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Road to Sochi

I can’t even begin to imagine the years of work, training, failure, accomplishment and sheer athleticism the Olympic athletes endure for a chance to represent America at the Olympic Games.

Sochi-2014-Olympics-829732I have always been a huge fan of the Games, both winter and summer. No matter where you stand on politics, religion or any other controversial issue, we all feel a sense of pride when our athletes make the journey and compete under our flag. How can you not feel patriotic and proud? We smile and clap in delight when they win a medal, we cry and yearn for them when they fail. We love the story of the underdog who wins a medal for a tiny country you’ve never heard of, of people who have been told their entire lives that they’ll “never make it” have a medal hung around their necks with tears running down their cheeks as their anthem begins to play, of the sheer will and determination these representatives of the world’s elite athletes have.

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While most of us will never compete in an Olympic event (or even get to attend the games at all) we have something that hits a little closer to home for us, the knitters in the Winter Knitting Games (formerly known as the “Ravelympics”). Never participated? The premise is simple… Pick a project that you determine to be above your skill level – something challenging that perhaps you’ve admired and thought “I could never knit that.” Gather your yarn, pattern and any other materials you will need and the second the Olympic torch is lit at the end of the Opening Ceremonies, you cast on and begin. The goal is the finish the project by the time the torch is extinguished at the end of the Closing Ceremonies. Make sense? Start on February 7th after the torch is lit, finish by the 23d when the torch goes out.

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Now the thing about the Winter Knitting Games, is you can participate on your own, or you can join one of the many groups on Ravelry. Some are themed (knit something Fair Isle, complex lace shawls, Harry Potter-themed, etc) and some are a complete free-for-all where it’s you making all the decisions. It’s based on the honor system, so no one will be there to disqualify you if you start 5 minutes early. Some knitters track their progress in Ravelry groups, their personal blogs or Facebook pages.

Opening Ceremony sweater the US athletes will wear by Ralph Lauren

Opening Ceremony sweater the US athletes will wear by Ralph Lauren

This particular Olympics hits close to home for me. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Imperial Yarn over the past few years and by now you’ve probably heard that Ralph Lauren has used their 100% American-made Erin yarn for all of the American athlete’s Opening Ceremony uniforms (see above with the moose and watch the incredible journey documented here). If you have my first book, Knit Local, you know how important American-made yarn is to me (Imperial is featured in there), so this is especially sweet on multiple levels. Imperial asked me to design their official hand-knit Olympic sweater for all of the hand knitters out there and I’ll be running a KAL (knit-a-long) during the Games with step-by-step photo tutorials, tips and tricks and be there to offer support during the KAL. To join the official KAL group, join our official Imperial Yarn Ravelry Group here.

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This pullover is designed to be a challenging knit and is a unisex design, looking great on both men and women. A bottom-up raglan, the v-neck pullover has an intricate cable pattern running up the front panel, mirror-imaged cables running up the sleeves and a stockinette back. The pattern is a free download on Imperial Yarn’s website here, so grab 4-7 hanks of Erin yarn (check the sizing to see how many hanks you need) and gather your materials for February 7th!

Go Team Imperial!

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Treasure Bag

My kid is a hoarder.

I suppose all children are like that… They have their toys, they want them a specific way, they don’t like to share (wait a second, sounds like some adults I know) and they like to take as much of their hoard with them as possible, even if it’s just a quick trip to the store. I remember being tucked into bed as a kid and instead of just one teddy bear, I needed 500 tucked around me, protecting me like a giant roll of soft bubble wrap. If we were going out, why bring one toy when I could just as easily bring two? Apparently this is genetic.

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With each errand we run, whether we walk there or take the car, my son needs to bring at least 5 toys with him. Between my bag, my keys, my phone, my son, his sippy cup, my reusable shopping bags and cold-weather accessories, throw 5 matchbox cars in there and you have a wonderful disaster. So goes it with all moms and dads and we learn how to juggle (both literally and metaphorically speaking) when it comes to our children and their accoutrements.

I noticed if I gave my son a bag of some sort, or even a leftover padded envelope from that day’s mail, he’d stuff the toys in there and carry them around that way. While a brilliant solution to the hoarding-on-the-go challenge, I wanted him to have something a bit more classy than a reused padded envelope. Enter in the idea for the Treasure Bag.

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What I like most about this project, is it’s a quick on-the-go knit. I knit a good portion of it while in the movie theater, happily clicking away in the dark. The majority of it is just knitting in the round, so you don’t necessarily need to see what you’re knitting. There’s a few yarn overs in there to create a path for the braided drawstring and it’s finished off with optional duplicate-stitching and a simple 3-needle bind off.

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My fellow parents out there know that the golden rule of knitting ANYTHING for children is to knit it in superwash yarn. This wonderful new 220 Superwash Multi yarn from Cascade is a great new member of the 220 family and is a 100% superwash merino wool and comes in at 137 yards per hank. This is an ideal project to use a variegated yarn such as this because it’s meant to be a fun bag for them to fill up with their treasures. I went with a “boy-colored theme” but there are 14 happy variegated colors to choose from. I love the idea of getting kids involved in crafting even if they’re not old enough yet to do it themselves, so have them “help” by picking out the shade they like best. No matter how filthy they manage to get  it, you can throw it in the washing machine on cool, tumble dry low and have it ready for them to fill up again.

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Having an unusual name, I could never get personalized anything as a kid. My friends with common names like “Jenn, Ashley, Kate” had cool personalized pencils at school, hair brushes, stickers or even jewelry. I was stuck with a generic “T” if I could find it. Occasionally someone in the family would take pity on me and get me something engraved with “TEG” or “Tanis.” I’m afraid my son will have the same problem, having an unusual name himself. Because of this, I’ve given the option of duplicate-stitching the child’s first initial on the bag, as well as a blank template in the pattern to design your own motif, or squeeze all 3 initials in there. Again, ask them what they want and have them help design it. Maybe put their age number on there or favorite animal. Personalize it! Grab a hank of 220 Superwash Sport in a  solid, highly contrasting color and duplicate-stitch it on there together.

Voila! A personalized bag they’ll be excited to use and call their own!

Download the free Treasure Bag pattern here.