What to stash this week: ‘Knitflix’ this

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This collaboration is the coolest thing to come out of the UK since The Great British Bake Off. Lola of Third Vault Yarns and Emily of Rhapsodye Yarns have teamed up for The Lucifer Project, creating two colorways inspired by characters from the TV show Lucifer, a police procedural based on characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

HereBeDragons

The Purple Dragon colorway of Big Bijou Bliss, a worsted-weight blend of yak and Cormo dyed by MJ Yarns for Bijou Basin Ranch, flew off the shelves (their pun, not mine!). Fortunately, the folks at BBR were able to scare up some more. The company also unveiled a new rewards program that gives you 5 points for every dollar you spend, with rewards that range from free shipping to $50 off your order.

Rhinebeck Tote Image

I’m planning to order the souvenir tote bags for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show next week, so if you’re attending and want to make sure you snag one with this adorable design from illustrator Eloise Narrigan, place your preorder ASAP!

My Mama Knits is having an end of summer sale to make room for new yarn bases and colorways, and is also holding a giveaway on Instagram.

The magic of silver

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This is the first in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show. Since I did an interview with Laurie Gonyea of Feel Good Yarn Company last year, I decided to repost something Laurie wrote about why she decided to put silver in her yarn.

We are often asked why we put silver in our yarns, so today we have a short history and explanation of how silver works.

Silver is a time-tested solution to many of life’s daily concerns. Silver inhibits the growth of a number of bacteria including those that cause odor, has excellent thermal properties, and is nontoxic.

The history of silver for medicinal purposes

Over the past six thousand years, many civilizations have recognized the healing properties of silver – starting with the Macedonian culture which used it to cover wounds. Ancient Romans also used silver nitrate therapeutically. In the Middle Ages, the hermetic and alchemical writings of Paracelsus speak of the virtues of silver as a healing substance. “In fact, ‘born with a silver spoon in his mouth’ is not a reference to wealth, but to health. In the early 18th century, babies who were fed with silver spoons were healthier than those fed with spoons made with other metals, and silver pacifiers found wide use in America because of their beneficial health effects.”

Von Naegeli, the father of modern medicine, discovered in 1893 that the antibacterial effects of silver were primarily due to the silver ion itself. At about the same time, Dr. W. S. Halstead, one of the founding fathers of modern surgery, advocated the use of silver foil dressings for wounds and created the Halstead Silver Foil Bandage. At the same time, Dr. Albert Barns developed a silver colloidal medicine called Argrol. The traditional medicinal uses of silver rapidly disappeared as antibiotics were introduced and the price of the metal itself became more expensive than new treatments. Now, silver is having a renaissance due to concerns about antibiotic-resistance virus strains.

How does silver work?

All bacteria contain a semi-permeable exterior membrane. Along the membrane there are receptors and enzymes that are responsible for the cell’s respiration. Because silver ions have a positive charge, they can easily bind with the negatively charged membrane and causes the protein to unravel. The unraveling of the protein then disables the bacteria’s oxygen metabolizing enzymes. Because the enzymes are altered, the bacterium cell suffocates and dies.

Silver ions are nontoxic to all animal and plant cells because the cells have a thicker, more complex outer membrane. The exterior membrane is not made of peptidoglycan nor does it have a negative charge that attracts silver ions.

How is the silver added to fine silver products?

The silver layer on the yarn fiber/fabric substrate is 99.9% pure and permanently bonded to the surface of the textile in an unique metallizing process that bonds silver on polyamide based materials. Silver is a naturally occurring element, and there are no artificial chemicals that may cause fear of toxicity. Silver fibers are the active ingredient in many FDA approved medical devices. The silver is irreversibly bonded to the polymer yarn and does not wash out. For example, ARGENTEX textiles have been tested for more than 250 washes without reduction in antibacterial effects. In fact, the hotter and wetter the environment, the more effective the silver fibers become. Wash Fine Silver Products clothing/aids according to instructions and the silver layer will continue to work for years to come.

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SilverSpun yarn for pain relief

We’ve received numerous unsolicited testimonials from knitters who have used our SilverSpun yarn. Here is one of them:

I bought two skeins SilverSpun to make some fingerless mitts for my mom. She is 91 and suffers from arthritis in both of her hands, making it harder and harder for her to knit – a lifelong passion. I made her some fingerless mitts and she says her hands feel so much better and that she can knit with them on! She is very excited about them. I wanted to let you know and I will keep you posted on her comments. – NS from N. Carolina

We aren’t aware of any scientific studies that prove that fabric with silver can help with arthritis and carpel tunnel pain, but there is quite a bit of evidence that other forms of silver are helpful in treating joint pain. We’ve heard lots of great stories from our customers on the healing powers of garments made with SilverSpun and we plan on sharing them with you in the weeks to come.

