IU on the road: A trip to London’s Loop yarn shop

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to visit London and Lisbon, joining my mother-in-law and more than two dozen of her friends on their annual ladies trip. Our itinerary was jam packed with museum and gallery visits (including the phenomenal Picasso Portraits exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and Anselm Kiefer’s haunting Walhalla at the White Cube), but I couldn’t make it across the pond without seeing the yarny sites.

I hadn’t been back to London in 15 years, since I spent a semester there through the Friends World Program, now called LIU Global. I was certainly seeing a different side to the city, especially since I didn’t know how to knit back then.

After arriving at Heathrow Friday morning, one of the first things I did, after checking into the hotel, freshening up and getting a UK SIM card for my iPhone, was hop on the Tube and head to Islington, home to Loop, which is the London yarn shop to visit, especially if you’re an indie-obsessed knitter. Conveniently, shortly before my trip, Loop’s owner, Susan Cropper, published a London guide for knitters on Mason Dixon Knitting.

Before I left, I made sure to check out Loop’s website so I could strategically plan my shopping, for which I knew I’d have a short window (because we all know you can spend ages poking around yarn shops). It was there I discovered my first London souvenir: Viola yarn in a speckled pinkish purple dyed exclusively for Loop. It may seem strange to travel to London just to buy yarn from a dyer in Canada, but as Emily of Viola has a history in the UK, having done an apprenticeship at John Arbon Textiles in North Devon, it seemed a fitting purchase. Plus, it was exclusive!

I’ll likely be using it to knit Meghan Fernandes’s Wreath Shawl, designed exclusively for Loop for its 10-year anniversary in 2015.

With my yarn purchased ahead of time and waiting for me at the shop, I could focus on exploring. What first caught my eye were the cute drawstring project bags, in fun, bright colors, stamped with the Loop logo.

Then, I took in all the yarn from my indie favorites scattered around the shop. Among the familiar faces/labels were goodies from The Uncommon Thread and Eden Cottage, both based in the UK, and Germany’s DyeForYarn and Wollmeise.

I enjoyed taking in the shop’s overall aesthetic, which was very cozy, crafty, warm and welcoming.

At the end of my visit, I got to speak to Susan, who coincidentally grew up not very far from where I live now in Brooklyn! She has created one of my dream yarn shops, and I’m so glad I could pop in during my trip.

Next week, you’ll get to travel with me to Lisbon, where I made another great yarny discovery…

What to stash this week: Yarn love

Fides and Gaby at Siidegarte have released a limited edition Valentine’s Day colorway that is only available through February 19. The rose-inspired color — blush pink, mixed with an almost lilac silver and a tiny bit of green — is available on three bases: the laceweight Siide-Füürneem, a blend of silk and Royal Alpaca; Siide-Fideel, a silk/Merino fingering weight; and Siide-Liind, a mix of fine silk and Merino, combined with SeaCell.

Speaking of love, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has special Outlander Wedding kits available for preorder through Feb. 19. The kits, inspired by the love shared between Jamie and Claire, contain a skein of Snug light fingering in the Tartan colorway, a project bag by Debra of Addicted to Sock Knitting in special Outlander Wedding fabric designed by Julia and a matching notions tin.

Aside from collaborating with Casapinka on her latest shawl design, Gray Area, and getting ready for upcoming shows, including Stitches West, Sue of Invictus Yarns has created a special colorway for Sock Madness.

Lindsay of Knit Eco Chic’s latest design, Alternating Paths, is a cozy cabled sweater that will keep you beautifully toasty during these winter months. It’s worked seamlessly, with some room for customization.

Picking complementary colors is a no brainer with Bijou Basin Ranch’s latest Master Color Series.

Sound of Music fans, this new club from Go Knit Yourself is for you.

Wild Hair Studio’s latest shop update includes some Harry Pottery-themed goodies.

What to stash this week: Retreat into knitting

Simone Kereit of OwlCat Designs has designed two separate knitting retreats in her native country. The first takes place from July 31 to Aug. 6 in Schloss Münchenwiler, on the grounds of a historic castle in the countryside of Fribourg and Bern and includes classes taught by brioche master Nancy Marchant, as well as Simone herself. The second session, from Aug. 7 to 13, is set in Riederalp – Aletsch Arena in the Rhone Valley/Valais region of Switzerland and includes hikes as well as workshops with Andrea Rangel and Simone.

Casapinka’s latest design, Gray Area, is a collaboration with Invictus Yarns. You can choose from among many different color combinations. Pick a gray gradient, like the sample, with a punchy main color, or reverse it and use one of those irresistible bright gradients.

