I spent a lot of weekends and school vacations of my childhood up in the woods and mountains of New Hampshire. We'd ski, swim, hike, meander through town, read by the fire and do some serious knitting. In the colder months, my mom and I would bundle ourselves up, dash out to the car, then settle in at the Yarn Barn, a yarn shop that was indeed attached to a barn, always had a fire going, Abby the dog on her bed in front of it, and Barb the owner with her hot pink lipstick, ready and waiting to offer help, yarn and advice.
When I was a kid, Barb put DPNs in my hands, a Fair Isle mitten pattern in front of me and told me to go to town. It never occurred to me that fear and knitting could go hand-in-hand (something I see a lot as a teacher now) or that it was "weird" that I would rather be up north knitting with my mom when my friends would rather be at the mall. Knitting, my mom and Barb were my perfect trifecta. I lived for those days.
While the Yarn Barn and Abby are long gone, Barb still lives up there (she's got to be close to 100 - I visited her in 2012 and she was still rocking the pink lipstick). We still visit new Hampshire as often as we can and every time we drive by what's now an ice cream barn (weird, right?) I look back and lament over all the time I sat there with my mom, stitching away with Barb and Abby in the confines of those yarn-filled walls. It pains me that it's no longer the place I loved going to - that it now houses a plethora of ice cream flavors, toppings and cones. Where did all the knitters who congregated there disappear to? I sigh and say, "Oh Yarn Barn, how I miss you," and my understanding husband nods sagely and keeps driving. The poor man must have heard me say that 1,000 times. Everyone has a magical place from their childhood and for me, one of those places was the Yarn Barn.
With these memories of this magical place and in honor of Barb, who clearly saw that Fair Isle knitting and I simply belonged together, I'm happy to introduce the Idea of North Cowl. Knit in the to-die-for Paulie Worsted from Shalimar Yarns, this insanely good blend of hand-dyed superwash merino, camel, cashmere and silk (gimme, gimme) was simply wonderful to knit with.
I brought this yarn up to New Hampshire with me when we visited on my birthday in late August. I casted on when we set out on the 12-hour drive north, then bound off when we were up in the mountains. I love how the magenta and glacier blue play off one another and the Victorian-inspired fair isle pattern was something I had doodled on a piece of paper I had tucked away in my desk after reading about Victorian houses in New England.
The color work pattern inverts itself with a simple MC and CC switch in the middle section and I have to say - this was one seriously fun pattern to knit. I loved the yarn, I loved the Fair Isle pattern, I loved the generous height so your neck stays cozy, I loved the colors and I especially loved that everything about this project reminded me of New Hampshire. It is, at the heart of it all, an idea of north - my idea of north. I enjoy all my designs for various reasons, but there's something special about this one. It found its way into my suitcase when I was packing for Squam, heading back up to new Hampshire 2 weeks after we had gotten back from our last hurrah of the summer as a family. I figured maybe I'd wear it when it got chilly at night, or maybe I'd get a chance to photograph it. Correct on both counts, the lovely Nicole who was in the cabin next to mine was kind enough to model it for me.
Everyone has an Idea of North - some magical place that they visit fondly in their memories. What's yours?
Download the Idea of North Cowl here.