Sources:
Grosse Wundartzney {1536}, W.Pagel, Paracelsus (2d ed. 1982)
www.doulton.ca/silver.html “Silver’s Importance to Health” 5/27/2004
Halstead, W.S., Ligature and suture material: the employment of fine silk in preference to catgut and the advantages of transfixion of tissues and vessels in control of hemorrhage – also an account of the introduction of gloves, gutta-percha tissue and silver foil, JAMA LX, 1119, 1913
Etris, Samuel. “Why Silver Kill Germs and Heals Wounds.” Silver News from The Silver Institute. 20 May 2004
Gupta, Rani., et. al. “Microbial biosorbents: Meeting challenges of heavy metal pollution in aqueous solutions.” Current Science. Vol. 78 (25 April 2000): 967-972

What to stash this week: Seasonal knits

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Designer Heather Anderson is organizing a fun, all-seasons KAL in her Ravelry group. The KAL features four shawl patterns: Spring Foliage, Fall Shadows, Summer Sun and First Snow. All patterns are in Heather’s Early in the Seasons e-book, and can also be purchased separately. If you want to splurge on the book, Indie Untangled readers get $2 off with the code UNTANGLED. That’s in addition to the WIP and FO raffle prizes up for grabs during the KAL, which runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15.

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The website for Spencer Hill Naturally Dyed Yarn has a new look AND Barbara has also debuted a new base: Molly is a 100% non-superwash Merino with excellent stitch definition, making it the perfect yarn for a (Rhinebeck) sweater, cowl or shawl. The yarn comes in more than a dozen colors with clever names, including Sunday Sauce and Grey is the New Lavendar. 

All natural, undyed Border Leicester fingering-weight yarn from Cranberry Moon Farm is 25% off in August.

A peek inside Woolyn Brooklyn, my new local yarn shop

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Woolyn storefront

In a few weeks, once I make it through our kitchen renovation and packing up or purging 11 years worth of stuff, I will officially become a Brooklynite. Tonight, I got to attend the friends and family celebration for what will become my new local yarn shop. I couldn’t think of a better welcome to my new borough.

I first heard about Woolyn when owner Rachel Maurer came to last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show to scope out indie dyers to carry in a new yarn store. Months later, I came across the shop’s Instagram feed. After getting in touch with Rachel, we ended up meeting to plan some collaborations (which you’ll learn about very soon) and I waited patiently for opening day to arrive.

Woolyn will officially open this Saturday at 11 a.m. and tonight’s preview has made me even more excited.

Woolyn window

Woolyn window 2

After walking through the quaint streets of Brooklyn Heights to Atlantic Avenue, I was greeted by this gorgeously creative window display.

Woolyn shop

Woolyn br

The shop has a clean, modern look, with excellent natural light and a kitchen in the back that has a wall lined with containers of loose tea. Even the bathroom, decorated with vintage Vogue Knitting covers, has a knitting twist.

Woolyn yarn

Then, of course, there is the yarn. Rachel and her team did a fantastic job curating a wide variety of indies, including Indie Untangled regulars Invictus Yarns and MollyGirl Yarns, based in California and New Jersey, respectively, and others I love, like JulieSpins, North Light Fibers, Feederbrook Farm and Apple Tree Knits. There were also more large-scale brands, including Anzula, The Fibre Company and Blue Sky Fibers. And I even made some discoveries, of Knitted Wit (there’s a to-die-for Targhee/silk DK at the shop that I have my eye on) and super soft Merino from Mountain Meadow Wool, based in Buffalo, Wyoming.

MollyGirl No Sleep

Of course, there are shop exclusives, including this awesomely named colorway from MollyGirl.

Woolyn fiber

There’s also a great selection of fiber from the likes of Frabjous Fibers and Sweet Georgia, along with drop spindles and spinning wheels, plus tools for other fiber crafts, including felting kits and mini weaving looms from Purl & Loop (which I think needs to be my next purchase).

Along with the product selection, what I’m most excited about is having a place to proudly call my LYS. At the celebration, I saw many familiar faces from the NYC knitting world. When I first walked in, who should greet me but Lucy, the generous knitter who I met last December when she helped me detangle a skein. She is one of the new Woolyn employees! Later, I chatted with knitters from both my Pints ‘n’ Purls group and a midtown group I frequent, as well as Marsha of One Geek To Craft Them All (who I learned recently moved not far from my new apartment!), Susie of Chiagu and Kristin of Voolenvine. There are talks about gathering there on Tuesday nights, when the shop is open late.

