Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Jacey Boggs of PLY magazine

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As a journalist with an extensive background in print, I always get a little excited — and, also, very intrigued — when someone starts a non-digital publication. Jacey Boggs took the print plunge last summer when she launched PLY magazine, which is dedicated to the art of spinning, offering smartly-written stories and beautiful photos.

Before PLY, Jacey taught spinning all over the world (there are still some spots open in her Saturday workshops at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival) and also produced a spinning DVD and wrote a book. Before that, Jacey sold her handspun, spinning six hours a day, five days a week, and supporting her growing family. Still, Jacey, who’s studied Japanese, economics, political science and journalism, says she considers PLY her first “grown-up job.”

There will be an opportunity to win an issue of PLY as part of a raffle prize package at the Rhinebeck trunk show, of which the magazine is a media sponsor.

What made you decided to start PLY and why did you go the print route (I ask this as a very interested, mostly print journalist!)?

I started PLY because I saw that the spinning community needed it and I thought that I could do it well. Of course, if I’d known how big of a job it would be, I may have hesitated or thought I couldn’t handle it. Ignorance is bliss and I’m thankful I didn’t have more knowledge at the time. I decided print simply because I like print magazines. I want my fiber magazines on my shelf, I want to see them, smell them, feel them. I want to hold them. I know that fiber people are tactile so I figured they wanted the same.

PLY first cover

What are the best things that you’ve learned while running a magazine?

That it’s possible to do something great. That people make the world go around. Even the biggest projects, the most ambitious goals, are accomplished by individuals, either alone or working together. We shouldn’t let grandness intimidate us. Success is attainable if you are true and honest and good and you create a product that embodies those qualities. Drama and negativity poison creative projects. Look straight ahead and do what’s right, always.

Also, lists are invaluable.

How did you get into spinning?

Like most spinners, I was a knitter that wanted to save money. It didn’t really work.

Are there certain fibers you particularly love to spin? Any you are intrigued to try spinning?

I love all fibers. Honestly. As I get further into my spinning career, I realize that every fiber is good for something, has a use, is perfect for some project. Except Karakul, I just don’t like that stuff.

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What does the future hold for PLY?

More of the same, I hope. Bigger and better with every issue! I’d like to reach every spinner and I’d like to have everyone that wants to be heard, say something on our pages!

Untangling: Brooklyn pop-up yarn shop GAUGE + TENSION

Tanis Fiber Arts Silver Label, a GAUGE + TENSION retail exclusive.

Tanis Fiber Arts Silver Label, a GAUGE + TENSION retail exclusive.

Who among us hasn’t fantasized about owning a yarn shop and stocking it full of hand-dyed skeins from some of our favorite indie dyers? Well, designer Michele Wang, she of the beautifully textured Brooklyn Tweed and Quince and Co. knits, has decided to do it, though she’s gone about it in a very unique way. This weekend, she’s opening GAUGE + TENSION, a pop-up LYS in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

The pop-up concept means that the shop will be open for just three months, on weekends only, except for Oct. 18 and 19, during the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. G+T will specialize in hard-to-find-in-person yarns from a great line-up of dyers, including Tanis Fiber Arts, Western Sky Knits and Hedgehog Fibres, as well as yarns from Quince and Co. and Brooklyn Tweed. There will also be fiber and some patterns for sale.

I think this is such a great idea, and decided to do a Q&A with Michele before going to the opening day on Oct. 4, when I will definitely pop in and take tons of photos.

How did you come up with the idea for a pop-up yarn store and why did you choose this kind of model?

One day my husband forwarded me a site called Storefront and said, “Take a look.” It’s like an Air BnB for retail storefronts. Owners can list their spaces or parts of their spaces by the day or any length of time. And when I took a look at what was in my neighborhood, the space I’ll be renting out was one that jumped out at me. The price and location were perfect.

