What to stash this week: Patterns and yarns and prizes

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The latest cowl design from Laura of Fiber Dreams is a journey to Margaret Street in London, where All Saints Church is filled with ogees, arches, and other architectural details that inspired the pattern. It’s knit in the round with fingering-weight yarn and the pattern includes four different sizing options, though many more are possible by changing the number of times the motif is worked in a circle, and how many times the rows are worked.

ColorPurl2

Peggie of ColorPurl just started stocking her Etsy and Zibbet shops with eco-friendly and naturally-dyed yarns. Using materials such as coffee, cochineal and Alkanet root, Peggie creates warm and subtle, and also bright and bold colorways to use for accessories and sweaters.

Kettle_Yarn_Co_BEYUL_REDS

Kettle Yarn Co. is having a shop update today at 5 p.m. GMT and adding more luxurious Beyul, a yak/Merino/silk blend, in such vivid colors as Steppe, Sacred Saffron, Monk’s Robe, Yurt and Electric Amaranth.

QB_Give_Away

Lexi is done with her taxes and is doing a giveaway to celebrate. Even if you’re not getting a refund, at least you have a chance of winning seven skeins of Filatura di Crosa Cristallo, Wooly Wash and her Bee & Ewe Healing Honey Lotion. To enter, you need to like the Queen Bee Fibers Facebook page, share the giveaway post and join Lexi’s mailing list. Hurry — the winner will be chosen at 6 p.m. today.

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Looking for a lightweight, ready-to-knit project? Treat yourself to the Sidere shawl kit. It comes with a digital copy of Hilary Smith Callis’s pattern and one skein of Luna Grey Fiber Arts BFL/silk Starbright in your choice of colorway.

TKASurfSocks

Newsletter readers may be familiar with The Knitting Artist’s hand-painted art cards and accessories decorated in hand-drawn stockinette. What you might not know is that Lisa also a pattern designer. Her latest design is Midnight Surf, a pair of socks with an ocean-inspired lace pattern. They are knit from the toe up with a standard gusset and triangle heel, in DK-weight yarn, so are a really quick and simple knit.

Maryland Sheep and Wool: Indie pop-up at The Knot House

The Knot House

In 2013, mother and daughter team Cathy and Heather opened The Knot House a local yarn shop in historic downtown in Frederick, Maryland, that specializes in hand-dyed yarn. They have created pretty much the kind of LYS I fantasize about running and carry yarn from a number of indies. They also happen to be located less than 30 miles from the Howard County Fairgrounds, home to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and they have some big plans for it this year:

Throughout the weekend, they will be holding an indie dyer pop-up, chock full of Indie Untangled artisans, including Duck Duck Wool, French Market Fibers, Lakes Yarn and Fiber, Magpie Fibers and Western Sky Knits, as well as O-Wool and YOTH Yarns, which I am really excited to check out.

The idea is similar to what prompted me to organize last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show: “So many people come from all over for the MSWF, so we thought we would also showcase some new, popular artists that will not be at the festival,” Heather says.

knot house pop up

Some of the dyers, such as Sandra Miracle of DDW, Dami Hunter of Magpie (who learned to knit at The Knot House and debuted her line there in December), Jocelyn Tunney of O-Wool and Veronica and Danny of YOTH, will be at shop at various times throughout the weekend. That Saturday also happens to be downtown Frederick’s First Saturday, so the shops will be open late and there will likely be entertainment on the streets. A great way to cap off a day at the fairgrounds!

Over the last few years, I’ve ended up missing the festival for one reason or the other (last year it was because my parents had gotten my husband and I tickets to see the Broadway revival of Cabaret, which was a pretty good reason). This year, however, I put it on my calendar and I’m really excited for my first MDSW. I’m also kind of glad I waited.

The pop-up runs on Friday, May 1, from 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 2, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

What to stash this week: Survey time!