So, if I’m not knitting in my soon-to-be new craft room or on the terrace, you’ll know where you can find me.

Untangling: Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs

SunsetcatCherty

I didn’t know very much about Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs when I started working with her as part of the inaugural Indie Untangled yarn club, other than the fact that she does wonderful things with lace, cables and textured stitches and that she is a fan of craft beer.

So, I did a little reporting before sending her some questions and discovered she had quite an interesting pre-designer history. As a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, AKA West Point, she served in the Army for four years. It’s quite a nice parallel with Christine of Skeinny Dipping, the dyer I paired Stephannie with for the club, who also has a history of service, with the Peace Corps.

I spoke to Stephannie about her background, her design inspirations and, of course, her favorite brew.

When and how did you learn to knit?

A neighbor taught me the basics, and I learned from books and magazines from there. The internet wasn’t around then!

How did you decide to go to West Point and join the Army?

It sounded interesting, lol. I had no idea what I was getting into with West Point! I do tell folks it was a valuable experience.

I served for four years in the Army as a Military Intelligence officer. I was stationed in Germany, which I loved; I got to live in southern Germany, including Munich. I was able to do some traveling around Europe as well.

I deployed with 1st Armored Division for Desert Storm as well.

Did you meet others in the military who knit?

No; though I knit a little bit when I was stationed in Germany, I didn’t meet any other knitters.

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What made you decide to become a designer?

I started modifying designs then took the next step in creating my own! The Knit Picks IDP was just starting up, and Ravelry was really in gear, when I first started designing. Those two things made self publishing very accessible. I also realized I loved a lot of the tasks ancillary to designing: learning about layout, graphic design, and so on.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Anything! Nature to include plants (especially California native plants) and animals, architecture, geology, the ocean, towns and cities, stitch patterns, fabrics…

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What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

It really depends on the particular pattern and the reason and inspiration behind it. If I’m answering a call for submissions, I usually brainstorm what I would like to design that fits the call.

If it’s a single pattern to be self published, I generally have an idea of what I want to do (i.e. a cabled cowl) and I start by playing with stitch patterns.

If it’s a pattern for a collection, I brainstorm palette, yarn types and yarn companies, types of patterns, techniques to be used, etc. first before narrowing down individual patterns.

SunsetCat Beer

What’s your favorite beer or brewery?

My favorite brewery is The Bruery in Placentia, California. They do a really interesting mix of beers. Before going to their tasting room, I’d seen some bottles in stores, but they were primarily the Belgian-inspired beers like Mischief. I had no idea of the range of barrel-aged beers they did until we visited the tasting room. I was in barrel-aged beer heaven. They also do a lot of sours, and I’m starting to drink more of those. They’ve just opened a second tasting room (The Bruery Terreux) that focuses on farmhouse wild and sour ales that we’ve not yet visited.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home. I usually knit on my couch.

What to stash this week: In rainbows

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The latest patterns from Casapinka are a refreshing respite from the craziness of world events. Bronwyn designed Rainbow Warrior to honor her LGBT friends and colleagues after the tragedy in Orlando in June, while her most recent design, Painted Windows, pictured above, is another brilliant way to show off even the flashiest hand-dyed yarn.

BBR Flows

The folks at Bijou Basin have again teamed up with Minnesota-based indie dyer ModeKnit Yarn for 12 new gradient colorways. Both subtle and sizzling single-skein gradients are available on BBR’s popular Tibetan Dream sock yarn, a blend of yak and nylon.

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The name of Laura Patterson’s newest design was inspired by the bright blue Lithodora flower, and created in yarn dyed by Melanie of Black Trillium Fibres. The customizable shawl is available as part of a kit from Black Trillium, with a KAL starting September 1.

The Fiber Stash Dyeworks website is in the process of redesign and there was just a shop update.

Let the knitting begin

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Acer swatches

Tomorrow night marks the start of something I look forward to every four years — the Ravellenic Games! Yes, I do also love the games that start with the letter O (as a business, I do have to watch my wording), but I am more partial to winter sports, especially figure skating.

What I like about Ravelry’s Ravellenic games is the idea of challenging yourself as a knitter. Two years ago, I completed a fingering weight cardigan for my soon-to-be born nephew. Two years before that, I knit a Multnomah shawl in fingering weight yarn, the first time I had finished such a large project in just two weeks.