Not only are rental rates in NYC prohibitively high, but I’m still not sure if I want to be a yarn store owner. This seemed to be the perfect solution. I’ll only be renting on the weekends which keeps the rental costs down, and I can see if this type of business suits me.

G+T Michele

Is this definitely a one-time thing, or are you exploring making this regular, or permanent, at all?

I really don’t know. I’ve always dreamt about having my own store. But, I know it’s hard, all-consuming work and I’m just not sure if it’s for me. I think I’ve learned to take my path day by day. I never know what is going to appeal to me tomorrow.

Western Sky Knits, one of the many indie dyers whose yarns will be available at G+T.

Western Sky Knits, one of the many indie dyers whose yarns will be available at G+T.

Tell me about the kinds of yarns that GAUGE + TENSION will offer and why you chose the dyers you did.

I wanted to focus on yarns that were hard to find in the NYC area, and I wanted to split up the inventory with hand-dyers and commercially-dyed yarns. It took a long time to figure out which hand-dyers I wanted to go with. I tried to have a nice range of different color palettes and “feels” to the colors. Each dyer has a signature style and my goal was to make sure there was a nice representation of those styles.

Will you be integrating your designs at all, or is this all about the yarn?

I hope to make it all about the yarn, and would like to think the yarn speaks for itself. But people sometimes need to see an example of how the yarn will behave, feel and look once they’re done. I can’t blame them; the yarn in a skein is very different from a finished project. I did design a few hats especially for the store in hopes to promote the yarn, and those patterns will be for sale there. And I’ll also have a few samples of Brooklyn Tweed and Quince designs, which people can download from Ravelry.

Michele Wang's Galeo hat will be one of the designs on display.

Michele Wang’s Galeo hat will be one of the designs on display.

You’ll be participating in this year’s NYC Yarn Crawl. Can you share anything you have planned for the event?

Yes! I have yet to announce it on the blog, but Kristin Lehrer, owner of Voolenvine, will be with us that weekend. She’ll have her latest batch of hand-dyed yarns for sale and will be around for questions and autographs! I’m especially excited to have Kristin in-store because she’s a local. She works out of her apartment right here in Greenpoint! And, I’m especially excited to be able to support a local indie artisan.

What to stash this week: Think pink

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I’m sure many of you have had your lives touched by breast cancer in some way. If you’re looking to sport some pink hand knits in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Sarah of Sarah’s Spindle has you covered. She’s dyed up a ton of bubblegum colored and peachy pink yarns in some lovely fibers, including Cashmere, silk, alpaca, Merino — even bison. She’s also offering free shipping for the first two weeks of October when you use the code GETYOURPINK.

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Also, set your alarms: Ami of Lakes Yarn and Fiber has scheduled an update today at 4 p.m. PST. She’s including two new silk blends that sound pretty swoon worthy. One is a worsted weight blend of 60% Merino and 40% silk and the other is a fingering weight blend of 60% superwash Merino, 20% yak and 20% silk.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Golden Skein

Jo Milmine, left, and Kate Ellis of The Golden Skein.

Jo Milmine, left, and Kate Ellis of The Golden Skein.

I was poking around Ravelry one afternoon this past spring, shortly after I launched Indie Untangled, when I came across the group for The Golden Skein. Started about a year ago by Jo Milmine of the Shinybees podcast and Kate Ellis of Kate’s Twirl, The Golden Skein offers yarn clubs with special, limited edition colors by indie dyers from around the world.

I have to admit that at first I had a slight twinge of jealousy — Such a cool idea! Why didn’t I think of that? — but I soon got over it and decided to reach out to Jo and Kate and see what we could do by working together.

While the duo won’t be able to hop a plane and make it to the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, they’ve generously offered a discount that will be available to trunk show attendees, along with a prize to give away at the event. This is the first of a series of Q&As I’ll be doing in the run-up to the show.

How does The Golden Skein work?

