Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Leo & Roxy

A light skinned brunette with straight hair and olive skinned woman with curly black hair, both wearing black t-shirts.

Kerri and Jolyn, the dyers behind Leo & Roxy Yarn Co.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled, taking place from October 15-24, 2021. Tickets are now available!

Leo & Roxy Yarn Co. is run by best friends and collaborators, Jolyn Gardner and Kerri Masseo, who first met as coworkers in their LYS, The Little Red Mitten in downtown St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. The company is named for their mascots: Leo, a Rambouillet sheep, and Roxy, a Green Cheek Conure, or parakeet.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

Both Jolyn and Kerri were interested in dyeing yarn after knitting for years. They tried many different methods over the years, but once they decided to try dyeing a little more seriously for themselves, they got together in the kitchen and made some colorway magic! This quickly became the full-fledged dyeing business now known as Leo & Roxy Yarn Co.!

Three skeins of purple hand-dyed yarn

What inspires your colorways?

Our colourways are inspired by so many things — objects or things that we see, colours we want to replicate, or even just silly things like our dye challenges we have on our podcast.

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you started dyeing?

Jolyn’s favourite colour is orange, and Kerri’s is pink. Neither’s favourite colours have changed since becoming dyers, but they definitely like to dye in the orange and pink combinations and families!

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?

We do have some techniques for dyeing that are more challenging or difficult than others. This usually means that the colour is limited edition or gets retired when we aren’t having much fun dyeing it anymore.

A sock knit with black and white marled yarn with a pink stripe at the top.

What are some of your most popular colorways?

Some of our most popular colourways are Meredith, Sugar Skull and Copper Roof.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

We’re definitely planning on having a discount code for those who attend Indie Untangled, both in person and virtually. We’re also planning on having some great kits available to make picking your next project even easier!

When and how did each of you learn to knit?

Jolyn took a course when she was younger (about 11), and was surprised to find that she was surrounded only by older ladies. Kerri taught herself to knit about 22 years ago, but really picked it up to hone her skills about six years ago.

A teal cowl with a white cord on a dress form.

What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?

It’s always so much fun to have designers create with our yarns, we’re always honoured when they choose our yarns. We love the creativity that our customers have, and always love to see the things that are created by pattycakeknitz, irrakatze, Junespoon, sakharwood, and more on Ravelry! Some of our favourite samples that we have for our shows are The Daydreamer by Andrea Mowry in our 80/20 and Mohair/Silk, our work sock sets, and the Lilli Pilli Wrap by Ambah O’Brien in our 80/20 Sock.

What’s currently on your needles?

Both girls have a cast-on problem, and have so many things that we created a whole podcast around our WIPs and tracking them! Our Little Red Mitten podcast on YouTube chronicles what the girls are working on, what they’ve finished or frogged, new project plans, and anything going on both with Leo & Roxy, and with the LYS, Little Red Mitten, that they own as well. Kerri just cast on the Scout Shawl by Florence Spurling for our KAL, and Jolyn always has a variety of projects on the needles, including some vanilla socks for knitting in the car now that her son is old enough to drive!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Yarn Over New York

A smiling person models a rainbow and black plaid shawl.

Jessie wears Breaking Plaid by Carissa Browning (Ravelry link).

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled, taking place from October 15-24, 2021. Tickets are now available!

Jessie of Yarn Over New York is emblematic of the city that we both call home: colorful, interesting and full of talent. Aside from creating hand-dyed yarn, Jessie has worked as a stage manager for various performances and events, including the circus. That experience lends itself well to dramatic, bold colorways and artistic sock blanks.

You can catch Jessie at our online show in October, with their virtual shopping session taking place on Saturday, October 16 at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

In January 2016, while in Vancouver, BC, a friend from knit group (Kelsey of K-Zip Knits) invited me and another friend to a Yarn Dyeing Party at her house. We tried hand-painting, low-immersion and mason jar dyeing techniques and had a lot of fun. I left that day with four beautiful new skeins of yarn and the seeds were planted for a major lifestyle change. As my yarn hung in the shower to dry, I ordered my own Greener Shades dye starter pack and a handful of bare yarn. I spent the next few months watching tutorials and experimenting in my kitchen. Eventually, I had dyed enough that I needed to clear out some space and I listed a few skeins in a knitting Facebook group. To my surprise, they sold! I decided to take a major leap of faith and contact all the local yarn stores and inquire about a trunk show during the NYC Yarn Crawl. One Brooklyn shop (Slip Stitch Needlectaft) and one Manhattan shop (Annie & Co) both said yes! It was a total dream come true. I used that event to launch my Etsy shop and before I knew it, Yarn Over New York was a real thing! Five years later, I still almost can’t believe it happened.

