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The Slowest Knit....



2021 has become by default, the year of the slow knit. I don’t know how this relates to the “slow knitting movement” (as referenced in a particular New Yorker article). But I don’t actually have the time to give the idea of a slow knitting movement the critical interrogation I think it deserves.


But regardless, when I looked at the multiple canvas project bags piled up, I did realize that what is underway is a set of projects that will each take their time. From March through November, I worked as if I could, in a flurry of productiveness, out knit a pandemic. Of course, I could not and while I don’t really “do” New Year’s resolutions, I found myself approaching January 1 needing a different approach to my craft.


I needed a project that would force me to be slow and intentional. I wanted to create some record of a year that I could not imagine. And that record needed to be something that could be counted on to happen, not matter what happened on January 6 or what I did. In other words, the weather.


But which aspect of the weather? Like others before me I decided to focus on the temperature. It is variable and easy to document. And with that I was on the temperature cowl bandwagon. But what color scheme to choose? My immersion in the undyed shades of Shetland Supreme led me to ask, “what would a year of temperature records worked in nine shades of Shetland sheep look like?”


My first step was to figure out how to assign temperature ranges to the colors. Rather than go with a color gradient which I find hard with this yarn give the subtle variations of gray and brown, I took advantage of the numbering that is used to label the yarns. Here in the DC area, it rarely falls below 20 degrees F and even the worst of summer does not often go over 100 degrees F. I assigned the colors as follows.


Temperature Range (degrees F) Yarn Color

<20 2001 Shetland White

20-29 2002 Mooskit

30-39 2003 Shaela

40-49 2004 Moorit

50-59 2005 Shetland Black

60-69 2006 Gaulmogot

70-79 2007 Sholmit

80-89 2008 Katmollet

>90 2009 Yuglet


I then thought about what I was actually recording. For consistency, I settled on the daily Low/High at (Reagan) Washington National Airport. I can get this information from the newspaper and if I forget one day, I can find it online. From there I decided on four rows a day, two in the low and two in the high. With all of this on a size 3.25mm needle, my back of the envelope calculation told me that I will have a cowl that I can wrap around my neck a few times.


And on January 2, 2021 I looked at the temperature for the day before, cast on 60 stitches, joined to work in the round, and began knitting I have found that don’t knit on it every day. Rather, I tend to pick it up on Friday nights when it offers just enough to keep me awake, while still not taxing me too much. The first quarter of the year (pictured above) was a bit of a surprise. We had no days from January to the end of March where the temperature dropped below 20 degrees F. Now it will be many months before the Shetland White (2001) appears.


But in the meantime, I love seeing how the colors unfold and how a color can look so different depending what is on either side of it, just as a high of 60 degrees when the low was 30 degrees is very different from a low of 60 with a high of 80.


So, for now as we (very) slowly move back out into the world, the Temperature Cowl can serve as the reminder to take things slow and that, no matter what I do, I can’t finish it before January 1, 2022. And that’s a good thing.

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