SSsruvey

In time for spring, Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe is expanding. Alicia has released her first batch of soap, a dual-layer confection with a Green Tea and Lemongrass scent. Alicia is also doing some market research before possibly releasing more products, with a 25% off coupon code for all participants. Everyone who takes the short survey will also be entered to win one of 10 sample sized lotion bars, with the drawing on April 5.

BijouTTraveler-2

You unfortunately won’t be able to time travel to next month, when Outlander returns to Starz (at least I don’t think you can…) but you can knit the Time Traveler Vest by Therese Chynoweth. It’s the first of six new Outlander-inspired pattern kits featuring Bijou Basin Ranch‘s hand-dyed Outlandish colorways. The vest is knit in Himalayan Trail, with a 15% discount for purchasing the yarn and pattern together in the kit.

The knitting of the green

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SeedsLuckyPalette

I have to admit it: green has generally tended to fall near the bottom of my color preference list (I do make an exception for teal, which is entirely different animal). When I say “green,” I mean a grassy shade that would pass as a color to wear to mark St. Patrick’s Day — which I will probably spend in my apartment, working and enjoying a craft beer with my husband, because I am old, or at least the bars in my neighborhood make me feel old on this particular holiday.

The color has been growing on me, though. I recently knit a Horloge cowl for a friend in the new Rustic Silk Worsted base from Pigeonroof Studios in her gorgeous Emerald colorway. While it’s not a color I generally gravitate toward for myself, I can certainly admire these easy-on-the eyes greens that have been posted to the Indie Untangled marketplace:

Lhasa Greens by Bijou Basin Ranch

Lhasa Greens by Bijou Basin Ranch

Popeye's Cashmere from Silk Road Needle Arts

Popeye’s Cashmere from Silk Road Needle Arts

Junk in the Trunk by Skeinny Dipping (Also check out Christine's Emerald Necklace colorway.)

Junk in the Trunk by Skeinny Dipping (Also check out Christine’s Emerald Necklace colorway.)

Spring Green by Dirty Water DyeWorks

Spring Green by Dirty Water DyeWorks

Emerald Aisle by Pigeonroof Studios

Emerald Aisle by Pigeonroof Studios

Green gradient from June Pryce Fiber Arts

Green gradient from June Pryce Fiber Arts

Greengage Glut from Sylvan Tiger Yarn

Greengage Glut from Sylvan Tiger Yarn

It's Not Easy from Atelier Yarn

It’s Not Easy from Atelier Yarn

There’s no place like home(spun)

HYP logo

There’s always a ton of stuff going on in the fiber world — so much that I wouldn’t be able to write about it all (Knitter’s Review has an amazing calendar of events if you want to add more to your list). But, there are a couple of yarny things going on this weekend that are a bit “close to home” for me.

One is the eighth annual Homespun Yarn Party, which takes place on Sunday, March 22, in a renovated mill in Savage, Maryland. I got to attend the event two years ago and it was definitely an inspiration for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, with table upon table of beautiful hand-dyed yarn and handmade accessories. This day-long festival is put on by a team of volunteers and features many talented indies, including two who are familiar to Indie Untangled readers: Vicki, AKA That Clever Clementine, will be selling her adorable bags and notions pouches (she will also be giving out some Indie Untangled “pieces of flair” and mini-skeins from Berry Colorful Yarnings). Sandra of Duck Duck Wool will have her lovely hand-dyed yarn. The talented and I-hope-she-posts-on-IU-soon Anne of A Little Teapot Designs will be selling her jaw-droppingly beautiful handspun yarn and jewelry, as well as her Lotion Baah lotion bars.

LIYC

The other event is much newer, but has the same volunteer spirit behind it. The first Long Island Yarn Crawl is going on Thursday through Sunday, March 19-22. I heard about the crawl though one of the organizers, Kim, who was promoting it at Vogue Knitting Live. Kim and I had met this past summer at Knit, an LYS in Roslyn, where Cephalopod Yarns had one of their last trunk shows. I had taken the train out to wish Sarah well, and of course get my hands on some Montauk Monster, and ended up staying late and knitting with Kim and her knitting group. It’s a warm and welcoming place, so it came as no surprise to me that the idea for the yarn crawl grew out of discussions at the knit night there.

