What to stash this week: Game of Color

If you’re crazy about medieval literature (no, I don’t mean a certain yet-to-be-finished-before-the-TV-show-spoils-everything series of books) then you must order Karen of KarenDawn Designs/Round Table Yarns’ new book, A Parliament of Cowls. Based on Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, the book’s eight cowls represent various birds who are debating which suitor the female eagle should choose as her mate.

While I have Rhinebeck on the brain, remember that it’s still summer (though seeing feels like 99 on Weather.com did the trick for me). The latest installment of the Bijou Basin Ranch Master Color Series features a palette of hues inspired by refreshing warm-weather treats in the Lhasa Wilderness yak/bamboo blend. There are two kits featuring patterns for breezy summer garments. 

Color Craze Yarn & Fiber has expanded from fiber to yarn, with braids of all colors along with fingering-weight sock skeins.

Untangling: Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia, author of ‘Dyeing to Spin & Knit’

Felicia Lo started SweetGeorgia Yarns in 2005 like many indies, listing a batch of her hand-dyed skeins on Etsy, the handmade marketplace that had also just launched. She eventually turned SweetGeorgia from a one-woman show into one of the best known artisan yarn companies.

While leading the SweetGeorgia team, Felicia has been traveling to share her wisdom with a new generation of indies — I was fortunate enough to take one of her classes at Vogue Knitting Live NYC back in January. She also recently published Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link), a comprehensive guide to color and dyeing techniques for yarn and fiber, and how best to use these works of art in your projects.

The book is a must read for anyone venturing into dyeing, as an expansion on, or alternative to, Felicia’s classes. It is also a fascinating look at how your favorite skeins come to life. Aside from a guide to dyes, dyeing safety and measurements, there are tutorials on specific techniques, including immersion dyeing, to produce semisolid colors, and low-water immersion dyeing, used to get gently variegated skeins. The book also includes a section on spinning techniques and — bonus! — several knitting patterns that work well with hand-dyed yarn.

I had the opportunity to ask Felicia some questions about the book and her journey from indie to “mega indie.”

What inspired you to start dyeing yarn?

I came to dyeing after I learned to spin my own yarn and so really, I was first inspired to dye wool fibre. All the spinning fibre that was available to me locally was ecru or raw, undyed, and I couldn’t fathom spinning yarn that was devoid of colour. I tried buying some dyed fibre off Ebay early on because Etsy didn’t exist yet and had a terrible experience of it. So I figured I had to teach myself how to put colour on fibre myself. I started blogging about dyeing fibre and then quickly moved to dyeing yarn as well.

Low-water immersion dyeing.

How did this book come about?

It’s been on my mind for years and years that I’d like to write a book about colour and textiles but it was always the wrong timing or exact topic was eluding me. So when Kerry Bogert, the acquisitions editor at Interweave Press, approached me about writing a book, it was the perfect timing and she helped me see how I could contribute my voice to this beautiful and creative industry.

What do you think it adds that other yarn and fiber dyeing tutorials are missing?

It’s true, you can absolutely learn to dye yarn and fibre from online tutorials and blogs, but often those resources only provide you with simplified instructions without a great deal of insight into why we do things a certain way. Coming from both a science background (I studied Pharmaceutical Sciences in University) as well as an arts background (I studied and worked in graphic design for over 10 years), I love combining the analytical with the aesthetic. So this book shows how you can get significantly different appearances to your hand-dyed yarns simply by changing different variables in your dye process like modifying the volume of water or changing the time at which you add the acid to the dyepot. Seemingly insignificant choices can produce significantly different results. I go into great depth to show those experiments.

Heat setting a skein dyed in sections.

When you started the book, were you worried about creating competition from new dyers?

I truly, truly believe that being worried about creating competition is a symptom of a scarcity mindset and have tried to live and work in a way where I share my knowledge generously with the community. These fibre arts need us to teach each other, share our experiences, and grow the knowledge base in order to endure. It is my heart that we encourage each other to become new dyers, new spinners, new knitters, or new weavers. Only then can we all experience the joy that colour and craft can bring.

What would you say has led SweetGeorgia to stand out in the fiber industry?

