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: 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 + Woolyn = one awesomely indie trunk show

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Last winter, I stumbled on the Instagram page for a new Brooklyn yarn shop focused on indie brands. Creatively named Woolyn after its home borough, it sounded like exactly the kind of place I could see myself spending quite a lot of time (and money). I sent a message to Rachel, the owner, mentioned that I would be interested in doing some cross promotion and waited patiently while she worked to bring her vision to life.

Fast forward a few months later, and Rachel and I began hatching a plan for a great post-Rhinebeck, pre-holidays event: a massive trunk show with several Indie Untangled dyers and artisans over the course of two weekends. Now that Woolyn is officially open and I’ve recovered from Rhinebeck, we can share all the details!

The Woolyn/Indie Untangled Trunk Show Extravaganza will take place on November 19th and 20th and December 3rd and 4th. The shop, at 105 Atlantic Ave., will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and there will be an opening night party on Saturday the 19th with wine, beer and snacks and an opportunity to chat with some of the indies who will be able to come to town for the show.

The fabulous dyers and makers at the event include Backyard Fiberworks, Balwen Woodworks, Dirty Water DyeWorks, Hampton Artistic Yarns, Kim Dyes Yarn, Lakes Yarn and Fiber, Slipped Stitch Studios, Snail Yarn, Spencer Hill, Toil and Trouble and Western Sky Knits. They will be shipping, or bringing in person, a variety of hand-dyed yarns and handmade products that will be perfect for holiday gift knitting, gifts for fellow knitters and crafters — and, of course, projects for yourself.

A limited number of tickets for the opening night party will go on sale at Woolyn.com on November 1.

We hope to see you there!

What to stash this week: Rhinebeck preorders, pirates, clubs and mini skeins

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To make shopping at the third annual Rhinebeck Trunk Show easier, some of the vendors have been working with indie designers and are debuting special kits, a few of which will be available to preorder through the Indie Untangled website. The first of these special dyer/designer collaborations is the Whisp cowl. This two-color brioche cowl was designed by Lesley Anne Robinson of Knit Graffiti Designs and uses yarn from Alice of Backyard Fiberworks and Laurie of Feel Good Yarn Company, who will be sharing a booth at the show. You can preorder your kits at a discount to pick up at the trunk show, where they will also be available at a higher price. If you can’t make it, both Alice and Laurie will be selling kits on their own websites after the trunk show. 

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Monday be International speak Like a scurvy pirate Day, ‘n ye can celebrate wit’ yarrrn. Just in the hour fer th’ shore leave, Christine ‘o Treasure Goddess Yarn released her Buried Treasure Collection, which be full ‘o awe. th’ collection weapons gradient mini skein sets ‘o luxury sock yarn in th’ colorways Blackbeard’s Revenge ‘n Floats ye Boat, wit’ a knitted shawl pattern ‘n a crocheted scarf pattern released fer th’ sets. lovely booty also includes adorable scurvy pirate sheep stitch markers ‘n needle gauges.

Translation: Monday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and you can celebrate with yarrrn. Just in time for the holiday, Christine of Treasure Goddess Yarn released her Buried Treasure Collection, which is awesome. The collection features gradient mini skein sets of luxury sock yarn in the colorways Blackbeard’s Revenge and Floats Your Boat, with a knitted shawl pattern and a crocheted scarf pattern released for the sets. Booty also includes adorable pirate sheep stitch markers and needle gauges.

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What’s better than unicorns or llamas? Llamicorns, of course! Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios will be putting bags with this awesome fabric, along with colorful hand-dyed yarn from Pandia’s Jewels, up for sale today at 9 a.m. Pacific time. Make sure to leap like a llama, because once they’re gone, they’re gone (as if they never existed in the first place…).

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Stephanie of SpaceCadet has opened up subscriptions for her out-of-this-world yarn club. Membership in the InterStellar Yarn Alliance gets you a fabulous package delivered every other month with SpaceCadet yarn in an exclusive Yarn Alliance colorway, a collectible gift, the story behind the inspiration for each color, a newsletter with periodic offers only for members and a 15% off coupon every six months. Hurray — sign-ups are only open through Sept. 24.