As a native Long Islander, I was thrilled to see the area’s LYSs in the spotlight (and I LOVE the logo!). Kim, who grew up in Great Neck, and her yarn crawl co-organizer Kerry, who moved to the Island 10 years ago, say they wanted to bring together the knitting community there.

“There’s a lot of excitement these days for knitting festivals and conventions all over our area — Rhinebeck, Vogue Knitting Live, the Long Island Fiber Festival — and I wanted to bring some of that excitement to our local fiber community and support our local yarn stores,” Kim says. “They can’t survive without customers’ support, and they do so much for us: help with knitting/crocheting projects, teach new skills, and provide a space to make and build friendships and community.”

Kerry adds that even though Long Island is aptly named, she was inspired by the successful I-91 shop hop through Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, and though they could make it work.

Some of the shops that are on the crawl have a special place in my knitting history. Aside from the nice experience I had at Knit, I also picked up one of my first skeins (Araucania Pomaire Multy) at Infinite Yarns in Farmingdale. The Village Knitter in Babylon was where I bought my first skein of Skein, which I used to make a Henslowe for my grandma’s 88th birthday. And, over the summer, my uncle introduced me to Terri, the owner of The Knitting Corner in Huntington, which has a great Madelinetosh selection (her husband, Steve, runs the nearby Mediterranean Snack Bar, a Huntington fixture that serves delicious Greek food).

Many of the shops will be highlighting local dyers, fiber businesses and designers, and participants can also donate knitted and crocheted hats and blankets for preemies at two local hospitals. If you’re in the area, you can also check out what’s planned, and get restaurant suggestions, on the Ravelry group.

What to stash this week: Spring gifts

bocce shawl

Indie Untangled newcomer Nancy Whitman is giving us quite the welcome gift: 25% off all her patterns through March 23 with the code MM2015 on Ravelry. Nancy’s accessory designs include Bocce, above, which reinterprets a weaving pattern, with slip stitches for the warp threads and stripes for the weft threads.

SandAndSkyGiveaway

Simone is also being very generous and giving away this skein of luscious handspun Merino/silk to one lucky blog reader. The giveaway runs until March 20 and all you have to do is go to this blog post and leave a comment.

Macaron Lip Balm

To celebrate spring, Alicia has added a new lip balm flavor to her lineup: French Macaron, which draws on the traditional pastel colors of the sugary delights. She describes the flavor as “sweet yet sophisticated, and just a little bit indulgent.” Spring-scented lotion bars, including Spring Meadow and Sea Moss, are also starting to make their way back into Alicia’s shop.

TavieM12

Tavie, a new jacket-like, cabled cardigan from Meiju Knits, is perfect for the breezy, early spring weather some of us have been having. Knit from the top down in worsted weight yarn, there are four different options, and the pattern gives directions for both short and long cardigans with long or short sleeves.

2015_Islington

You know it’s spring when bright colors of Islington pop up in the Kettle Yarn Co. shop. You can find the luscious Superwash BFLK/silk yarn in Parapadschada, a juicy pink, the tangerine orange Marigold and several other happy shades.

Brynhild1

The Brynhild cowl from KarenDawn Designs is inspired by a female warrior in the Völsunga saga, which is an Icelandic story from the thirteenth century. The cowl’s lace stitch pattern is designed to look like a ring of shields and is sure to protect you from any last bursts of cold.

What to stash this week: Glass slipper

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In honor of Disney’s new live action Cinderella, C.Whitney Knits is organizing an “un-club,” which means you choose the base, Cinderella-inspired color, and quantity of each skein you’d like. Orders will run from March 13-31, after which all colors will turn into pumpkins. The colorways include Prince Charming and Cinderella, above, as well as A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Glass Slipper, Fairy Godmother, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella.