Over the years, SweetGeorgia has become known for rich, vibrant, and stunningly saturated hand-dyed colour. Even though dyeing trends come and go, it is my hope that SweetGeorgia also is known for our commitment to producing truly excellent handcraft colour. What I mean is not just colour that captivates but also colour that is consistent from batch to batch and colour that performs reliably in washing and wearing. I think, ultimately, if we stand out in the fibre industry, I hope it is because pursue our dye work passionately and professionally.

At the start of your book, you recount many of your own “color stories.” Do you have a favorite color, or favorite colors, and how has dyeing changed them?

I do have a thing for fuschias and plummy purples… but then I also have a thing for harvest gold and olive greens… and also limey chartreuse… and sea glass aqua. There are just too many colours that I love. But dyeing my own colours has allowed me to deconstruct colours into layers of other hues and rebuild them in a more engaging way.

What have been some of your inspirations when creating colors for SweetGeorgia?

Always music. Since the beginning, I’ve always been inspired by songs or bands and live music, especially. But I’ve also been enamored with telling stories through colour… ideas like, how do you tell the story of unrequited love through a colourway? How do you express wistfulness or longing in a colourway? Those kinds of things keep me going. For me, it’s not about creating pretty colour. It’s really about using colour to communicate a message.

Can you explain your role at the company and what a typical day is like (if there is such a thing!)?

Since I founded SweetGeorgia in 2005, my role has evolved and I’ve gone from being a one-woman show where I did all the dyeing, bookkeeping, website design, customer service, emails, and twisting, tagging, and packaging yarns (phew) to leading a team of amazing artisans and creative people in this fibre arts adventure. My official title is “Creative Director” so that encompasses my work in designing new yarns, colourways, and palettes for each season as well as coordinating with team on our knitwear design collections, trade shows, and marketing work. There is no typical day, between juggling two kids, working on our podcast, writing blog posts and plans, and communicating with our team from my home office, every day is different!

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.

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.

What to stash this week: Knitting masterpieces

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IU newcomer Spun Right Round has debuted a new base. Sumptuous 75/25 Merino/nylon is available in mini skeins and heel-toe sock kits that include a variegated skein and a coordinating solid.

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For Masterpiece Knits: The Modern Collection, Kate Chiocchio and Nancye Bonomo of Dragonfly Fibers took inspiration from some of their favorite paintings to create more than a dozen new colorways and challenged 15 designers to create patterns inspired by works of art. The results are beautiful garments that you’ll want to frame — or at least show off on a dress form when you’re not wearing them.

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This is not an April Fools joke. I repeat, this is not an April Fools joke. Laura and the Slipped Stitch Studios crew are offering 50% off all totes all this weekend with the code APRILFOOLS. Even if you’re not sure you really need another project bag (though of course you do), some of the hunky/geeky spokesmodels may entice you.

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Celebrate the third anniversary of Lakes Yarn and Fiber and welcome spring with a sale! get 16% of any in-stock item through April 16 with the coupon code 16in16. More yarn will be posted throughout the sale.

‘Knitlandia’ by way of New York

Knitlandia 1

When I first saw the title of Clara Parkes’ new book, Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World, I knew I had to read it. After I read the fantastic Washington Post review (without a knitting cliche to be found!) I knew I was going to buy the actual book. While I generally prefer audio- or ebooks, this written documentary of our wonderful community was getting a coveted space on my desk.

As luck should have it, I learned that Clara, who founded online magazine Knitter’s Review more than a decade ago, was going to be doing a reading and signing at the Strand bookstore, a 20-minute walk from my apartment. So, last night, I found myself in the store’s third-floor rare book room, surrounded by musty first editions and, of course, by my people.

Clara started off her talk lamenting the way knitters are often presented in popular culture — she actually bet a friend 50 bucks that the Washington Post review would reference grandma. Fortunately/unfortunately, she lost. She mused on why there aren’t any knitting documentaries (I’ve said the same thing to my husband while bemoaning my lack of filmmaking skills) and explained that this was her written version.

“I wanted to present us to the world,” she said. “It’s my attempt to kind of capture as many butterflies as I can.”