Here’s another great dyer/designer collaboration. Christine of Skeinny Dipping provided the yarn for the latest Woolly Wormhead hat pattern, part of a new collection called Circled.

Knit EcoChic’s new design, Zipline, is inspired by careening through the snow. Wear it skiing, skating or just to keep yourself toasty during the next polar vortex.

Over the next few months, With Pointed Sticks will be launching three new fun fingering-weight bases. Just released is Crayon, a rainbow tweed sock yarn with a blend of Superwash Merino and nylon.

Here’s yet another use for those gradients or color sets that I know we all have a lot of. IU newcomer Stillwater Designs’ latest pattern is Rockhound, a top-down crescent with crossed slip stitches

Michael Harrigan has introduced his latest design, the Boyfriend Bandana.

How to wear your hand knits: Shawls 3 ways

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I have to admit that I’m generally useless when it comes to styling my hand knits — especially shawls. I’m the kind of person that finds one way to wear something and stick to it (in the case of shawls it’s usually bandana style, for every shape). I decided that something needed to be done, so I enlisted the help of fellow knitter and Brooklynite Carolina Carvalho-Cross. She happens to be a professional photographer who specializes in kid, family and also knitwear shoots.

Carolina and I met up on a beautiful day in Park Slope (I would say “beautiful fall day” but it was one of those days in September when it reached the 90s — not the best weather for a knitwear photo shoot, but Oh well) and she styled a few of my favorite FOs, and one of hers, to give knitters — and me — some ideas for how to wear them. We chose a variety of styles and shot me wearing them, thanks to Carlina’s help, three different ways:

Half circle

Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur

Draped over your shoulders: Shows everything off

With a shawl pin: Overlap the front ends and secure with your favorite pin (I love mine from Nicholas and Felice)

Bandana style: Wear the center portion in the front and throw the ends over your shoulders.

Triangle

Timenoguy by Carolina Carvalho-Cross

Tied at the front

With a shawl pin

Bandana style: Perfect for showing off all those ruffles!

Asymmetric triangle

Drops of Honey by Janina Kallio

Shoulder drape 1: This one places the main design closer to the center.

Shoulder drape 2: This places the main design on the shoulder.

Bandana style: This one showcases the triangular shape, which is slightly off center.

Crescent

Loop by Casapinka

Tied at the front

Bandana style

Scarf style: Just keep wrapping and tuck in the loose ends.

Crescent with lace

Jackson Square by Beth Kling

Tied at the front

Bandana style with curled edges

Scarf style

What to stash this week: Knit start my heart

No matter what you think about Valentine’s Day, there’s no way you can’t fall in love with these handmade heart stitch markers by Ann Tudor. They’re available in classic red and a rainbow of colors, in four different sizes for knitters and two clasp options for crocheters.

Lola at Third Vault Yarns has a lot going on, including a new monthly yarn club that combines yarn, geekiness and tea; Rey of The Force Awakens is the theme for February. There’s also a new winter collection of yarn and large shawl called Blown Glass that utilizes short rows.

KarenDawn’s latest shawl design, La Belle Dame sans Mercy, is based upon a medieval love debate poem. It uses one main color and three accent colors, but is easily adaptable to other color options, from one solid color to a main body and border color to gradients.

Keya has a fever, and the only cure is More Sock Yarn. Her Cedar Hill Farm Co. Traveler base has a new look, as do her double-grommet project bags, available in seven new fabrics.

Because we could all use some closure, check out Melissa Jean’s latest ceramic buttons, including her scallop leaf design, modern waves and February-appropriate hearts.

Melanie of Go Knit Yourself is having a live shop update at 9 p.m. Eastern Time tonight over in her Facebook group.

Seeing pink

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I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning politics on Indie Untangled because, no matter which direction you lean in, if you’re looking for a refuge from it these days, it’s very hard to find. I myself am of two minds — I go online looking for distractions, only to wonder why people are posting cat photos when there is SO MUCH going on that it’s impossible to keep up with it all.

Thank you to all the knitters for knitting so many damn #pussyhats !!! #pussyhatproject #womenmarchonwashington #thelittleknittery

A post shared by Kat Coyle /The Little Knittery (@thelittleknittery) on

But, as the owner of a website that supports independent and primarily women-owned fiber businesses, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the massive act of craftivism that was on display this past weekend. The pink blanketing the photos of the women’s marches that took place around the world on Jan. 21 were the result of the Pussyhat Project, a movement launched by Kat Coyle, the owner of a Los Angeles yarn shop that I happened to visit last year, and which Rob Walker of The New Yorker called a “material-cultural phenomenon that could end up earning a lasting place in the annals of political symbolism.”