EternityRanchAudrey

Be careful with this skein. Eternity Ranch Knits’ latest musical number is inspired by a little venus fly trap with a big appetite. It’s dyed on 463 yards of 75% Merino wool and 25% nylon. Your stash is definitely saying, “Feed me!”

Summer-Fruit-and-Butternut-cashmere-merino-003

Sarah is making a cross-country move this month, from Boise, Idaho, to Snug Harbor, North Carolina. While you won’t get pizza and beer for “helping her move,” you’ll get something even better — 20% off everything in her shop. Use coupon code MOVINGSALE.

TheKnittingArtistCoralScarf

Lisa has been busy making more cool accessories for knitters. She has some 100% silk scarves decorated with the same stockinette design as the one on her sneakers, as well as a “Knitter’s Notebook,” a hand-bound book with the same watercolor design as her greeting cards.

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Knit Eco Chic‘s Solar Flare Circular Shawl Mystery KAL runs from the Spring Equinox (March 20) to Earth Day (April 22) and includes prizes, interviews and more. Get your organic cotton/bamboo gradient from The Unique Sheep ASAP.

What to stash this week: Yowza! Whatta pairing!

Bab-2

Designer Lara Smoot has had some really fun Game of Thrones-inspired collaborations with Tennessee-based indie dyer Babs Ausherman, better known as Miss Babs. Lara’s latest designs are inspired by none other than Babs herself, whose “likeableness and charm come out in the beautiful yarns that she dyes,” Lara says. The three-piece set includes mitts, a cowl and boot toppers, which can all be made from just one skein of Miss Babs Yowza! The simple cable pattern on each of the pieces can work well with fun variegated colorways, such as Zombie Prom and Funny Papers or semisolids like Vlad’s Red and Blackwatch. All three patterns in the Babalicious set are available on Ravelry for the introductory price of $5.99.

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If you’re going to make a cowl, mitts and boot toppers, why not make a hat? Brangien, a new pattern from KarenDawn Designs, is inspired by a character in the medieval love story Tristan and Isolde. The hat is knit in fingering weight yarn and features a cable panel on a background of textured moss stitch.

Hemlock Springs

Karen, a veteran knitter, works full time on her small business Hemlock Springs Soaps, crafting goat milk soaps in fun-sounding scents like Dazzleberry and Sexy Man, as well as lotions and potions — including an Arnica Muscle Rub for your tired knitting hands — out of her farmhouse in the New Hampshire woods. The products are made in small batches with ethically-sourced ingredients.

Knitting indie: Winter gifts

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Mom hood 1

A few weeks ago, I wrote about marking my grandma’s 90th birthday with some crafty gifts. My mom was also the recipient of a handknit, a hooded scarf that she requested last year, and that she luckily gave me until January to finish (she spent the holidays with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews in Australia, where a scarf was definitely not necessary).

Last winter, I ran a few patterns by her, and she really liked Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s Levee. Over the summer, I picked up some Quince & Co. Lark on my trip to Portland for the Astral Bath open house, but when I started knitting with it, it was feeling a little rough for next-to-skin wear (but would probably make an amazing sweater or vest). I inherited my princess-y skin from her, and I knew I had to use something else. And why shouldn’t my mom have a little luxury?

Frances Hayden Worsted

At the last minute, I picked up some in-stock Hayden Worsted from Ami of Lakes Yarn and Fiber. I’d used it for a friend’s baby blanket and I knew it would be soft enough.

Mom hood 2

The color was perfect — a deep red that leans pink for the camera. The lace took a little while, but it was easily memorizable, even for post-VKL drinks with one of my local knitting groups and while binge watching Season 4 of Homeland. The superwash grew a bit, and I had my first experience putting a handknit in one of my building’s dryers (I hope someone got to enjoy the 25 minutes of free drying time!).

