A glimpse inside the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with Casapinka

I know I’m not the only one who had a hard time looking at Instagram last weekend, when it seemed like the whole knitting world was over in Scotland for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. But, I figured there was no such thing as too many festival pictures, I asked Bronwyn, AKA the designer Casapinka, to file a report for the Indie Untangled blog. Her post makes me even more determined to plan a trip across the pond next year!—Lisa

I was starving when I arrived in Edinburgh from Boston, after dropping my 10-year-old off with his grandparents in Dublin. I went into the local shop and found some nice, wholesome, Haggis-flavored chips (crisps) that I happily washed down with some Diet Coke. You laugh? You gag? They are really good and you should try them if you go to EYF!

The line outside The Corn Exhange (for those who didn’t pre-purchase tickets, ahem, note to self!) was long. At one point it started to rain and the nice people from EYF thanked us for waiting and handed out very cute tote bags. All the people with pre-printed tickets who zoomed right in didn’t get very cute tote bags so it was totally worth it. Also, the best conversations among strangers are started in yarn festival lines! I had an hour-long talk with an air traffic controller which made my year (I’m an aviation geek.)

When I got in, I made a beeline for Eden Cottage Yarns. The fibers are just so beautiful, with lots of subtle colors that aren’t the norm for me, but still call my name. I did some damage there, for sure, and had a nice conversation with Victoria, the owner. Everywhere you looked in this booth you almost died from Gorgeous Fiber Overwhelm! It got quite crowded as the day went on so if you go to EYF, get there early.

The wool watching at EYF was second to none. Shawls, fair isle coats, lots of Kate Davies jumpers (and the woman herself, of course) was rubbernecking at its best! When the booths got so crowded I couldn’t even go inside, I just sat on the floor, ate some lunch (the food is amazing!) and watched all of the wool finery go by.

Another booth I wanted to visit was the Loop London booth. I ran into the Spincycle Girls (Rachel and Kate) there and we had a chat. I then drooled over all of the hand sewn bags and the Lichen and Lace yarn which I really wanted to squish. I bought a couple of skeins (how could I not?) and they are waiting to become something special.

I was also just dying to see the La Bien Aimee booth. Who can’t love all of those candy- and pastille-colored yarns with their beautiful contrasts? I did, in fact, climb onto the table in my eagerness to get to the singles but no skeins of yarn were hurt in the process. I did a fair amount of damage here as well and plan to give some away in giveaways in my group. Really. I swear!

I think it’s important to note that in the UK and Ireland, a “fry up” is the only way to start one’s day. Even vegetarians can partake: minus the sausage, rashers, haggis, white pudding – well, there is toast, beans and mushrooms! This keeps you going through mad knitters poking you in the butt with their knitting needles as they vie for space in the Brooklyn Tweed line. I live for my morning fry up!

Since I’m on the subject of food, the snacks and meals at The Corn Exchange are great. This is called a Victorian Sandwich. Yes, you read that right. So, technically this could be lunch (a piece of it – I didn’t eat the whole thing, you guys.) So, come to shop for yarn but also come to eat and admire the scenery and make new friends from all over the world!

Inside the Asylum Fibers launch

A few weeks ago, my friend Stephanie invited me to a super-secret party, only revealing a couple of weeks before that this party was for the launch of her new hand-dyed yarn business! Last Friday, I joined a group of knitters to count down to the opening of the online shop for Asylum Fibers.

Backing up a bit, Stephanie (who has a fascinating background as an opera singer) organizes one of the New York City knitting groups I’ve been going to for the past couple of years, and has been teaching the group workshops on brioche and two-at-a-time socks. Last year, she started holding dye parties in her apartment, which I wrote about here. Once she had the equipment and ingredients on hand, she dove into dyeing headfirst.

What’s the meaning behind the name Asylum Fibers? Stephanie explains on her website:

One of my favorite quotes came from Marilyn Monroe – “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” While I believe this applies to people, I also think these statements suit hand dyed yarn magnificently. As your dyer, I fully intend to maintain my status as some combination of mad and ridiculous, and my aim is to give you asylum, using the most beautifully imperfect yarn.

There’s even a vinyl decal of the Marilyn quote on Stephanie’s wall that I wish I’d taken a picture of.

It was kind of cool to get a behind the scenes look at one of the shop updates that dyers regularly post about on Indie Untangled. And it came with some definite perks. Before the countdown to the opening of Asylum Fibers began, I and my fellow guests got to do a little pre-shopping. I focused on Stephanie’s non-repeatable Chaos colors, picking up this beauty on a light fingering weight.