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If you’re in the New Jersey area this weekend, learn how to spin, and/or pet some adorable sheep. Middle Brook Fiberworks is hosting a beginner fleece-to-fiber spinning workshop tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and an open studio event from 3 to 5 p.m., during which Anne will demo eco-print natural dyeing with botanicals on silk scarves. You can also meet her new pets — a trio of Shetland sheep! If it’s too last minute, several spinning and dyeing classes are scheduled through the winter. 

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Cedar Hill Farm Company just had a mega shop update that includes new colorways, a selection of self-striping and variegated yarns, kits for socks and mitts and plenty of new project bags. There are also needles and notions to go with your yarn, with a selection of Chiaogoo Red Lace needles and Dr. Who project keepers now available.

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It’s miniskein mania! Mothy and the Squid is now offering “random” lucky dip mini skein mixes. Each mix includes a set of ten 10g mini skeins with a range of bright colors on either 75/25 Merino/nylon sock yarn or Merino DK. If you just want a really mini treat, smaller sets of five mini skeins in Merino/nylon sock yarn are also available.

What to stash this week: Yarn stories

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If you’re a fan of knights and ladies, or just really cool yarn clubs, then the Poisoned Apple Club from Round Table Yarns is for you. The four-month yarn club follows the Arthurian story of the poisoned apple. Each shipment includes a different yarn base with a special club colorway inspired by that month’s portion of the story. Sign-ups run through Sept. 15.

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This month’s Bag of the Month from Slipped Stitch Studios includes bags and accessories handcrafted with limited edition Severus Snape fabric designed in house. Which means that this is the only place you will be able to get it. The products, along with bags and accessories with the Harry Potter “knit” fabric above, will go on sale today at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. 

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Karen, also the dyer behind Round Table Yarns, has been busy. She’s released the Polyxena Shawl, which also has a story behind it. Based on a character from the story of the Trojan War, Polyxena uses a half-pi construction, showing off gradient yarns, like the Jumbo Sock Garden Party Cake from Art-by-Ana.

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Going beyond the yak, the folks at Bijou Basin Ranch have partnered with Colorado’s Jefferson Farms to source Paco-vicuña fleece and fiber. This super luxurious fiber is from an animal that’s a cross between alpacas and vicuñas, and that’s very rare in the U.S. There are yarns in natural colors as well as spinning fiber.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

John Arbon Textiles and its indie flock

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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!”

A reason for yarn

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Editor’s note: At TNNA last weekend, my friend Anne Choi of Middle Brook Fiberworks ended up hopping on the train from New Jersey at the last minute to attend the show and help out Dalis of Dancing Leaf Farm in her booth. Anne was also doing some research on the perfect fiber mills to help her create a custom blend of yarn, to include fleece from the sheep that would soon call her rural New Jersey property home. While our group was at dinner at Momofuku, Anne took out some fiber and a handspun prototype for us to pet and admire the natural creams, browns and grays.

This post originally appeared on the Middle Brook Fiberworks blog and I thought it was a fascinating exploration of the process of creating a custom-milled yarn.

I’ve been thinking about yarn lately. Don’t laugh; I’m usually focused on the front end of working with fiber, so this is actually a departure. Abby Sarnowski (Folktale Fibers) and I share a booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool, and we like to pass the time by asking each other questions along the lines of, “how could we breed a miniature cormo sheep?” and “what breeds would you cross to spin the ideal sock yarn?”

On the long drive home, I mulled over what fibers I would blend to produce the ideal shawl or sweater yarn. The Shetland Islands has been a leitmotif in my life this spring, so when I envisioned shawls, I had haps in mind. Unlike the intricate lace wedding shawls that, according to tradition, were fine enough to pass through a wedding ring, hap patterns were written with a simple lace design and knit with a thicker yarn, for everyday wear.