So, while I didn’t have the pressure of finishing up gift knits in time for the holidays, I really stepped it into high gear in January. I started my grandma’s shawl on New Year’s Eve and the Levee a week later. And I know, despite the delay, my mom is thrilled with it — especially during this crazy winter.

Untangling: The SkeinMinder

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SkeinMinder-lineup

The knitters I know do so many amazing things when they’re not creating garments out of sticks and string. My friends include lawyers, editors, techies, teachers and at least one neuroscientist. Carrie Sundra of Alpenglow Yarn had a career designing and building electronics, until about five years ago, when she decided to do a complete about face and become a natural dyer. But Carrie didn’t leave her fascinating background far behind, and last year she combined her two seemingly disparate worlds and invented the SkeinMinder.

The SkeinMinder has a great “necessity is the mother of invention” story. While winding skeins for Stitches West a year ago, Carrie was growing frustrated with having to constantly watch the rotation counter on her winder, manually stopping it when it had wound the proper yardage. If her mind wandered, she’d have to un-wind the skein and prevent it from tangling. She knew the big industrial winders at textile mills had programmable controllers, and realized that with her expertise she could build a similar device for the small tabletop winders used by many indie dyers. She sent 10 test models to several of them last fall, including Indie Untangled vendors Canon Hand Dyes, Pigeonroof Studios and Western Sky Knits. Krista of Pigeonroof called it “the most amazing invention ever.”

I’ll let Carrie take it from here, but make sure to check out her recently-launched Kickstarter campaign, which includes some amazing yarny rewards from several indie dyers, including Canon Hand Dyes and Pigeonroof. And, if you’re at Stitches West this weekend, visit Carrie and see the SkeinMinder in action in booths 936/938.

What did designing and building the SkeinMinder entail?

It started with an idea, and the first thing I did was build a proof-of-concept model. I hand-wired together some plug-and-play components that I got from various hobby electronics sites, and threw them in a cardboard box. That was the quickest and cheapest way to get something up and running, and I wanted to quickly get into the programming, to find out if the idea as a whole was feasible. But that “device” wasn’t something I could give to someone else to use — nothing was soldered, so it wasn’t very portable, and it was easy for wires to pop out or to accidentally short something out.

After I was satisfied that I had a decent core concept, I made the first SkeinMinder prototype. I still used off-the-shelf modules, but this time used smaller components, soldered them together in my workshop, and enclosed everything in a plastic box. Then I could actually hand it to someone else to use without it falling apart, so I immediately gave it my dyer friend Brooke of Sincere Sheep.

After she had used the prototype for a while, I buckled down and did all the custom design work for the what I call the pre-production model. I designed everything as if I were intending to manufacture 100, but only had about a dozen made. I used CAD software to design custom circuit boards, which were manufactured by a company in Oregon. I soldered the components on the circuit boards myself to save on cost, so that was two days of fun, peering through a microscope and sniffing fumes! I found an enclosure that was pretty close to what I needed and had it custom machined to fit the circuit boards, the LCD, and the buttons. I enlisted the aid of a graphic designer to create the overlay, which was the final main interface piece. At that point I was really setting up a mini first production run, so it was a lot of talking to manufacturers, figuring out who would even do “prototype” quantities, and who would do it at a price that wasn’t completely prohibitive. I was really fortunate — I had been talking to a few dyers about the idea, and they had enough faith in me that they bought their beta units when only about 60% of the design was finished. This enabled me to have those custom parts made, and deliver them a beta unit that was quite polished from the start.

SkeinMinder-circuit-boards

How did the device change through testing?