Among that sea of color was the work of some talented indie dyers, including Lisa of Vermont-based White Birch Fiber Arts, who I interviewed for a recent article about politics and crafting that appeared in the journal of the Craft Industry Alliance, an organization that brings together hundreds of craft businesses to share strategies and best practices. There was also Denise of Yoshi and Lucy, a new Brooklyn-based dyer who offered her Vibrant colorway at a discount in honor of the march.

Along with being proud to see knitting in the spotlight, I enjoyed the individual expression in this mass movement. Throughout the photos, and the pussyhats I spotted in person in New York City, there was a huge variety, from the standard knit-flat-and-seamed version to those with intricate stitch patterns.

I’m sure you may have an idea of what I think about current events because I’m publishing this post, choosing not to ignore the activism or express my disagreement with it (and I think there are better ways of doing that than calling out the entirety of the women’s movement for “vulgarity, vile and evilness,” as one yarn shop in Tennessee did). But, just as how it’s impossible to go anywhere without coming face to face with what’s going on in the world, it seems that this moment in knitting needs to be taken off the needles and worn proudly.

What to stash this week: Get your yarn ball on

When I found out that Alice of Backyard Fiberworks would have a booth at Vogue Knitting Live NYC this year, I knew Vicki of That Clever Clementine, practically Alice’s neighbor in Maryland, would be on board for a collaboration. We decided it would be the perfect place to debut a new yarn ball bag, and I made sure to have extra on hand for those of you who couldn’t make it to Times Square last weekend — you can get yours here! If you’re interested in a kit with special Backyard Fiberworks yarn, head on over to Instagram

Fans of Camelot can’t help but full in love with the newest Round Table Yarns yarn club, inspired by the story of Tristan and Isolde, a forbidden affair between a knight and lady. There will be nine separate shipments, with each colorway based on a new part of the story. The bases, which range from lace to aran weight, will include some special ones chosen just for the club.   

Vogue Knitting Live NYC 2017: A weekend of color

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For me, this year’s Vogue Knitting Live in New York City was all about color. Yes, I know that knitting in general, and the world of hand-dyed yarn in particular, is already pretty focused on color, but my experience this weekend very much revolved around it. Believe it or not, I didn’t really think about this common theme when I picked my classes — two-color knitting with Amy Detjen on Friday morning, a color theory class with designer Veera Välimäki on Friday afternoon and a dyeing class with Felicia Lo, the owner of SweetGeorgia, on Saturday morning — but it definitely worked.

The classes

Amy’s class was a pretty straightforward technique lesson. Our homework was the start of a basic colorwork hat, moving on to using the second color in class. Amy provided instruction on how to capture longer “floats,” or the long runs between colors, and stressed the importance of keeping an even tension in both your right and left hands. I will need to practice this more, as knitting with my left hand is like learning to knit all over again, but I now feel confident enough to attempt a colorwork pattern.

Veera provided an overview of basic color theory, as well as her insights into mixing both complementary and contrasting colors, especially when using hand-dyed yarns. I enjoyed seeing the examples from her own designs (such as her Stripe Study Shawl, pictured above) and, during our in-class exercise, encouraged one of my classmates to pair her earthy green with a bright yellow and melon color.

Of course, I had to show off one of my favorite FOs, Veera’s Urban, which she was thrilled to see in person, as she’s only seen photos of the projects on Ravelry.

My dyeing class was probably the best one of the weekend. While I’ve had some experience with kettle dyeing and hand painting yarn, Felicia provided some practical information on using the right ratio of dye to fiber weight, as well as techniques to use for creating layered colors. Much of this will be in her newly-published book, Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link) which I can’t wait to get my hands on. If it’s anything like her in-person class, this book will be indispensable.

We started off the hands-on portion of the class by creating a set of mini skein gradients. As there was limited space and time, we had to split into groups of three and each create one color value (the lightness or darkness) of the gradient. Felicia had already mixed the dye powder and water, so we just had to measure out the right amount for our specific color value.

For the other techniques — low-water emersion dyeing and resist dyeing, in which you twist and untwist the skeins to get a more subtle dispersion of color — we had to choose color by committee, and ended up each make a contribution. Luckily, I was paired with some experienced classmates, including Sharon of Knit Style Yarns. For the low-water emersion skeins, we decided on orangey pink, medium blue, purple and yellow to create what I first dubbed Funfetti cake and which I later decided was very My Little Pony-esque. Our layered color started off with a short dip in light pink dye, followed by a jammy purple, mixed by yours truly, and a lighter violet.