Clara and her famous 'claramels,' which she gave out to lucky knitting trivia contestants.

Clara and her famous ‘claramels,’ which she gave out to lucky knitting trivia contestants.

Knitlandia takes the reader on a journey from Taos, New Mexico, where Clara met and befriended legendary natural dyer Luisa Gelenter (who purportedly left Julia Roberts starstruck when the actress spotted Luisa in a grocery store years ago) to the familiar turf of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds on the third weekend of October. In a chapter about the first Vogue Knitting Live in New York City in 2011, she makes the perfect observation about what happens when you bring knitters together:

A funny thing happens when more than one knitter gathers in a public place. A solo knitter, presuming she is a woman, quickly fades into the backdrop like a potted palm or a quietly nursing mother. We are a cultural metaphor for invisibility–something Agatha Christie knew quite well when she gave Miss Marple her needles and yarn. What better cloak of invisibility from which to observe the evil-doings of the world? A single knitter is shorthand for “nothing to see here, move on.

But when knitters gather, we become incongruously conspicuous. We are a species that other people aren’t used to seeing in flocks, like a cluster of Corgis, a dozen Elvis impersonators waiting for the elevator.

Of course, that’s how we’re seen to outsiders, but one of the things I love about this community is how comfortable it feels. When I walked into the massive third-floor room last night, waved over to the third row by my friend Regina, who was nice enough to save me a seat, I was greeted by a number of familiar faces: there was Susie of Chiagu, Gretchen from my Sunday knitting group, Yoko from my weekday knitting group, not to mention the knitterati, including dyer Jill Draper and fellow Manhattanite Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting, who just wrote a blog post about the event, as well as a blurb on the back of the book (I have to admit to feeling a little Julia Roberts-like and am still kicking myself for not introducing myself to Kay afterwards).

Nearly everyone was decked out in beautiful handknits.

Nearly everyone was decked out in beautiful handknits.

But still, even surrounded by knitting celebrity, it all felt incredibly warm (and no, not just because of all the handknits). Before Clara signed my book, she asked if she could take a photo of me in my West End Girl, which I wore for the occasion. It’s nice to be a citizen of Knitlandia.

Partying with the Poms

Kettle Yarn Co. goodies on the table at the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas party. / Limited edition Shibori-dyed Islington.

Kettle Yarn Co. goodies on the table at the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas party. / Limited edition Shibori-dyed Islington.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to hop a cheap flight across the pond and attend amazing fiber events in the UK like last week’s Pompom Quarterly Christmas party, which is organized by one of my favorite knitting mags. Recently, Ali, the awesome moderator of the Indie Untangled Ravelry group, suggested I could do the next best thing, and have the people I know who are able to attend these events cover them for the blog. So, I asked Linda of Kettle Yarn Co. to write about the party. Reading her recap is really the next best thing to being there — minus the pressure to buy yarn!—Lisa

Last Friday, I prepared some extra special goodies, packed up my heavy suitcase of yarny goodness and boarded the train for the two-hour journey from my sleepy seaside Hastings to the big city for the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas party. It was held in the shiny new Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road, in the bustling heart of the London shopping district, where the Christmas lights were a-sparkle!

There was so much to look forward to this year and so many talented people in one room. The vibe at the party this year was relaxed and warm. I saw so many people catching up and ran into lovely folk I hadn’t seen since last year’s party!

Image © Anna Maltz

Image © Anna Maltz

Naturally the Pom ladies – Meghan, Lydia (above), Amy and Sophie – were all in fine form and the hostesses with the mostest!