After stuffing our stashes, and our faces with delicious pulled pork and cornbread, Stephanie gave each of us a massive faux plastic syringe filled with (an also pretty massive) Jello shot to celebrate as she opened her virtual doors.

The orders started coming in, including from some of my knitting friends and newsletter subscribers, and Stephanie even sold out of a lot of her Choas colors. I had my eye on a few of her repeatable colors, especially on her Funny Farm MCN base. But I do know where she lives…

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.

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.

Untangling: Lara Smoot

As a designer, Lara Smoot was an “early adopter” of Indie Untangled, and I’ve loved getting word of her latest designs — from her Game of Thrones-inspired shawls to her incredible colorwork socks — on the Marketplace.

For the 2016 Where We Knit yarn club, I paired Lara up with Dami of Magpie Fibers and they came up with a simple, beach-inspired pair of mitts in an icy blue. I’m hoping to cast on soon to help me get through the winter.

I spoke to Lara about her background and how she starts work on some of her more complex pieces:

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me basic knitting when I was in my early teens. She didn’t teach me how to purl and I wanted the scarf that I was knitting to look smooth (stockinette) so I figured out how to knit backwards. I put my needles down after that scarf and didn’t pick knitting up again until about 12 years ago and this time it stuck!

What made you decide to become a designer?

I wanted to create something new and unique and be able to share it with other knitters. My goal is to create patterns with clear and concise directions that produce beautiful results. Knitting should be fun and I try to have that come through in my designs.

What did you do in your “pre-designer” life and how does that influence your design work?

I showed horses for many years and designed and sewed custom riding clothing during that time. Creating custom garments that fit people taught me a lot about sizing and, of course, measuring. Later on, I worked in marketing for a nationally known insurance company and after that I was the director of social media for a yarn company. Working for the yarn company taught me a lot about the yarn industry and gave me so much insight on what goes on behind the scenes.

The Game of Thrones-inspired Fire and Blood.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Oh my gosh, I’m inspired by so many things! Patterns that I see in nature, the beautiful colors in a skein of yarn, music that I’m listening to, my favorite characters in a tv series. All those things inspire me.

You seem to design in a variety of colors. Which are your favorites?

I love bright colors and speckled and variegated yarns to work with. Pinks, purples, blues and green are some of my favorites. I love gray too. It’s the perfect complementary color to go with anything bright.

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

Have a big cup of coffee! All kidding aside, it depends on the project. Sometimes I start with a sketch, sometimes I swatch before I sketch. With my colorwork designs, like Shark Bite and Fright Night, I create the chart first. I have an idea of what I want the piece to look like and keep tweaking the chart until it’s what I envisioned.

The Seacoast Mitts pattern from the 2016 Where We Knit yarn club.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home with my pugs in my lap and a good cup of coffee or tea while watching a knitting podcast.

2016 holiday newsletter giveaway

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It’s hard to believe this crazy year is soon coming to a close. It seems like only yesterday I was ringing in 2016 with my husband in a Santa Barbara hotel room, falling asleep after watching the Times Square ball drop at 9 p.m. Pacific time (ah, jet lag).

As I have done for the past few years, I am thanking my wonderful newsletter subscribers, and welcoming new ones, with a special holiday giveaway. I’ve gathered together prizes from several artisans who are fairly new to the Indie Untangled community and doing a string of giveaways starting tomorrow and running through Christmas Day.

Here are the rules: Sign up for the Indie Untangled newsletter by 9 p.m. EST and you will be eligible to win that day’s prize (anyone already on the mailing list is entered to win). After 9 p.m., I’ll pick a winner via random number generator and send out an email. The winner will arrange shipment with the dyer/artisan. The grand prize will be a package of knitting stocking stuffers (with yarn, of course) that I will ship out to the winner. All items have been donated by IU’s fabulous artisans.

PLEASE NOTE: Winners must respond within 48 hours of when the notification email is sent to claim the prize. If not, another winner will be selected.

