mitts by Erica Heuser earlier this year,  but the only other time I knit colorwork, the entire project had to be frogged, never to be touched again. 

During my first attempt with Ixchel, I carried both yarns in my right hand (I’m an English thrower). I got through the yoke but it took hours of untangling the yarns, which really slowed my progress. I couldn’t imagine finishing the sweater with that much tangly frustration. 

I first went to Instagram to ask someone who had finished knitting Ixchel for any tips. She (@dankfiber) was kind enough to send me videos and offer tips of how she so masterfully approaches colorwork. I quickly adopted her method of alternating skeins, but her technique for colorwork involved a Norwegian knitting thimble, which I didn’t have. 

So I went to get one. 

Thankfully, I took the wip with me to Black Mountain Yarn Shop, and by the blessing of heaven, I met Lainie, an experienced knitter and kind soul. I purchased the knitting thimble, but also asked Lainie how she approached colorwork, since I recognized her incredible Guthrie sweater. She took me to the side and not only showed me how to carry one color in each hand, but also had me practice it in front of her so that she could troubleshoot while I awkwardly learned the new technique. I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t switch the way I was knitting the sweater mid-way into the project. I needed to frog my hardwork and start over. (Lainie also taught me how to do German Short Rows instead of w&t’s, so I planned to use those in my 2nd attempt as well.) 

Trying to keep it together as I undo all of my progress to start anew. Look at those tangles!

Trying to keep it together as I undo all of my progress to start anew. Look at those tangles!

If I thought knitting was creating a tangled mess, it was NOTHING compared to frogging - it took me an entire day to rip my sweater out and rewind the yarn back into manageable balls. 

When I was finally ready to cast on again, I couldn’t get the hang of the knitting thimble. I was all thumbs. But I did recall the hands on tutorial from Lainie, carrying one color in each hand, and that’s the technique that got me through. 

I never left the house with Ixchel when it was a wip. Let me clarify - I left the house, but I never brought Ixchel with me. I was too afraid of anything happening to it! The excitement of the project grew with each row, it was magical to watch the pattern unfold. I couldn’t help but try it on what seemed like everyday. 

I got her finished, blocked and packed with a day to spare. But then our flight was canceled. Losing the Friday of our trip meant that everything would have to be adjusted. It meant that I would have to wear my Ixchel up to NYC, and make the very first stop Brooklyn General Store. (And hope that she was working that day!) 

Again, the stars aligned. 

The finished Ixchel, I’m over the moon with how it turned out!

The finished Ixchel, I’m over the moon with how it turned out!

Meet the Star

I can’t explain how thrilling it was to walk into the store and meet Catherine - the woman who designed Ixchel. She is an awesome human. We hugged, took photos, and talked at length. It was the first time she had seen an “Ixchel in the wild!” It was also the first pattern that she had published in a magazine. Wow. There were moments I was just standing in awe, listening to her. I think this is what they call ‘fangirling.’ :) 

What can top that experience? I still get giddy when I think back to it. I will remember it forever, little ol’ me, meeting the pattern designer of the most impressive and captivating sweater pattern I’ve knit. And her being as amazing as I could have imagined. 

Meeting Catherine Clark, the Ixchel pattern designer at her shop, Brooklyn General store, was so much fun!

Meeting Catherine Clark, the Ixchel pattern designer at her shop, Brooklyn General store, was so much fun!

I could barely concentrate on yarn in her shop, although, there was so much good stuff in there! She also has an array of fabric for the sewist. I bought some DK weight yarn for a cardigan that I thought I was going to knit, but really that part was a blur. I spent the rest of the day walking around with the biggest smile on my face. 

Later on, while stopping to grab a cup of coffee, a woman stopped me and asked if I had knit my sweater. We talked briefly, and she told me that she recognized it from Pom Pom magazine right away. (I’m telling you - it’s that popular!)

When I walked into Purl Soho, in Manhattan, one of the women working freaked out when she saw my sweater, exclaiming, ’that’s the sweater from Pom Pom!’ I should have corrected her - it’s the sweater that was designed by your neighbor over in Brooklyn!

Over the Moon

I must say, the rest of the trip proceeded as magically as that first stop. D ‘hit the payola’ of record shops in Brooklyn; we were able to snag seats at the bar of Dirt Candy for the most insane 9-course meal made entirely (and uber creatively) with vegetables; Olafur Arnalds music was impeccable and transportive; and of course, the Harry Potter Broadway play was impressive and entertaining. The weekend was packed, which is not typically our preferred method of vacationing, but it was incredible, and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

Had to show a glimpse of my other knit - a Gryffindor scarf - so I could represent at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play.

Had to show a glimpse of my other knit - a Gryffindor scarf - so I could represent at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play.