Skeins of colorful yarn and a small yellow taxi.

What inspires your colorways?

Is “everything” too vague an answer? Early on, I used photographs from my travels in Europe, Asia and North America to pick color palettes. Now, I have three main sources for ideas. Food (yum), flowers (pretty) and my dear old City, New York (not yum, maybe pretty).

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

Orange is definitely my personal favorite color. I love how it can pair with greens, blues and purples to create really dynamic effects. As I dyer, I’ve learned that not everyone wants to wear sunglasses while knitting/crocheting, so I have a new-found appreciation for subtler shades. I also really love rainbows and, luckily, so do lots of other crafters. I’ll never run out of ways to dye the rainbow.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?

Perhaps not a single color, but I’d love to dye self-striping sock yarn. At the moment, I really don’t have the space and equipment to do it properly, so it stays on the bucket list.

The Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline on a piece of blue knitting.

What are some of your most popular colorways?

Colorways: Dusk Rainbow (variegated, saturated rainbow with black smudges), Taxis in the Rain (grey and yellow with speckles), Black Opal (dark grey with jewel undertones)

Hand-painted Sock Blanks: NYC Skyline, Watermelon Slices, Fractals

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

(Big smile) Yes! I’ve got some super fun things planned. Our show special colorway will be a stunner this year. Sock knitters will definitely want to keep an eye out. It’s not a true self-striping colorway, but it will pool into very gorgeous spirals. I’m in the process of creating some really pretty companion tonal colorways so that shawl and sweater makers can mix and match to their hearts’ delight.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I started to crochet at the age of five when my mom gave me a hook and some yarn for Christmas. Admittedly, I didn’t totally fall in love at that point and ended up making pom poms and simpler yarn-crafted items. As a teen, she taught me again and I started a never-ending parade of crocheted hats, blankets and stuffed toys.

I learned how to knit in my 30s while living in Macau. A fellow circus worker and I traded skills. I taught her to crochet and she taught me to knit. She introduced me to ravelry and the world of fine yarn. It’s safe to say, she created a monster, lol. I started designing knit and crochet patterns and amassed quite a stash during my travels. Thanks, Sharon, I owe you!

I learned to weave when Rachel from Woolyn (Brooklyn yarn store) showed me all her gorgeous work and inspired me to buy a loom. I am still definitely a beginner, but definitely hooked. I love how you can color mix in both directions. So fun.

A person holds a wrap with neon stripes.

Jessie’s Celebrate With Love shawl (Ravelry link).

What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?

I really love when people make things for special occasions. A customer knit her own wedding veil with a custom-dyed gold and white silk lace. Another used an NYC sock blank to knit herself socks that reminded her of home. The beauty of indie-dyed yarn is the emotion and love carries through from my hands to theirs in the most amazing way.

What’s currently on your needles?

All the things. I can never just do one at a time. I’ve got a pair of socks on the go (for me, vanilla), a knitted and a crochet cowl for show samples (“Diurnal Cowl” by me) and a “Born this Way” test knit for Mary W Martin. I recently got a stand for my table loom so it can be ready to go all the time and I plan to make a birthday present for my mom with something pink and lovely. (Mom, if you are reading this, pretend you didn’t see that last part.)

What to stash this week: Hello, yellow

A yellow sweater with a variegated slipped-stitch yoke.

Mary Annarella’s latest release is the perfect transition piece. Called Yellow Brick Rodeo, this is a quick knit that lets you take advantage of a show-stopping variegated colorway. The spiraling zigzag pattern is simple and worked with sporadic slipped stitches. Once the yoke is complete, the stockinette bodice and sleeves are easily lengthened. The pattern is on sale at a 30% discount through tomorrow with the code lionsandtigersandbears on either Ravelry or Payhip.

A plastic sloth wrapped in green yarn.

Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations has added Sincere Sloths to her menagerie of end minders, which can keep your ends tidy, store yarn for repairs, tame your joins, or make a handy portable color swatch.