Here’s the schedule:

December 17: A set of stitch markers of the winner’s choice from Ann Tudor


December 18: A skein of the winner’s choice from Yoshi & Lucy

December 19: Two bundles of mini skeins from SpaceCadet

December 20: A skein of Elliebelly MCN High Twist Sock in the colorway Catherine from Elliebelly Dye Works

December 21: A skein of Tried and Untrue from Despondent Dyes

December 22: A skein of Vintage No. 1 in Almond from Middle Brook Fiberworks

December 23: A Sit. Sip. Stitch mug from ClayByLaura

December 24: A skein of Selkie Sport from Dragonfly Fibers

December 25: A mystery package of yarn and knitting stocking stuffers (including the above skein of Dark Harbour yarn — there are still a couple of skeins of it left if you don’t want to wait to see if you win, or you want to knit a bigger project if you do!) from a bunch of IU artisans.

What to stash this week: A yarn vintage

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Vintage No. 1, the first custom yarn blend from Middle Brook Fiberworks, is now for sale! For the fingering-weight, woolen-spun yarn, Anne hand picked fleeces from Shetland and CVM (California Variegated Mutant) sheep, raised on a small farm in Pennsylvania that Anne eventually purchased her own lambs from. She added a bit of shimmer to the three natural shades with silk — golden muga for the Chestnut and Beech, and tussah for the Almond — and had it all processed at Gurdy Run Woolen Mill in Halifax, Pennsylvania. 

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There’s still some room in the virtual bus/train/plane for you to come along next year on a journey with the ultimate indie yarn club. Where We Knit 2017 brings together four dyer/designers teams — The Woolen Rabbit & Anne Hanson, Eden Cottage Yarns & Mindy Wilkes, Three Fates Yarns & MK Nance and Spun Right Round & Casapinka — to create exlusive colorways and accompanying accessory patterns inspired by where they knit. Space is limited, so sign up soon!

Through December 24th, Bijou Basin Ranch is offering free shipping on all U.S. orders, plus everything is up to 25% off.

Yoshi & Lucy have debuted their holiday colors, which are available in full hanks and in mini skein sets.

Trunk show auction to benefit ACLU-NY, PPNY & The Trevor Project

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There’s been a lot of talk on social media recently about feeling a desire to give back during these uncertain times. With so many knitters coming together for the Indie Untangled/Woolyn trunk show this weekend, Rachel and I thought it created the perfect opportunity to do just that.

We will be holding a small silent auction this weekend to benefit a few organizations we think do important work. The prize will include some choice skeins from the assortment of goodies that have arrived for the trunk show and two exclusive colorways from the 2016 Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. Donations will be split equally among three organizations — ACLU – NY, Planned Parenthood NYC and The Trevor Project.

The items will be available to view and bid on during the first weekend of the trunk show. If you can’t make it to the shop or you don’t live nearby, you can place bids virtually via the WoolynBklyn Instagram page on Saturday. If you see an item you’d like to bid on, type in the maximum amount you’d be willing to spend and we’ll add you into the list of bids placed at the store. Bids will increase by a minimum of $1 above the previous bid, so you’ll only be committed to the amount of the last highest bid + $1 no matter what your maximum was. Bidding will end 6 p.m. Sunday, November 20th.

Unfortunately, because of the cost of shipping, we won’t be able to ship internationally (unless you’d like to also contribute additional for postage), but we will be happy to send it out items domestically.

If you have any questions, email info@woolyn.com or call the shop at 718-522-5820.

Here’s a peak at some of the prizes:

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Tickets are also still available for the Saturday night party and meet and greet with some of the indies. Looking forward to seeing some of you this weekend!

A new look for Indie Untangled

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If you check out Indie Untangled on your phone or tablet, you may notice that it looks a little different — in a good way.

Back in 2013, when I came up with the idea for this site, web development was changing rapidly. I decided that Indie Untangled didn’t need a mobile version, since I preferred the desktop version to a lot of the mobile sites I had seen. However, I soon realized that was a big mistake. So I decided that once Indie Untangled was up and running, I would eventually reinvest in responsive design.

The story behind the redesign is a kind of a nice It’s a Small Knitting World story. When I decided I was ready to create a mobile site, I learned the original company I worked with, Aeolidia, was only doing complete projects. After a developer they referred me to ended up being booked solid for the next several months, I randomly decided to Google “knitter web developer.” The first site to come up was that of Laura Birek, a knitting designer and writer… who also happened to be a web developer with an expertise in responsive design and WordPress! Score!

Laura spend the last week or so making the site responsive, and also added some extras, like a button with a link to the Indie Untangled Instagram feed. I’m thrilled with the new design and I hope it makes things easier for those of you who, like me, do a lot of yarn shopping via phone or tablet.