My yarn, I decided, would be lofty for warmth, durable–no wimpy pilling!, elastic because my hands are getting arthritic, and able to hold a lace pattern like a champ. The yarn would need to make a finished fabric that was lightweight, but have enough substance and body so that it didn’t just puddle around my neck. And on top of all that, it needed to be soft enough for my sensitive skin.

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The more I thought about it, the more requirements I kept dreaming up for my yarn. I wanted to be able to hand-pick each fleece from sheep I knew personally (or at least knew the shepherds), and I wanted a range of natural colors. But natural colors with depth and tonal complexity. And the last thing? I wanted heaps and heaps of this wonder yarn, which meant that I’d getting it spun for me. So it needed to be a blend of fibers that could be processed by a small fiber mill, and still retain its homegrown roots.

When I got home, I started weighing, carding, and blending some fibers together.

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For weeks, I played with percentages and color combinations, and I spun and knit several test samples. I took the yarn with me everywhere, showing it to knitting friends and asking for feedback. It wasn’t until I finished my Hansel Hap Shawl by Gudrun Johnston, and blocked it, that I was certain I got it right.

It was time to go mill shopping. I heard so many glowing recommendations for John and Lydia Piper at Gurdy Run Woolen Mill, and when I spoke with John, I could see why. I’ve never dropped off fiber to be processed before, and he was very patient about walking me through the process. We talked about the the fibers I’d chosen, and the best way to draft them individually and together. We talked about starting with a combination of combed top, carded roving, and raw fleece to end up with a yarn that had all the qualities I wanted.

Yesterday, I drove to Gurdy Run with my bags and bags of fibers. I met with Lydia, and we made the final decisions about colors, yarn weights, and put-ups. It was an incredibly educational trip.

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The process of mill-spinning is both more high-tech and at the same time, more hands-on than I’d thought. Sure, the machines do the actual carding, drafting, and spinning, but it’s not all one run-through. I didn’t exactly think that John and Lydia just dumped fibers into a chute, tapped a few buttons on their laptops, and enjoyed iced tea on the porch while they waited for the machine to spit out skeins of yarn. What did I know? Not much, apparently.

The raw fleeces are washed by hand, and the carding, picking, pin-drafting, and spinning are each individual steps, requiring human oversight and adjustment. They handle the fiber between each stage, to weigh and evaluate what went in, and what came out. There’s complex math involving weights and measurements, which Lydia explained and I nodded whenever I thought she needed the encouragement to go on.

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There are cool gadgets like an air splicer (I want one!), but the skeining and tying are done by hand. I hope to go back for a visit on the day they’re working on my yarn, and Lydia said if I’m lucky, she’ll put me to work tying up the skeins. I can’t wait.

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IU on the road: Spinning fiber into art

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Spinning 1

I’m sure many of you spent your Memorial Day weekend away, or knitting (hopefully both). I spent this past Sunday afternoon doing a little — wait for it — spinning.

Well, let me backtrack a bit. My friend Anne, the owner of Middle Brook Fiber Works (formerly A Little Teapot Designs) invited me out to her sprawling property in rural New Jersey to observe a fiber retreat and gather material for a blog post and a possible longer story. I wasn’t able to attend her first event, on May 14 and 15, but I did end up coming out for the day last weekend to get a peek at the process of creating art yarn.

Before I met Anne, the term “art yarn” gave me visions of fun fur and feathers. Ideally, combining those two words, to me, meant a complex hand-dyed semisolid or variegated colorway, preferably on some combination of Merino, Cashmere or silk. As for spinning, I’ve always been keen to learn, but was cautious about taking up a hobby that would cut into my knitting time and add to the stash I try in vain to cut down (because that’s what we do).

But, leave it to Anne, and the two talented fiber business owners she invited over — Laura Spinner of Rainbow Twist Fibers and Ginny Tullock of Fat Cat Knits — to change my perspective.

Feeding the mixture into the drum carder.

Feeding the mixture into the drum carder.