A spray bottle with a blue label next to a brown leather bag.

Soak is known for it’s amazing garment care products (it’s the only soap I use for my handknits and delicates) and they recently released hand sanitizer! They come in perfectly portable 3 oz. and 8.4 oz. bottles and are now available to preorder on Indie Untangled

A twisted hank of black yarn with red undertones.

Get to know more about Zwartbles, the European breed that offers black wool with a red undertone. Monica of Gothfarm Yarn uses it for her Ultisol base, a 2-ply worsted weight that’s also available as spinning fiber. 

What to stash this week: A detour to Mesa Verde

Lit caves under a purple sky and purple, orange and green yarn.

For the latest installment of Knitting Our National Parks, Faery of Apothefaery Luxury Fibers takes us to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features hundreds of cliff dwellings once occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan people. Inspired by the photo above, captured by Steven Yabek, Faery created two colorways — the variegated Luminaria and the semisolid Spruce Treehouse. They will both be available on four bases, from lace to DK, plus Luminaria will be dyed on U.S.-grown Rambouillet spinning fiber.

These colors will be available to preorder on Indie Untangled until Friday, August 27. As always, 10% of all sales will be divided between the National Park Foundation and the Native American Rights Fund.

A woman holds up a gold and turquoise triangular shawl.

Ashleigh Wempe’s San Angelo shawl is inspired by her former Texas home and its mesquite artwork inlaid with turquoise. This triangular shawl features short rows, wrapped stitches and mosaic colorwork. Use the coupon code MESQUITE to get 10% off this pattern until midnight on August 16.

A collage of national parks photos with purple, blue and orange tones and the words A National Parks New Year

Preorder A National Parks New Year

I’ve brought together 27 dyers and four makers for A National Parks New Year, a month-long journey through the U.S. national parks in wintertime! Preorders for this New Year countdown box will be available through the end of August or until they sell out (and it’s already more than half sold!).  

What to stash this week: Adventure time

Ten mini-skeins of greyed-out mystery yarn. Decorations for Christmas, Halloween, Chanukah and New Year's Eve.

Jessie of Yarn Over New York is offering a variety of Holiday Adventures countdown sets: two sets for Halloween, two for Chanukah, two for Christmas and two sets for New Year’s Eve.

A black bag with the word Knit next to a cup of coffee and a red, green and pink knitting on a needle.

You’re all about that fiber lifestyle, so add some yarn to your coffee. Leann of Knit. Coffee Company offers certified organic, Italian roast and Kosher beans.

Twisted skeins of brown yarn in various shades.

Erika of Liverpool Yarns has new shades of 100% Shetland worsted-spun fingering-weight yarn, including a range of natural grays and browns as well as vibrant and soft hues.

Pink and blue knit leg warmers.

Celebrate the ’80s with Emily’s totally (and literally) tubular Knitting On Ice leg warmer pattern. Plus, save 10% through July 20 to celebrate the release!

What to stash this week: Knitting under the lights

A collage of a tend under a green sky and green, gold, red and blue yarn.

For the latest installment of Knitting Our National Parks — which marks the fourth anniversary of this series! — Terra of Mitchell’s Creations was inspired by a photo of the White Mountains National Recreation Area in Alaska, captured by Bob Wick of the Bureau of Land Management. Terra will dye Camping Under The Lights on two bases, Lagniappe Sock, a 75/25 Superwash Merino and nylon yarn, and Ça c’est bon a Superwash Merino DK.

The yarn is available to preorder through June 18 and will ship at the beginning of August 2021. 10% of all sales will be divided between the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, and the Native American Rights Fund, which provides legal assistance to help preserve tribal existence and natural resources, promote Native American human rights and hold governments accountable to Native Americans. I was inspired to donate to this organization after reading this article that explores the idea of returning our national parks to Native Americans.

Gray yarn piled on gray and gold handknits.

The Grey Sheep Co. is a small family farm, nestled in the rolling hills of the Hampshire countryside in Southern England, that has been producing yarns from fine wool flocks for over a decade.

A collage of white bags and a color palette.

Sara of La Cave à Laine has introduced made-to-order bags, a collections of six different styles that she will make to order to your own specifications and choices, including a palette of hand-dyed colors!

A twisted hank of gray yarn.