This year, I’m taking on a challenge I never thought I ever would have considered — knitting a cardigan. In pieces. With set-in sleeves. Backtracking a little, I have long wanted to knit an Acer Cardigan and I picked up a sweater quantity of Skeinny Dipping’s Journey Worsted at last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show to do just that, for this year’s Rhinebeck sweater. I knew I would be using Amy Herzog’s CustomFit, and after purchasing the Acer pattern, I generated a second pattern in CustomFit using my measurements and similar parameters: a crew neck cardigan with two inches of 2×2 ribbing and a 1-inch button band. The big difference is that CustomFit doesn’t account for stitch patterns that may affect your gauge. For cables, which generally compress stockinette, you have to add stitches to compensate. After gathering some advice from the awesome sweater-knitting experts in Amy’s Ravelry group, I knit a swatch in the cable pattern and then decided it would be less risky to knit the sweater in pieces, so that I would have a better idea of how it measured out before knitting too much of it.

I have set in sleeves on a CustomFit sweater before (it did take me several hours, but I did it!) so, in theory, doing the side seams should be a piece of cake. Still, I am a bit daunted by the prospect. My nightmare is that somehow not all of the pieces will block out to the right size and then won’t fit together. A couple of my knitting friends have offered to do some seaming handholding when the time comes, so I will probably take them up on it.

It didn’t help that last night, I attended a talk that one of my knitting groups held with designer Kristina McGowan, who developed a friendship with the fascinating Barbara Walker, a pioneer of top-down, seamless knitting. Barbara, Kristina explained, hated things like seaming and stranded colorwork, so she created her own innovative ways around them. Ultimately, as I’m a big follow-the-rules knitter, I will be sucking it up and seaming.

Since I already started the sweater, and most likely won’t be able to finish it in two weeks, I’m not planning for this project to be in contention for a Ravellenic medal. But, I am still considering this my Ravellenic project. Because the only way to grow, as a knitter, an athlete or just as a person, is to swallow your fears and jump in feet first (uh, or head first, if you’re a diver).

John Arbon Textiles and its indie flock

John Arbon at work at his mill.

John Arbon at work at his mill.

Earlier this year, Linda Lencovic of Kettle Yarn Co. posted to the Indie Untangled marketplace about her new custom yarn base. Baskerville, a fingering-weight blend of two British wools — Exmoor Blueface and Gotland — plus silk, was born of a collaboration between Linda and John Arbon Textiles, a small worsted spinning and processing mill in North Devon, on the coast of southwest England.

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Linda described the process on her blog, noting that she was looking for a blend of British wool that was sheep-y and rustic, but still soft against her sensitive skin. “I wanted a yarn that looked like handspun and had enough tooth to hold its shape, without the scritchy qualities I normally associate with these types of traditional yarns,” Linda wrote.

It’s the perfect marriage between small fiber businesses.

The mill has been built up over the last 15 years by founder John Arbon, who, awesomely, spent his teen years as a guitarist in a punk band, later studied textiles at De Montford University in Leicester and then came to Devon to work with the British Alpaca Fibre Co-op. After a while, he decided to go off on his own, and began buying, refurbishing and reconditioning old manual mill machinery. While many UK mills have since gone overseas to utilize cheap labor, John Arbon is one of only a handful of mills still operating in the UK, producing specialty yarns and tops using local and rare breed fleeces, as well as luxurious wool and alpaca socks.

A roving frame at the mill.

A roving frame at the mill.

Several years ago, the mill began working with independent yarn dyers on custom bases, putting together a blend of their own fibers or using fiber that the dyer supplies. The Exmoor Blueface in Linda’s Baskerville, a cross between the Exmoor Horn and Blueface Leicester sheep, comes from the sheep farmed on fields in nearby Exmoor. She has offered it both naturally dyed with indigo, and in its raw, undyed beauty.

John Arbon has also put together its own fibers to create personal blends for other indies, including Debbie Orr of Skein Queen, Joy McMillan of The Knitting Goddess and designer Ysolda Teague, whose Blend No. 1 — a 3-ply, worsted-spun sport weight made with Merino, Polwarth and Zwartbles, which gives the creamy wool a touch of gray — I got to pet when visiting my friend Sherri’s last weekend (unfortunately for me, it sold out lightning fast after it was released in March).

Ysolda blend

The mill also creates yarn for dyers using their own fiber, including The Little Grey Sheep, a small family farm on the border of Surrey and Hampshire counties, and Rachel Atkinson of My Life In Knitwear.

“When we produce a specialist blend for a customer, it usually starts with John chatting to them at a show,” writes Juliet, John’s wife and business partner. “He finds out what sort of yarn they would like and how they would like it to perform and why they are making the yarn and what they want to use it for… Then, he will suggest some fibres, and so will the customer, and after many a chat and a tweak and a trial, a new yarn is born!”

Yarns in action on the skein winder.