Jo: The Golden Skein is a yarn club which works a little like a wine tasting club – a yarn tasting club, if you like, introducing independent yarn dyers from all over the world to our members. TGS’s main club is the Power of 3 Club – each quarter, subscribers receive three skeins of 100g of sock yarn, dyed on varying bases, by three different indie dyers to the same inspiration picture. The members get to see the pictures but we keep the yarns and the dyers secret until the members have received their golden parcels. The fun really begins then over on our social media sites discussing what we’re going to make, sharing ideas, showing off their creations and generally being really lovely to each other.

Yarn from The Golden Skein's Autumn Harvest Club. Below, the image (from tranuf, via Flickr) that inspired the colors.

Yarn from The Golden Skein’s Autumn Harvest Club. Below, the image (from tranuf, via Flickr) that inspired the colors.

TGS Harvest Autumn

Tell me all about how The Golden Skein got started.

Jo: My husband, James, and I, would go for daily walks in the South African sunshine, to calm our somewhat grumpy toddler, at that time of night, and to talk all things world domination. The genesis of the idea for The Golden Skein actually came from Mielie, who suggested there should be a wine tasting club, but for yarn. This could well have been prompted by the fantastic selection of wines available in South Africa, and the seed of a plot was planted. Inspired by the breathtaking landscape of the Zoutpansberg mountains, I refined the idea on our daily walks, until I was ready to pitch some of my yarny friends to see what they thought of my plans. Kate was one of those friends, and she liked the idea so much, she offered to become a partner in the business!

The name for The Golden Skein came in a podcast episode, where I discussed the recent untimely demise of a friend, who had been killed in a plane crash. I was talking about how we all have these precious golden skeins, that we take out every so often, cuddle them and put them back, because they are too special and we are afraid to use them in case we spoil them. I remember thinking this was silly, and that if I was to crash a plane tomorrow, I wouldn’t be sat up on a fluffy white cloud, thinking, “I’m glad I never knitted that skein.” It seemed like a great name and a great philosophy to encourage people to liberate these skeins and to come with us on a journey to find new and exciting ones to replace them!

How do you find dyers to collaborate with?

Jo: We have a wish list of dyers we have used ourselves before. We also go looking for talent at yarn shows and mine Ravelry for information. I can see Indie Untangled in our future too for finding new dyers! We are passionate about introducing our subscribers to new dyers, and also to giving dyers just starting out exposure.

Kate: We are also often approached by dyers who want to work with us, which is great! We do try all the bases too, before we commission a dyer to dye for us. We only choose bases and dyers we would happily use ourselves.

Yarns in the next club, which goes on sale Oct., are inspired by this photo by  linyihan, via Flickr.

Yarns in the next club, which goes on sale Oct., are inspired by this photo by linyihan, via Flickr.

How did the two of you meet?

Jo: We met initially through a knit along for the Damask shawl by Kitman Figueroa back in 2012, when I lived in South Africa and Kate was in London. The KAL was hosted by Martine of the iMake podcast and we bonded over a mutual joking love of Blue Nun wine and our shared Northern backgrounds (I am from Lancashire and Kate is from Yorkshire, originally) as well as the trial and tribulations of knitting a lace shawl with not enough yarn.

Kate: Jo eventually finished the shawl a year later!

What would you say each of you brings to this enterprise?

Jo: Kate is our resident legal eagle. She ties up a lot of the accounting too, as well as being our chief sample knitter. She’s much faster than me, as she’s a monogamous knitter. She takes care of a lot of the hugely necessary and important but arguably less glamorous tasks! She tells me she doesn’t mind that; I think she probably curses me a lot when she is tidying our inbox.

Kate: Jo does a lot of the geeky, techy website stuff. She’s also the evil yarny mastermind. She comes up with a lot of ideas and plans and is always looking for ways for us to grow and improve our offering.

We are both really proud of the community we have around TGS. Our customers are are just so lovely, always helping, encouraging and, dare I say it, enabling each other! We are both very chatty people and try to be as inclusive and welcoming as we can. We want to help people release all their golden skeins, not just the ones that came from us!