Monica of Gothfarm Yarn debuted her new Karst base at last month’s Indie Spotlight show. Now this sportweight yarn, made from a blend of white Cheviot sheep wool and stormy Huacaya alpaca fleece, is available to everyone, along with a new sock pattern.

Purple, pink, aqua and blue yarn.

Stitch Stuff Yarn has two new summer bases. Silky Lace Stuff and Silky Sock Stuff are both 75/25 blends of Superwash Merino and Mulberry Silk, perfect for lacy shawls or summer tees.

A rainbow of yarn skeins.

Erika of Liverpool Yarns is celebrating the unofficial start of summer with a price drop. Her 50-gram skeins of 100% Shetland Wool are now $10 each, and her 25-gram mini skeins are now $5 each.

A braid of green and blue fiber.

Spinners: Natalie of Fiberdog Fibers can help you get ready for the Tour de Fleece! She has washed, picked, carded and dyed up a storm for you and added ready-to-ship fibers to her shop.

Michele of MAB Elements is marking spring with rhodonite shawl pins.

Eden Cottage Yarns recently had an update with Keld Fingering, their Merino linen singles yarn.

Knitting on the road

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Two people on a motorcycle, the one in the back knitting on a purple project.

Farms are a green blur at the edges of my vision as my husband, Jim, and I motor down the highway. We’ve decided to head south on this trip. First stop, Indiana to visit friends. This couple could use some encouragement as one half has been in the hospital frequently.

These routes from our home in Wisconsin and through Illinois are how many of our road trips begin.  Jim won’t need the assistance of the GPS in my jacket pocket, and there’s unlikely to be anything new I’m going to want to photograph. Time to pull out my knitting. I’m only a couple of rows into a prayer shawl, so the project still fits in my jacket pocket. When I get farther into the project, I’ll stow it in a drawstring bag attached by carabiner to my belt. I must stay connected to my knitting, because, I’m a passenger on my husband’s motorcycle.

I didn’t start out knitting on a motorcycle. After all, it was impossible (not to mention illegal) to knit while driving my own motorcycle. And, even as a passenger, I’m busy enjoying new places, taking photos, helping to navigate, simply relaxing, or even dozing. But when I’m not doing any of that, I often knit.

I’m not sure who this prayer shawl is for, but I have faith that it will be revealed before I complete the project. After Indiana, we continue south to the Wing Ding conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. My husband recently retired his Gold Wing 1500 and had his new-to-him Gold Wing 1800 converted to a trike with a California Sidecar conversion. The trike class at the conference was just what we needed to adjust to this new ride. The class was focused mostly on the driver’s interaction with the trike and the road, and included tips for the trike passenger as well. But no knitting tips!

Through decades of knitting on a motorcycle from Wisconsin to Key West and from Utah to Massachusetts, I’ve learned much about how to make the experience easier and more comfortable – and safe. Here’s what works best for me. Most importantly, don’t knit and drive! Do I even need to write this? Be a passenger.

Selecting a project

Keep the project size limited to something that can fit in the working space. For me, I hold the needles at about chest height, so the working space is from there to my lap and between my tummy and the back of my husband’s backrest. As my project gets bigger, I sometimes squish the start of the project down into that area. The pattern should be easy to memorize or one that I can write in large print on an index card in my pocket. The project uses only one yarn – multiple yarns add bulk and complexity.

Selecting the yarn

Use worsted weight or heavier yarn, although I sometimes use fingering-weight yarn, now that I’m experienced with knitting on the open road. Smooth yarn is easier to work with in this sometimes-bumpy position. I’m not an archer, but an archery release pouch works well for holding the skein/ball. The archery pouch size accommodates a typical full skein and has a drawstring top to feed the working yarn. I attach the bag to my belt or jacket with a carabiner. Yarn control is best achieved with a center pull ball, center pull skein, or a ball small enough to move freely in the pouch.

A man and woman on a motorcycle.