The afternoon started off with a delicious lunch of kimbap, or Korean sushi that we hand rolled ourselves in the dining area of the gorgeous converted barn on Anne’s property. The meal was a bit of foreshadowing for what was to come. After we ate, the group moved over to the other side of the barn, where Anne had set out a few drum carders. The trio set to work, with Anne blending a colorful combination of hand-dyed, combed organic Polwarth and Falkland Merino top, kid mohair locks, silk sari fiber, silk roving and sparkle (pictured in the top photo).

Ginny of Fat Cat Knits removing her batt from the drum carder.

Ginny of Fat Cat Knits removing her batt from the drum carder.

After the mixture was fed through the drums, the combs pulled it all together into fluffy batts that were ready for spinning. I then watched as Laura and Ginny got to work at two of the several wheels that had been set up in the studio. Slowly but surely, Laura and Gunny transformed the batts into unique, vibrantly colored skeins. This was the kind of yarn you could easily wear around your neck, no knitting required.

It's a... batt!

It’s a… batt!

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From left to right, Laura Spinner and Ginny Tullock, at work on the wheels.

From left to right, Laura Spinner and Ginny Tullock, at work on the wheels.

While the spinning was going on, a couple of visitors popped by the studio and got quick beginner lessons from Anne at two of the other wheels. While she provided instruction, I set myself up at the Schacht Sidekick (a very compact, foldable wheel that Anne considers ideal for city folk like me) and practiced my treadling. After spinning some imaginary yarn for a while, Anne set me up with some Polwarth fiber. It took a little while to get the hang of drafting in just the right way without constantly tearing the fiber, and I took a stab at joining the yarn myself after spinning on my own for a bit.

She came, she saw, she spun. #yarnhoars

A post shared by Middle Brook Fiberworks (@anne.choi) on

Not the prettiest, most consistent handspun. But mine.

Not the prettiest, most consistent handspun. But mine.

I think working on my treadling helped me get used it before I had my feet and hands doing two things at once. By the time Anne took a photo to immortalize the moment on social media, I actually looked like I knew what I was doing! I think I might wait a little while before going all (sp)in (at the very least until my husband and I settle in to our new apartment), but I enjoyed the opportunity to try it out for a bit longer than the quick demo I’d had at fiber events.

Knitting, and especially designing, can certainly be considered a kind of art, but the process of creating the yarn itself, and learning how different fibers work together, feels a little more expressive. Anne is looking into organizing more similar open studio events and I look forward to continue my exploration of fiber.

What to stash this week: Mini break (and skeins)

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If you’re looking to get away this Memorial Day weekend, take a fiber-filled vacation at the A Plied Yarn Lab from Middle Brook Fiberworks. Founded by fiber artist Anne Choi, formerly of A Little Teapot Designs, Middle Brook Fiberworks is housed in the restored 1800s barn on Anne’s sprawling property in peaceful Bedminster, N.J. The two-day workshop will include instruction on washing a fleece, preparing locks and spinning, with special guests Laura Spinner of Rainbow Twist Fibers and Ginny Tullock of Fat Cat Knits. 

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Peggie of ColorPurl has put out some beautiful mini-skein sets inspired by nature, and a drop of coffee. The five sets range from subtle to bright, and include two that are colored with natural dyes. The skeins are 87 yards each, made with 75% Superwash Merino, 20% nylon and 5% Stellina, for a hint of sparkle. 

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Head over to the Spencer Hill shop and check out Barbara’s Lalo base, an amazing-sounding DK-weight 80/10/10 blend of single-ply baby alpaca, non-superwash Merino, and silk.

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Keya of Cedar Hill Farm Company has come out with new large project bags with a detachable handle. They’re available in 14 different fabrics, including the Tardis one above.

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The new polymer clay stitch markers from The Knitting Artist have a Skittles look to them, perfect for standing out in colorful yarn (or matching perfectly if your yarn is candy colored).

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My Mama Knits has some new bases, including British-sourced and spun BFL and Merino in aran and DK, along with Superwash Merino Sock and High Twist Superwash BFL Sock.

Get your creative juices flowing: Indie Untangled newcomer MollyGirl Yarn is running a Name The Color contest, with the winner receiving the new colorway on their choice of base, plus a surprise goody bag.