Jo: It’s great to have a partner to bounce ideas off too. I love a good brainstorm!

What are some of the challenges in working with a partner, especially from afar, on a fiber business?

Jo: Obviously, there are some challenges with working in a business at the opposite ends of the country, as I am now in Northern Scotland and Kate is in London. We tend to overcome most of this with the use of technology. We talk on FaceTime, so it’s like we’re in the same room. We also use Whatsapp for short messages to each other throughout the day.

Kate: One of the main challenges is our respective routines: I work full time as a senior lecturer in law and Jo has two small children and their routine to balance with TGS and her freelance projects. It can be hard sometimes when we are working at different times and one of us has a question. If the other is busy and doesn’t have the information needed to hand, it can delay work a little. Luckily, we have systems in place that mean this is usually dealt with reasonably quickly.

Jo: I am terrible, if I have an idea or something to say, I have to say it right away! Poor Kate does get a little bombarded with my streams of consciousness…

Kate: A logistical challenge is the fact that all the yarn is in one place, so we can’t sit together to pack up our lovely shiny gold parcels! We do take it in turns to post out the yarn, so we share the load that way, but it would be nice to have one big yarn packing party some day.

Jo: I’d like to make a yarn mosh pit and go wild.

From left to right: Nurturing Fibres Merino Lace Singles in the Liquorice Allsorts colorway and Sweet Clement Yarns Cherish in Teal.

From left to right: Nurturing Fibres Merino Lace Singles in the Liquorice Allsorts colorway and Sweet Clement Yarns Cherish in Teal.

Could you each pick out a “golden skein” from your own stashes?

Kate: Mine is Sweet Clement Yarns Cherish in the colourway Teal.

Anyone who knows the smallest thing about me will know that I LOVE blue — any blue. My stash is filled with various hues of blue. It’s not just yarn though — if it comes in blue, I’ll have one, thank you! This particular skein cried out at me at Woolfest. The overall effect is a luscious jewelled colour. It has amazing variations from a dark, almost, emerald colour to a deep duck egg. It’s alpaca, silk and Cashmere — silk is another of my “famous” loves! It is everything I could ever wish for in a yarn and I cannot wait to unleash it into a stunning shawl — pattern suggestions welcome!

Jo: I have just released one of my all time favourites, and it has been replaced by this baby. Nurturing Fibres Merino Lace Singles in the colourway Liquorice Allsorts. It was a limited edition, and I so wish I had bought more in different weights.

What to stash this week: Eating apples in Arizona

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Around this time of year, knitters are gearing up for fall, but in some areas of the country, and the world, the air is not necessarily getting crisper. This week on the marketplace, there are options for knitters from all parts:

On the East Coast, it’s just about apple season, and what better way to celebrate than with these cute apple buttons to finish up your warm, cozy sweaters. Through the end of September, apple buttons from Fastenation Studio are only $4.25 for a set of 4, available in both red and green, or in any other color or size that you’re craving.

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If you want to knit something more in line with the 90-degree temps they’re having out West, designer Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs has just released LACE 2, the fifth and final volume of “The Wild West: Patterns Inspired by the Flora, Fauna, Geology & History of Arizona” e-book collection. The patterns, which can be purchased all together or individually on Ravelry, include elegant lace- and fingering-weight crescents, triangular shawls and stoles that have a slightly rustic feel. Get $3 off the e-book between now and Sept. 26 with the code LACE2, and sign up for Stephannie’s newsletter for news on a special offer.

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You might not want to hear this, but it’s only 14 weeks till Christmas. Which may not mean much to most people, but when you’re a knitter with a long list of gift recipients, it means time to get going on holiday knits. To help you stay on track, Cedar Hill Farm Company has added some new goodies in the shop, including alpaca DK, laceweight and hand-sewn project bags. There are also Knitter’s Pride and ChiaoGoo needles, so there’s no excuse not to start.