Road knitting technique

You must be able to easily see your knitting. I wear bifocal glasses all day, so no problem there.  And my full-face helmet does not interfere with my line of sight. Weave in the cast-on end right away so that bit of yarn doesn’t end up getting blown around and frayed. Use circular needles, so you are less likely to drop the needle — yup, that happens with straight single-tip needles. Don’t use stitch markers, cable needles, or other notions that can also be dropped. If I need to keep a count, I use a row counter that slips onto the needle. It’s easier than marking off finished rows with a marker on the back of my husband’s helmet! Fingerless leather gloves give me the safety I want and still allows me to manipulate the yarn and needles. And I know that if you end up scraping some fingertips on the pavement, your fingerprints do grow back after your fingers heal. Don’t ask – it was a long time ago, and I was not knitting at the time. No stitches dropped!

Just as in knitting, the unexpected does happen. Keep your knitting simple enough that you can stay in tune with the driver and your surroundings. Lean when you should lean. Be prepared to quickly stuff the knitting down into your work space or in a project bag attached to you.

After the Wing Ding conference, we continued south to our first time in Key West before heading back to Wisconsin. The prayer shawl was finished. The recipient of this knitted gift was clear. Upon our return home, I placed the shawl in a box and addressed it to our friends in Indiana. Years later, after he died, his widow still treasures this road knitting memory of our friendship.

What to stash this week: Nurture yourself

A set of white, gray, gold and pink skeins of yarn.

Over the winter, as I hunkered down at home for the umpteenth month while inhaling Schitt’s Creek (it’s simply the best!), I engaged in some serious comfort knitting with Julie Asselin’s Nurtured yarn — a rustic but soft blend of Rambouillet, Targhee and Merino that is hand dyed “in the wool” prior to being mill spun at Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont. Aside from completing Casapinka’s Powder Wrap and Faye Kennington’s Winter Garden Hat, I also whipped up an original creation of my own using some of the mini skeins that I offered as part of a collaboration with Julie and Jean-François!It took me a little while to jot down what I did, but I recently created what I call a “recipe” for a simple slipped-stitch cowl that shows off the slightly heathered colors of Nurtured perfectly.

I have some mini skeins remaining and decided to offer a few bundles so you can knit your own Nurtured Neck Warmer. And when I say “a few,” I mean that literally, as there is only one each of three color combinations. You’ll receive five approximately 32g skeins and guidance on using the skeins together to make a multicolored accessory.

If you’re in the New Jersey area, are free this holiday weekend and need fiber, NJ Fibershed is having a Fleece & Yarn Sale this Sunday. The outdoor sale will feature fleece, yarn, spinning fiber, natural dye plants, honey, and other farm products from local fiber producers. Spinners can partipate in a Spin-In.

A cicada stitch marker.

Since you may be crafting to the soundtrack of Brood X cicadas, Jillian of WeeOnes has enhanced your experience with cicada stitch markers, hand sculpted using polymer clay.

Andrea and Sami of WoolenWomenFibers have brought nostalgia of beach boardwalks, including cotton candy and saltwater taffy, to life with their Boardwalk & Beaches collection. It includes single skeins, sock sets and three-skein fades.

If you found yourself smitten with the hit Netflix Series, Bridgerton, then Melissa of Rising Tide Fiber Co. has the Advent set for you! It will include 25 20-gram mini skeins, one full skein and five goodies.

Join the Fiber Coven MKAL for a modular shawl that is the perfect accessory for a hyperspace journey. Created with self-striping yarn and a coordinating tonal, solid, or speckled yarn, this is a take on a triangle shawl but uses modular techniques to show off a self striping yarn and make the shape easier to wear.

A gold zippered bag with flowers.

Crista Jaeckel is having a shop update today at 5 p.m. EDT featuring one-off, one-of-a-kind bags and preorders in summery prints.

Preorders are still open for the 7th Floor Yarn Christmas in July kit that includes 12 individually-wrapped gifts of DK yarn and notions.

Join Jill of Jilly & Kiddles for her first Summer Fun Box Club. It will include five coordinating mini skeins and some summer/beach-themed goodies. Early bird pricing ends after today!

Bright purple yarn.

Sharon of Garage Dyeworks has a new Superwash Merino worsted weight. Called Auto DK, she has dyed many of her bright colorways on it. It’s pictured here in Grape Escape.

What to stash this week: Join us for Indie Spotlight

An illustration of a bear wearing a teal sweater under spotlights.

For our next virtual event, Petrina and I decided to go back to the roots of IU and provide a platform for newer and super-indie yarntrepreneurs.

We’ll be showcasing nearly two dozen small businesses at Indie Spotlight, which runs from May 14-16!