The big news of the evening was Pom Pom’s move into publishing with their first book, Take Heart: A Transatlantic Knitting Journey by Fiona Alice, which was just released. It’s a beautifully packaged book of cozy knits, including a new design I’ve been dying to see for months. Called Ketch Harbor, Fiona used my Islington DK in the Icicle colorway for this dreamy shawl that seems to hug your shoulders like angel wings. What a beauty! I kept heading back to Fiona’s table to fondle it and marvel at the shimmering shapes and may have tried to walk away with it. Maybe. Once or twice. ;-P

Images left © Julu Vail

Images left © Julu Vail

Released earlier last week was a bundle of pure joyous fun: Penguin: a Knit Collection, self published by the ever-playful Anna Maltz, aka Sweaterspotter on Instagram. I’ve known Anna for a few years now and her book matches her effervescent personality – it’s full of stunning designs presented with mischievous humour. This animation Anna posted on Instagram pretty well sums it up:

Too. fun. ;-P

I may have picked up a signed copy at the party, despite a firm resolution not to buy anything after a boiler mishap this week. It was seriously difficult to pick a favourite in these designs, but I’ve narrowed it down to two I simply MUST make: the furry Teenguin and cropped Humboldt.

Images © Anna Maltz / Skein of Clara yarn © me

Images © Anna Maltz / Skein of Clara yarn © me

There was even a visit this year from the Yarn Whisperer herself, Clara Parkes, my yarn hero. A skein of lofty Clara Yarn – version 3.0 – may have worked it’s way into my bag, as I just couldn’t resist this skein of the most deliciously fluffy Cormo. Especially as I’d followed along with Clara’s Great White Bale adventure last year! I also managed to squeeze in a quick chat with Clara herself, and only wished I’d had more time to pick this wool maven’s brains. She is just as lovely in real life as I’d hoped, if not more. I did my best not to fangirl all over her. Sorry Clara. ;-P

All in all the most lovely and inspiring Christmas party yet. Can’t wait till next year. xo

IU book review: Mini Skein Knits

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Image ©Connie Santisteban

Image ©Connie Santisteban

I have to say, I was pretty excited when Connie, the talented photographer of my Rhinebeck sweater and also an editor at Lark Crafts, emailed me about reviewing their latest book, Mini Skein Knits: 25 Knitting Patterns Using Small Skeins and Leftovers ($14.95 U.S./$16.95 Canada). When I blogged about knitting at the newspaper I used to work for, I was approached a few times about reviewing books, but they were usually for designs I wasn’t really interested in — yes, I can see the appeal of super-chunky baby knits, but not of knitting “sleep sacks” that are mainly meant for newborn photo shoots and not much else.

© Lark Crafts

© Lark Crafts

On the contrary, this is a book I can definitely see myself knitting from — and I already have a few patterns in my favorites. The idea is that collecting mini skeins is so addictive, whether you buy them yourself or participate in mini-skein swaps, or both, but it can be tricky to figure out what to make with them. This book has a great variety of patterns, from simple coasters and coffee cozies, all the up way to beautiful sweaters, including two (A Mermaid Darkly, pictured below, and the Rainbow Cardi) designed by Sweater Expert, and the creator of my Rhinebeck sweater pattern, Yelena Dasher.

© Lark Crafts

© Lark Crafts

There’s also tons in between — scarves, socks, shawls, cowls. My favorite — and the one I favorited first — is Jess Kallberg’s Head in the Clouds Hat, pictured at the top of the post. I love the subtle scallops, and I think it will be the perfect pattern for the mini-skein set from Pigeonroof Studios that I purchased ages ago — like, before Indie Untangled even launched (I was going to make a pair of gradient mitts, but I generally haven’t been gravitating toward projects much smaller than hats). The yardage information is fairly detailed, so useful if you want to swap out mini skeins and use up leftovers.

© Lark Crafts / Touch of Color Legwarmers by Susie Dippel

© Lark Crafts / Touch of Color Legwarmers by Susie Dippel

Aside from the lovely patterns, the two things I like most about this book are the beautifully styled photographs, which still show off the important parts of each design, and the prevalence of indie dyers, including IU’s Astral Bath, Kim Dyes Yarn and Western Sky Knits (not to mention, Madelinetosh, Orange Flower, Julie Asselin, Dragonfly Fibers and The Copper Corgi…). If you frequent this site, I’m pretty sure you will love this book.

Connie and Lark Crafts have generously offered up a free copy of the book to a lucky Indie Untangled reader. To enter, comment on this post by the end of the day Sunday, Nov. 15, with the pattern (or patterns — I know it’s hard to pick just one!) you’d most like to knit. You can see them all here on Ravelry. The winner will be chosen via random number generator.

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner, Lynn!