Knitting indie: The perfect sweater with Custom Fit

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Enjoying my new Custom Fit sweater on the beach in Maine. #happysweaterface

Enjoying my new Custom Fit sweater on the beach in Maine. #happysweaterface

When I first started knitting sweaters a few years ago, I thought, Finally, here’s a way I can make clothes that fit me perfectly. Like pretty much every woman who has ever stood, frustrated, in a dressing room, I don’t always have an easy time buying things off the rack. I’m just barely 4’9”, with narrow shoulders and curves, and while I’ve found LOFT and Banana Republic to offer a decent range of petite styles that fit pretty well, there will often be things that are just… made for someone taller, or who doesn’t have hips.

But, as I started knitting garments, I realized that they also come in pre-determined sizes, and that altering them to fit me wasn’t quite as easy as a trip to the tailor. Then you throw gauge into the equation, and all bets are off.

Last summer, I started hearing about Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software from some of my Ravelry friends who were testing out the beta version. Around the same time, I ended up deciding to re-knit my all-done-but-the-sleeves Pont Neuf because I had misjudged my gauge and should have used smaller needles, and also knit based on the pattern without making any mods. And it really needed some mods: the waist shaping was in the wrong place for my short torso and it was just a little too long. While it was a good learning experience, it wasn’t one that I wanted to repeat. A program that provided you a custom pattern based on your measurements seemed like a godsend.

Amy and her crew were at Rhinebeck last year, and they generously organized a session where they whipped out the tape measures and sized people up. While I was there, I also discovered the cool gradient boxes from Fiber Optic Yarns. I knew Custom Fit offered fairly standard sweater options, so knitting a gradient striped sleeveless top seemed like a good way to do a test drive with a basic design, while also spicing it up a little.

CF Gradient Tank

The way Custom Fit works is that you input an extensive list of measurements (which are best taken by someone else — check out whether your LYS has a partnership with Custom Fit and can help you with this, or try a local tailor if you don’t have a friend or loved one who you think can do it accurately) that go way beyond your bust size (have you checked out your inter-nipple distance lately?). Then you swatch. And maybe swatch again if you aren’t pleased with how the fabric feels. Of course, most knitters will groan, or say they never swatch, but a few hours of fairly mindless knitting is much better than spending weeks working on a sweater that you never wear.

This may have been my second swatch, but I liked the fabric on US3s much better.

This may have been my second swatch, but I liked the fabric on US3s much better.

Also, while Amy recommends knitting the sweater pieces separately and then seaming them together, the CF patterns do provide a mostly seamless option. I ended up taking that route for my gradient top, because I didn’t really want to match up the stripes, and my gauge is generally tighter when I’m knitting stockinette in the round. The knitting itself was fairly mindless, and I mainly had to pay attention to the stripes. When it was all done, it fit me perfectly, and the only real trauma came in weaving in all those ends…

CF Gradient before finishing

Custom Fit is the perfect option for when you impulse buy that sweater quantity in a beautiful hand-dyed colorway, but you just don’t know what to make with it. When I snagged some Tesseract at the Astral Bath open house a few months ago, I knew that with the silk content and my fairly loose tension that I would want something that I wouldn’t have to keep second guessing.

My next Custom Fit project in Astral Bath Tesseract.

My next Custom Fit project in Astral Bath Tesseract.

I decided to copy molliebatmit’s Moon River, a crew neck cardi with a lace edging and twisted rib at the hem, button band and sleeves. While the sweater has a bit more drape to it than Mollie’s does, because my gauge is much looser, the fit at this point, without sleeves and a button band, seems pretty spot on. So, if you’re planning to go to the pre-Rhinebeck trunk show, you will likely see me in my Conjured Cardi with a #happysweaterface.