Also, thanks to all of the artisans, yarn club members, trunk show attendees and those of you who have purchased yarn and other products from me in the last few years for supporting Indie Untangled and helping to make this redesign possible!

Untangling: Woolyn

Woolyn storefront

I’ve wanted to do a Q&A with Rachel Maurer, the owner of the new Brooklyn yarn shop Woolyn since I found out about the store last winter. It always fascinates me when someone opens an LYS, as I know it would be a dream come true to be surrounded by yarn and knitters all day.

For now, I’ll just live vicariously through Rachel, and spend tons of time in the shop — which I’ll definitely be doing during the Indie Untangled/Woolyn trunk show extravaganza, taking place the weekends of November 19th and 20th and December 3rd and 4th. We recently added the lovely Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings to the lineup, which will include her exclusive Indie colorway in self-striping sock yarn.

Tickets for the Saturday night party, which will include a meet and greet with a few of the dyers and makers, along with snacks and drinks, went on sale today here.

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I know you have an extensive background in the yarn and knitting world, but tell me about what you did before opening Woolyn.

I came to the yarn and fiber world through Fashion Design. After getting my degree in Fashion Design, I worked for years as both a Designer and Technical Designer (which is similar to a tech editor in knit and crochet patterns in that there is a lot of checking over numbers and grading things in different sizes). I worked for a whole range of companies, which gave me a broad spectrum of experience with different facets of the industry. After leaving the industry, I ended up working in the yarn + fiber industry almost accidentally. I started out substitute teaching at a LYS, which turned into teaching on a regular basis and eventually becoming staff. At that point I was already working as a designer, both on self published designs and for other companies. As well as doing pattern editing and writing on the side. Phew! I was busy! After some years at the store, I left to focus on designing and editing full time.

Tell me about the decision to open Woolyn. Had you always wanted to own a yarn shop?

I think it is just about every serious knitter’s (and crocheter’s) dream to open a store, and I was no different. But it was always just a dream. It wasn’t until I learned that the space might be available that I decided to seriously consider the possibility. I sat down and made a whole bunch of lists and wrote a business plan (or three) outlining the type of store I wanted to have. Everything from the yarns I wanted to carry to the way the space would look to what we would do for classes. And I made many, many spreadsheets with my best guess as to what everything would cost and how it would work. Once I had some rough ideas and even rougher numbers, I began contacting vendors and other people in the industry to sound them out and to get a better idea of whether it was doable. At some point during the process, it turned from a completely crazy idea to maybe actually possible to full steam ahead Go!

How did you choose Woolyn’s location? I understand you grew up a few blocks from the store?

I did grow up a few blocks away. It is amazing how much the neighborhood has changed since then. It is really exciting to be part of the renewed vibrancy that is in the area. Especially with Brooklyn Bridge Park, this area is becoming a real destination – for tourists and locals alike. I’ve already had people from all over the world stop by the store!

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How did you decide on the dyers that you carry?

I knew from the first days of planning that I wanted indies and smaller companies to be a huge part of the store. And as local as we could get for as much as we could get. Not just with yarn, but with fiber, and project bags and other accessories as well. It is really important to me not only to support these makers, but I think by doing so we are helping to create a community of crafters that everyone who comes in the door of the shop is a part of.

Who are some of your favorite designers?

There are too many to name! Right now I have the Wild Lilies shawl from Simone Kereit of Owl Cat Designs on the needle as my “at home in the morning with the cat on my lap” project, and the Greta Hat from Tanis Grey from Lux Adorna as my “snatch a few minutes of knitting at the store” project. As well as a couple of my own designs in the works. For better or for worse, all my yarn crafting time and energy for the last year or so has gone into making samples for the store – and I imagine it will be that way for quite some time.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned from my mother and grandmother as a child. Interestingly, my mother and I are both lefties, but because my grandmother was a righty, both my mom and I do all our yarn crafting right handed.

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Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I crochet and spin. But over the years, I’ve tried just about everything that can be done with string. Weaving, tatting, macramé, needlepoint and embroidery to name a few. And of course, with my degree, I’ve done years and years of pattern making and sewing.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Probably my most ambitious project was making a city block [window] for the store I previously worked at. Through a combination of knitting, crochet and needle felting I faithfully recreated all the buildings and put it in a holiday cityscape, complete with dozens of sparkly crocheted snowflakes. I knew I might have gone a little far when I was making the lampposts. It took me over five months of doing very little yarn crafting except for the project, but in retrospect it was a lot of fun! Here’s a link to the project.