Spotlight vendors launched their businesses in 2019 or later or have fewer than 10k Instagram followers. Register now for access to virtual vendor booths that will feature video introductions and tours, photo galleries, and access to special products and discounts. You’ll also be able to meet dyers and makers during interactive shopping sessions (if you miss any, they will be recorded) and schedule one-on-one shopping appointments, where you can get help choosing colorways and deciding on patterns.

There will also be snacks…

I hope you can join us!

Sunset over wetlands and skeins of pink, purple, gold and green speckled yarn.

Today’s the last day to preorder Kraeo’s Setting Sun colorway for Knitting Our National Parks, inspired by sunset at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, a peaceful place just a 45-minute drive from both Baltimore and Washington, DC. It’s available on Little Sister Fingering, a Superwash Merino single-ply fingering, and Mama Bear DK, a luxurious blend of 45% baby alpaca, 45% 19.5 Micron Merino and 10% silk.

Mini succulent charms.

Jillian’s recent love obsession with plants inspired these adorable succulent stitch markers now available in the WeeOnes shop, along with glow-in-the-dark aliens with a tiny spaceship and a set of knitting cats.

A long-haired woman in a wide-brim hat models a black and white colorwork sweater.

Who wouldn’t want to head off to Sheep Camp?! Dyer Meghan of Native Fibers, an Indie Spotlight vendor, is collaborating with designer Jennifer Berg of Native Knitter on the Sheep Camp Sweater KAL, which launches April 23.

Black mini skeins with pops of rainbow color.

Natalie of Fiberdog Fibers created her Rainbow Stars minis from raw Romney fleece that she washed, picked, carded, dyed and spun herself! Each set includes seven 20g minis.

Skeins of blue, orange, purple, green and yellow yarn.

Sharon of Garage Dyeworks also dyed up a different take on the rainbow. Be Yourself is now available on her 100% Superwash Merino. called Auto DK.

The Green Sweater: Knitting the history of the Holocaust

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A worn child's green cardigan.

Editor’s note: Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hashoah. I asked Lea Stern, a knitter and longtime Indie Untangled follower, to write about her Green Sweater project to memorialize the Holocaust. You can purchase the pattern on Ravelry.

In 2003, I was invited by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to attend a preview of a new exhibit called The Hidden Children. As the name suggests, it was about those children who were hidden or removed from parts of Europe during World War II and the Holocaust. They were given up by parents who were desperate to preserve the lives of their children and too often, these were the only members of a family to survive. I attended this event with a friend and colleague of mine who had himself been a hidden child in Holland. There were many stories in this exhibit of fear and tragedy, but there were also stories of supreme sacrifice and bravery.

What caught my eye at the museum preview was a small green sweater knitted for a young girl by her paternal grandmother. The girl was Krystyna Chiger and she had lived in Lvov, Poland. Her family had a comfortable life there, with a large apartment and a busy and popular textile shop, across the street from another fabric and wool shop owned by her maternal grandparents. Krystyna was a bright and inquisitive child who, as she tells it, would do mischievous things. She would unravel the little green sweater that her grandmother was knitting for her when she set it down and went out. She would ultimately receive a scolding but she would persist in her tricks nonetheless.

An old black and white photo of a family of four.

When the war broke out, Lvov was occupied by the Russians under an agreement with the Germans. When the Germans reneged on this agreement and invaded this part of Poland, things went from bad to worse for the Chiger family and the Jewish community. They were forced to give up their home, business and nearly all their possessions and were moved into the Jewish ghetto. It was from a window there in their small living space that Krystyna saw her grandmother who had knitted her sweater being taken away on a cart to Janowska concentration camp where she perished.

After several years, on May 1943, the final liquidation of the ghetto began. All its inhabitants were to be transported to the Janowska camp and what would have been their certain death. Krystyna’s father, and several others, in anticipation of this event had already begun to prepare a place for them to hide in the sewers below Lvov. And so on that night, Krystyna, along with her mother, father and 3-year-old brother descended into the sewers. They were not able to take much with them, but Krystyna took her beloved little green sweater with her. What they all thought would be a short sojourn in the sewers turned out to be 14 months. While many who sought refuge there died, the Chigers, helped by three Catholic Polish sewer workers led by Leopold Socha, survived and — so did her sweater. After some time in Poland, she went to Israel where she became a dentist, married and had two sons. She is now Dr. Kristine Keren and she and her husband live on Long Island, New York.