What to stash this week: IU’s hottest yarn clubs

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I decided to channel my inner Stefon in this week’s Friday blog post. For those of you not familiar with SNL, or who haven’t watched the show in recent years, Stefon is a flamboyant NYC ambassador and regular Weekend Update guest who clued us in to hot city clubs with some… colorful characters, like “a Russian guy who runs on a treadmill in a Cosby sweater.” And Indie Untangled has some colorful yarn clubs on the marketplace this week (if you want to make a Cosby sweater, that’s totally up to you):

If you’re a Peanuts fan, this club will make you want to do a Snoopy-like happy dance. Tami of Eternity Ranch Knits has launched a Peanuts yarn club and is taking pre-orders. Each month, members will receive a 463-yard skein of 75% Merino/25% nylon fingering weight yarn that’s custom dyed to match the fabric for that month’s bag. You can get just one month’s installment or all three.

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Carrie of Alpenglow Yarn is offering a club with naturally-dyed yarns, and it has some unique features. Club members receive mini skeins of six or eight colors, a detailed explanation of the dyeing process and the final recipes for each color. Also included will be ideas for multi-color projects that you can make with the mini-skeins. Then, after you receive your club shipment, you also have a month in which you can get full skeins of any of the club colors for 20% off. There are only a few spots left, so you should act fast.

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You might want to make sure you’re snacking on something before looking at these new fall colorways dyed up by Sarah of Sarah’s Spindle. The alpaca-Merino, silk and cashmere blends come in various weights and colors reminiscent of spiced peaches, roasted corn muffins, homemade fudge and, of course, pumpkin. (OK, I think I’m ready for my pumpkin-flavored everything now.)

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If Billy Joel was a knitter, he’d be in a DK state of mind. Cheryl and Jenn of June Pryce Fiber Arts have added Beavertail, a lovely 3-ply DK weight yarn of Polwarth wool and silk, to their Etsy shop. If you can’t decide on a full skein of one color, Beavertail is available in ombre mini skein sets of 600 yards (100 yards per mini).

Getting crafty for fall

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Main banner

A couple of months ago, as I was starting to pull together the vendors for the pre-Rhinebeck Trunk Show, I was thinking about how I needed to get a banner and whether I should try out VistaPrint, when this crazy idea came to me somewhere around 1 in the morning (yes, I tend to be a night owl). I had actually seen twine used to spell out Home Depot when I’d taken a trip there for dishwasher shopping, and I realized there was an opportunity to bring the Indie Untangled logo to life.

So, I contacted Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings, and she kindly sent me a skein of her chunkiest yarn in the Indie blue that she had dyed up for the giveaway we did a few months ago. I found some lovely aqua quilting cotton on Hawthorne Threads, where I also got the accent fabric for the yarn ball bags (and let me just say, if I was more adept at using my sewing machine, that site would get me in a lot of trouble).

I decided that this would be one of my projects for the Time for Harvest Craft-along that A Playful Day is doing on Ravelry and social media.

Banner stencil

Last week, I blew up the letters of my logo using a combination of PicMonkey and Microsoft Word. I cut them out, traced them on some card stock, and then cut them out again.

Banner letters

Then, I cut around my card stock stencil to make the letters in grey felt.

My mom came over this past weekend to help, and we hauled out the sewing machine she had gotten me for Chanukah something like four years ago (eep!). I got a refresher in winding the bobbin and threading the machine, and she generously helped me hem the cut sides of the fabric and create a small tube at the top so I can thread through yarn or string to hang it.

Banner glue

I also picked up some fabric glue, since I figured my hot glue gun wasn’t the best idea for this material. It was also a lot easier to position the yarn and the letters without having to worry about the glue drying right away.

Banner plan

I also blew up the script Indie, put the paper underneath and just followed the letters with the glue before laying down the yarn.

Banner indie

I set it out on the dining room table to dry for a few hours, and that was it! (I also text my husband, “Take a look at banner, Mitchell!” which you Arrested Development fans will appreciate.) It’s currently draped over one of my snack tables, and I’m trying to figure out how best to store it before the show. Maybe I’ll pick up a mailing tube of some sort and wrap it around.