Yarns in action on the skein winder.

The mill produces the commissioned yarns in small runs, with 12 kilos or more per blend.

Some knitters may also know about John Arbon’s collaboration with Emily Foden, the talented dyer behind the nuanced, speckled colorways of Viola. A few years ago, Emily came over from Canada to do work experience at the mill, and then ended up staying on as an employee. The company created a line of special Viola yarn, a DK-weight, worsted-spun yarn made of organically farmed Merino, with colors created through a special technique of blending dyed tops that the mill refers to as “dry dyeing.”

The blend came about when John showed Emily how to blend pre-dyed yarn shades in such a way as to produce the effect of a hand dyed yarn. “She loved this and spent ages creating… and our Viola range evolved,” Juliet says.

I asked Emily about her experience at the mill. She wrote that while, as a hand spinner, she had an understanding of how yarn is made, she learned how that translated into machine spinning. Eventually, after John patiently walked Emily through all the steps in his worsted spinning process, she learned to operate the “big, clattering machines,” and could even anticipate a machine mishap before it happened.

“My time with John, Juliet and the team at the mill taught me more about fibre growing, buying, scouring, preparing, processing, spinning, yarn construction, the history of spinning in Britain… I could go on here, John knows a lot about yarn,” Emily wrote. “But I also enjoyed working with the close knit group at the mill and in the shop, tackled my fear of scary machines and picked up lots of small business owning skills. Most importantly, John and Juliet are downright lovely people and I’m so happy I got to spend that time with them!”

What to stash this week: Great wool

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Bijou Basin Ranch had taken their softness factor further, and recently created a worsted-weight version of their popular Bijou Bliss sport weight yarn, a 50/50 blend of Tibetan yak and Cormo wool. Called Big Bijou Bliss, the new base comes in 160 yards and would be great for hats, cowls or fingerless mitts. It’s available in five new limited-edition colorways dyed by Colorado dyer MJ Yarns. The colors are also available on BBR’s popular Tibetan Dream sock yarn base. This is a limited-edition base, so if you’d like to get a start on some fall projects (maybe for Rhinebeck?), you should jump on it now.

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It’s Christmas in July out in California, and the Slipped Stitch Studios crew is celebrating with a Black Friday-level sale. Now through Sunday, use the codes above to get big discounts on limited-edition Bag of the Month bags and accessories. That includes Prince and David Bowie tribute items, as well as Adventure Time, Doctor Who, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies… and tons more!

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If shark sightings are keeping you out of the ocean this summer, then get close to these creatures with Laura Patterson’s latest pattern. Great White is a crescent-shaped shawl with a not-so-scary shark’s tooth edging.

Save the date: The 3rd annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show is set for Oct. 14!

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Rhinebeck Kickoff artwork final

Since catching up on sleep after last year’s Rhinebeck weekend (which took a few days…) I have been very busy planning for this year’s kickoff event. My goal was to expand it a bit so I could make the shopping area bigger and also allow a few more new vendors to join us. I also decided to collaborate with an illustrator to create a design for the event that could be printed on souvenir tote bags (more on that in a bit). Well, everything has come together, so I am excited to announce that the third annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show will take place Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, from 5 to 8 p.m.! It will again be held at the Best Western Plus in Kingston, N.Y., and we’ve expanded into a third room. (Early shopping will begin at 4 p.m., though tickets sold out shortly after they went on sale last Friday.)

The full list of vendors is on the event page. I am thrilled to welcome several newcomers: Blissful Knits, ClayByLaura, Feel Good Yarn Company, A Hundred Ravens, MollyGirl Yarn, Spun Right Round, Voolenvine Yarns and The Woolen Rabbit. There will also be some newbies in the Indie Untangled booth, which will have a selection of yarn from Dark Harbour Yarn, Oink Pigments and Sincere Sheep, along with patterns from designer Jennifer Dassau, while Featured Sponsor Yarn Culture will be bringing yarn from Rosy Green Wool. Many of the vendors have some kits in the works that they will debut at the show, some of which you will be able to preorder beforehand via Indie Untangled.

Speaking of preorders, you now have the opportunity to purchase souvenir tote bags, screen printed with the illustration on the event page, to pick up at the show (and help support the work that goes into organizing it!). The illustration was created by Eloise Narrigan, a fellow knitter who you may know from her adorable bag designs for Ravelry. I reached out to Eloise a couple of months ago and explained what I was looking for — a collection of Rhinebeck-esque items, such as animals, fall leaves, skeins of yarn and apple cider donuts — and she executed my vision perfectly — and adorably.

So, get your Rhinebeck sweaters, shawls and shopping lists ready!