The class definitely inspired me do some more dyeing myself and experiment with the techniques while making my own color choices.

The Marketplace

Of course, no VKL would be complete without a trip or two (or three) to the marketplace.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Backyard Fiberworks booth, as a tiny portion of it had some Indie Untangled merch! I had teamed up with Alice, and Vicki of That Clever Clementine, on some special Indie Untangled kits that were available at the show. The kits were a big hit, and I was also thrilled to see the rest of Alice’s yarn get scooped up — the booth was very popular. She had some wonderful sock yarn mini-skein sets that were perfect for one of Melanie Berg’s designs. I snagged a pinky purply set called Dove in a Plum Tree and a light pink semisolid called Mallow to make On the Spice Market.

Aside from Backyard, I loved taking in the Neighborhood Fiber Co. booth (I’d heard at Rhinebeck that Karida wasn’t going to be at VKL this year, but luckily she ended up changing her mind!). I fell in love with a sample she had of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Boko-Boko Cowl, knit with Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock yarn held together with Chromium, which has steel wool to make the little points stand up. It was such a deviation from the patterns I’m normally drawn to, but it was so sculptural and interesting that I had to make it. I feel like it could be a great stand-in for a statement necklace, with the bonus of keeping me warm.

Speaking of necklaces, I was very impressed by the products at Knitten Jen’s Beads. She had kits to make your own beaded beads (wooden beads covered in beaded stockinette stitch fabric), ready-to-string beads and finished pieces. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to DIY it or get a ready-made necklace, but I was definitely intrigued.

I also paid a visit to the Yarn Culture booth, which focused on a small collection of indies, and learned that my favorite discovery from last year’s VKL, Crave Yarn, has branched out with a new venture called Brim Collections, featuring gorgeous mill-dyed skeins and coordinating patterns. I am hoping to learn more from Amor of Crave/Brim Collections and will report on it further…

And, I made sure to get my VKL NYC limited stitch markers from Marsha of One Geek to Craft Them All.

Aside from classes and shopping, my weekend was rounded out by many familiar faces (on Saturday, I could barely get to the elevators without seeing someone I knew from my various knitting circles) and spending time with my nearby knitting friends.

What to stash this week: Winter brights

The latest design from Laura of Fiber Dreams is of the same two minds as Mother Nature lately. The tulip pattern and bright colors in her sample cowl bring spring to mind, but the bulky yarn will definitely keep you toasty.

Groovy Hues’s first update of 2017 has tons of bright colors on both yarn and fiber. Children of the ’80s will love BMX Forever, and you may also be tempted by Rollin’ With My Gnomies.

Can’t control/feel your fingers and your toes? Then you need a hat! Barbara Benson’s latest design, I Can’t Control My Brain, is a companion piece to her Ramones-inspired mitts.

Bijou Basin Ranch has three new hand-dyed colors from MJ Yarns.

Indie Untangled at VKL NYC

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One of my favorite parts of the Indie Untangled trunk show at Woolyn a couple of months ago was getting to spend time with Alice of Backyard Fiberworks. You may know Alice from her creative Instagram Advent promotion, her dreamy American-grown Cormo fingering or her beautiful speckled sock yarns. If you don’t know her work, you should get to know it.

While we were hanging out at the store, we talked about Alice’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live , which takes place this weekend, from January 13-15 at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, and which I was of course planning to attend. Alice generously invited me to have some space in her booth, and that led us to start scheming away on a special IU-themed kit to offer for the occasion.

So, I looped in Vicki of That Clever Clementine, who suggested an Indie Untangled logo version of her popular zipper wristlet bags. As Vicki got to sewing, Alice (who conveniently lives about 20 minutes away from Vicki in Maryland) grabbed a scrap of the logo fabric and created a complementary teal and orange speckled colorway, pairing it with a deep blue for her Ridgeline pattern, a textured fingering-weight cowl.

If you’re coming to VKL this weekend, I hope you’ll stop by the Backyard Fiberworks booth — Booth 326 — and get your hands on a kit. You can also preorder your kits by filling out this form and picking up at the booth.

Along with Alice’s lovely yarn, there will also be some Indie Untangled ceramic shots and Stitch ‘n’ Sip games from the talented folks at JamPDX.

If you’ll be in the marketplace, please stop by the Backyard Fiberworks booth for an Indie Untangled meetup at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. I hope to see you there!