Of course, I could have used VistaPrint or my local Staples to print out a banner very easily and inexpensively, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to do some non-knitting crafting.

What to stash this week: Indie mashups

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No, I’m not talking about putting together songs from The Decemberists and Bright Eyes (although that could be pretty cool). This week, there are a few really great collaborations, and I can’t wait to bring you all the gossip (speaking of which, Indie Untangled got a mention on the awesome site CraftGossip.com! ).

The first to team up are Bijou Basin Ranch and Miss Babs: In one corner is the family-owned yak ranch in Colorado, and in the other corner are the color masterminds from Tennessee. Miss Babs dyed up Seaside and Autumn, two gorgeous, limited edition colorways that are available on Bijou Basin’s Tibetan Dream sock yarn, a blend of 85% pure yak and 15% nylon that comes in 440-yard skeins (anyone still looking for a Rhinbeck shawl, this could be it). Both exclusive colors are available through the Bijou Basin Ranch online store while supplies last. There will also be a limited number of skeins available at some upcoming fiber events.

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Over on the other side of the pond are Kettle Yarn Co. and EastLondonKnit, who got together for the Naloa shawl, knit up in BEYUL, a super soft Merino/silk/yak blend and shown here on dyer Linda in very Indie Untangled colors. A KAL just started in the Kettle Yarn Co. Ravelry group and it runs through Oct. 4.

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Jackie of Luna Grey Fiber Arts recently collaborated with designer Natalie Pelykh on this gorgeous hat pattern. Fanciful Flower, which calls for Luna Grey Fiber Arts Altair, a Merino/nylon/Tencel fingering weight blend, is available individually and as a part of a kit sold via the Luna Grey Fiber Arts website.

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The newest colorway series from C.Whitney Knits is inspired by the men of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a paranormal romance series by J.R. Ward. Candice — who says this book series is actually what inspired her to start dyeing yarn! — used a few different dye techniques, including kettle dyeing, black and silver overdyeing, solids and semi-solids. Act fast, since they’re only available until the end of September.

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Why should knitters have all the fun with ombre? BeesyBee Fibers had a September update with a few gradients using Domestic Rambouillet sourced and processed in the U.S. and a Polwarth Top.

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This new base from June Pryce is pretty special, and it collaborates with color stunningly. The 80% ecru Merino and 20% black Tussah silk adds a beautiful depth and richness. Keep an eye out for more incredible colorways on this base.

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Um, that was quick. These Haunted Mansion Bags of the Month from Slipped Stitch Studios went on sale last Friday and sold out over the weekend. Keep checking the marketplace for word on more limited edition bags.

A sweater expert’s advice on alternating skeins

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This lack of alternating is not immediately noticeable, but read on.

This lack of alternating is not immediately noticeable, but read on.

Ed.’s note: When I knit a garment with hand-dyed yarn, I often waste a lot of time hemming and hawing before ultimately deciding to alternate. The one time I didn’t, with my Urban, it turned out beautifully, but I did consult with Expert Sweater Knitter Yelena Malcolm before making that decision. So, I decided to again turn to Yelena, this time asking her to share some advice on when to alternate. Turns out, she has some experience to back up her advice. I think even her sweater “disasters” still look pretty awesome, but if you’re going to play with hand-dyed fire, you should definitely read this first.

Nothing is as decadent as laziness. Think about it: lying on the beach with a stack of guilty pleasure magazines or books, leaving the dishes until the next morning to enjoy another glass of wine and something on TV, not alternating your hand-dyed yarn because how bad could it be…?

Wait. One of these things is not like the other. Crusty dishes? Meh. Slight sunburn and a suspicion that you need $1,000 worth of new, must-have makeup and skincare products because the article said so? You’ll likely come to your senses before you remember your credit card number. But failure to alternate will likely leave you with a garment you won’t frog, but won’t wear. Because, holy wow, the sleeves really are a different color from the body and yes, everyone can tell that you changed skeins right where your hips start.