While her sweater is nearly 75 years old and bears some stains and holes, it is remarkably well preserved considering its age and journey.

A green sweater hanging in a display.

Reengineering history

When I saw the sweater I felt that I had a duty to try to reengineer a pattern for it so its history would remain alive. After a bit of convincing, I was able to set up a time to come and directly examine the sweater with the museum exhibit curator, Suzy Snyder, and Cynthia Hughes, head of textiles. I determined gauge and took many measurements, notes, drawings and photos that would assist me in figuring out the stitch pattern. It was a simple knit and purl pattern and I spent many hours searching for it in every available stitch collection I knew of. I was unable to find a previously published form of the pattern in any collection. I thus assumed that it was something that Krystyna’s grandmother had made up or was a popular pattern commonly known but not written. Fortunately, I was able to reproduce it on my own after having been able to examine the sweater closely.

After many hours of test knitting swatches, I needed to choose a yarn for the project. I thought this would be quite easy as I know some very talented hand dyers. After some thought, I realized that while they may be able to more accurately reproduce the color as it is now, specifically hand-dyed yarn may be difficult for knitters to obtain.

A hand points to a diagram surrounded by items spread out on a table.

Since the sweater was knitted around 1939-1940 in Poland, I knew from my studies of historical knitting that we would need a very basic wool. A luxury yarn would not have been readily available in wartime, nor would it have been used for a child’s sweater. Considering the horrific environmental conditions it had been subjected to, wool was the obvious choice.

I chose Quince & Co. Finch, a fingering-weight 100% wool that had great stitch definition and the largest palette of greens. The original sweater is faded and stained, but many of Quince & Co. greens were quite close. Additionally, if one wanted to knit this sweater in something other than green, their broad color palette was excellent.

A woman sits next to a table filled with small green sweaters.

Dr. Kristine Keren with the test-knitted sweaters.

Once the sweater pattern was created, I had two sets of test knitters. One used the first draft to evaluate the pattern for errors, understanding of directions and readability. The second set of knitters used the final pattern to make sure there were no errors before publication. I donated the copyright for the pattern to the Holocaust museum where it is currently for sale in the museum bookstore as a hard copy along with a display of Krystyna’s book, The Girl In the Green Sweater, and one of the test-knitted sweaters. Since the museum does not have an online store, they have allowed me to sell copies of the sweater on Ravelry. All proceeds from the sale of the pattern are donated to the museum.

In December of 2014 I traveled to New York to meet Dr. Keren and tell her the story of recreating her sweater. Her husband, Mr. Marion Keren, is a mechanical and civil engineer and enjoyed the process of “reverse engineering” a sweater! He is also a Holocaust survivor and they were very open and kind in inviting me into their home. I brought her a timeline of my whole journey. I showed her my notes, early photos, drafts and swatches. I presented her with a finished copy of the pattern and let her choose one of the test-knitted sweaters that reminded her most closely of her original. The curator had told me that it had been difficult for her to give up her sweater but she had graciously donated it to the museum. When she chose one of the copies, she held it up and said, “Now I have my sweater back!” It was a very emotional and fulfilling moment.

A woman holds up a green sweater decorated with award ribbons.

Lea displaying the ribbons her Green Sweater earned at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

With this project largely completed, I have reflected on what this project has meant to me. This sweater represents triumph over prejudice and intolerance. It is a grandmother’s love for her granddaughter and the devotion the granddaughter felt in return. I am a physician and have been fortunate to have lived a wonderful life in the United States, mostly protected against the type of injustice that has too often pervaded the world. I had a brilliant mother raised in northern England  who taught me many types of needlework, but particularly knitting. I am fortunate to have been able to use these skills to do this project.

My hope is that this small green sweater will be knit again and again. I hope the story of Krystyna Chiger, her family and the brave men who helped them will be told over and over and as such the sweater will be a small piece of living history. The green sweater should be a reminder to generation after generation of what happens when intolerance is allowed to fester unchecked and as young people wear it, we can open a discussion about what it represents and why it is so important to never forget. Suzy Snyder commented in a television interview she and I did about this project that the survivors won’t always be with us, but the things they’ve left with us will continue to tell their story. My hope is that small things like this sweater will somehow make a difference.