There were tons of little things that added up to make a big impact! You may think that winding is winding is winding, but every dyer has a slightly different setup. We use different winders, different swifts, we wind at different speeds, different lengths, different skein circumferences, different amounts of tension. I really had to make the SkeinMinder more customizable than I originally thought. I added several user-adjustable settings — not only can you set what count to wind to (i.e. the length of the skein), but you can also adjust for the amount that your winder free-wheels after power is cut, what length of time passes before the SkeinMinder decides the yarn is jammed, and you can even turn the “minding” part off entirely if you want to use your winder “normally”, without an automatic shut-off. I really wanted it to work for everyone, not just people who have my exact setup.

Probably the funniest change was the OFF feature. I made the very bold move of not having an on/off switch on the SkeinMinder. There are actually good reasons for this — power switches are kind of bulky and expensive, and it’s one more thing to have to wire by hand. Which means there’s more assembly time and cost, and also one more chance of making a mistake and mis-wiring it. So with the original software, the only way to turn the SkeinMinder off was to unplug it. That didn’t go over super well, as it turns out! So I added an option to turn it off with one of the existing buttons, and people were generally happier.

The other that’s changed from one model to the next is the big red button. Every time it got bigger! :)

SkeinMinder-red-background

What other kinds of electronics have you designed and built?

I designed and built avionics hardware for small unmanned aircraft for… I guess close to 15 years. Wow, time flies! The projects encompassed everything from the sensors and microprocessors that controlled the airplanes, to interfacing with small cameras and distributing analog video, to custom little GPS modules, to some power conditioning and driving little motors, to custom connectors. A couple of the planes I worked on are in the Smithsonian, and that’s kinda cool.

When did you first learn to knit and how did you become a dyer?

I actually learned how to crochet first! My mom had a tradition of making baby blankets for friends who were expecting. So when my friends started to have kids, I wanted to do the same thing. I probably crocheted exclusively for two years, then one of my engineer friends was being a pain, and when I said that “I don’t know, knitting seems more complicated” he said, “What are you going to do, make slip knots for the rest of your life?” So I got mad and decided to learn how to knit. I was pretty lucky in that Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting was the teacher at my LYS at the time. I picked it up pretty easily, and then one fiber thing led to another. I learned how to spin and I started to learn about natural dyeing at about the same time, in late 2008. My then-boyfriend’s family had sheep, I met locals Tom and Mette Goehring who have Ranch of the Oaks mini-mill, I was really burnt out on engineering, and as Monty Python would say, “…and now for something completely different.”

Small-Farm-Groove_IU

Why did you decide to use natural dyes?

It just spoke to me. It’s challenging and technical, and requires some knowledge of science to really understand what’s happening. So all that spoke to my techie geek side. It also has deep cultural and historical roots going back thousands of years, which is fascinating to learn about. Just as interesting is the fact that it was dropped like a hot potato around the turn of the 20th century, in favor of synthetic dyes. In our culture, not many people do it anymore, and even fewer people concentrate on creating really bright, saturated colors. So there’s a bit of wanting to keep this knowledge alive and in use. I also get a lot of satisfaction from actually creating a color from scratch. When you dye with logwood chips and see your yarn turn dark purple, or make an indigo vat and watch the yarn turn from yellow to blue before your eyes… it’s kind of magical.

Do you think your engineering background informs your dyeing?

Oh, definitely! I would say that technical troubleshooting is a skill that applies itself quite handily to natural dyeing. Try as I may to be as consistent as humanly possible, the unexpected always pop ups. Then I have to figure out how my process was different this time, and how exactly that affected the dye and the final color. Sometimes I’ve had to run controlled experiments, where I dye little test skeins and change one variable at a time, until I finally figure out what happened. With hand-dyed yarn, and with natural dyes especially, it’s impossible to control every variable. My weld this year won’t yield the same amount of dye as my weld last year. When I move, my water may be different. The heat profile and temperature uniformity in the pot is different depending on if I use a hot plate or a propane burner, and it also changes depending on how full the propane tank is! But that’s also the fun of hand-dyed yarn, it’ll never be quite the same twice.