But do I always practice what I preach? Obviously not or this would be an incredibly boring, preachy post. I have selected some of my favorite cock-ups for your amusement and, I hope, edification.

Trapezius 3

Exhibit A: Trapzius. From far away we do not have a problem. Truly we don’t. I would argue that up close, while there is a problem, it is a manageable one and does not distract from my enjoyment of this dress. I had two skeins that had been purchased together and the third I got from a destash. In the hanks, they did look different, but not hugely different. However, once fully into the bodice, having not alternated, I wound the other two skeins and realized the outlier was an outlier. OK, I wasn’t going to start from scratch, so when the first skein was exhausted, I alternated with the other two for the rest of the body and sleeves. And if you zoom in on the photos you can see there is a more variegated vibe to the body from my hip bones down and the sleeves from the underarms down. End of the world? No. Should I have been better about alternating the outlier skein from the beginning? Yup.

In the Red

Exhibit B: In The Red. This is another example of shoulda, woulda, but hey it’s not so bad. Even a cursory look at this sweater will reveal that I didn’t alternate. That’s why there’s both pooling and a much lighter shade of wine running through my midsection. The difference is that I bought this lot of yarn at the same time proving that there are no guarantees in the hand-dyed world. Whether vagaries of the dye job, or accidental combining of different “lots” (and I’ve put lots in quotation marks because I know hand-dyers don’t have traditional lots, but I trust you all know what I mean), there is a strong chance that your skeins will not be uniform even if you bought them at the same time from the same place.

Aggripina

Exhibit C: Agrippina. Now we’re cooking with gas — Terrible mismatched gas. The thing is, I DID alternate on this one. Sort of. I had gotten four skeins beautifully matched in a destash and then ordered two more from the website. I begged for super dark skeins so that they’d match what I already had, but what arrived was… well… less dark. Fine, I thought, this thing has a belt and a big ruffle, I’ll use the lighter stuff there since I definitely don’t want light bits running through the entire sweater. This is, by the way, another tactic. I don’t swear by it, but other people do, and it is true that some stitch patterns obscure a mismatched skein better than others. But in my case, nothing was going to save this. I should have given up. But instead I knit an entire sweater with that huge ruffle. And where is that sweater now? Destashed. Someone else didn’t mind what drove me nuts. So that was a lucky break. Next time, I’ll just find a different project for the four matching skeins.

Boots Required It

Exhibit D: The Boots Required It. I’m guessing I don’t have to point anything out to you on this dress. The good news is, I have a partial skein that is more like the rest of the dress so I can rip out the silly areas and repair. The bad news is I made this dress two years ago and haven’t gotten around to fixing it…

Have I had lucky breaks where I haven’t alternated and everything has turned out peachy? Absolutely. But I enter into those arrangements knowing full well it is likely to bite me in the butt down the road. I have found that if I wind all the skeins I plan on using first, I can get a better idea of what they look like (or conversely, merely unwinding the hanks and looking at them next to one another can show if variances in color are uniform skein to skein, or if one skein is completely not like the others), and that some dyers are more likely to have consistency in a single order (the two skeins I had bought for the burgundy dress would have been 100% fine without alternating, it was the third skein from a wholly different update that required me to alternate), but if want to be assured that my project will be uniform in colors throughout, I suck it up and alternate.

So please, I implore you, think long and hard before you choose not to alternate with hand-dyed yarns. Sometimes the fates will be kind to you, but sometimes they will be very very, very unkind — and usually when you are so far along in your project that you’d rather bin it than start over (or at least that’s how it goes for me). And if you happen to see me wearing the navy dress and it still looks like this, remind me to fix it as soon as I go home.

If you want to ogle even more of Yelena’s fabulous sweaters, please go her knitting/fashion blog, Le Pull Juste.

What’s your philosophy an alternating skeins? Share in the comments.