Since getting a glimpse of Alice of Backyard Fiberworks’ North Cascades Night colorway for Knitting Our National Parks, I’ve been obsessively combing Ravelry for the perfect projects. The fact that it’s a sportweight yarn means it works for a variety of patterns, from one-skein hats and mitts to pullovers and cardigans that don’t feel too endless.
I’ve found some ideas from a variety of designers, including those who post to Indie Untangled. Below is just a small list of possibilities. You can also check out the ever-growing bundle I’ve created on Ravelry.
Pleasant Trip by Laura Aylor: 3 skeins
Little Black Shawl by Laura Aylor: 2 skeins
Marshwood by Lara Smoot: 3 skeins
French Cancan by Mademoiselle C: 2 skeins
Vinegar Hill by Kirsten Kapur: 2-3 skeins
Sport Aureed by Meiju K-P: 4-8 skeins
Warszawa Soft by Meiju K-P: 5-7 skeins
Grisalia by Meiju K-P: 3-6 skeins
Celia by Mary Annarella: 3-6 skeins
Shifting by Justyna Lorkowska: 4-6 skeins
Rieth by MK Nance
Backflip Mitts by Melanie Berg
Fathom by Veera Välimäki
Portlander Mitts by Shellie Anderson
Have you found some other great ideas? Please share in the comments!
Kirsten Kapur is one of those designers who consistently impresses me. I marvel at her use of texture and color, particularly her color combinations. While I’ve knit only three of her more than 250 simple and elegant patterns, I have several more in my favorites. So, when I heard that Kirsten, a fellow New Yorker, had been invited by Paola Vanzo, the owner of mYak, to give a talk on her design inspirations over tea and knitting in the West Village, I RSVPd faster than you could say yarn.
The event took place in the library of the Trace Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Tibetan culture where Paola is managing director, and which houses an appointment-only pop-up shop for her yarn line. It was through her work in Tibet that Paola came to create mYak in 2011, working with a cooperative of nomads from the Tibetan Plateau to harvest and mill the super soft, Cashmere-like yarn from the underbelly of the baby yaks that they herd. It’s a story that deserves its own blog post.
Kirsten recently collaborated with Paola on two designs using mYak yarn: The Wave Hill brioche cowl, named for the estate and public gardens in Riverdale in the Bronx, and a lacy two-color shawl called Acorns and Arches, crafted with colors created using a natural mushroom dye. The two patterns set the scene for Kirsten’s inspirations, essentially knitted interpretations of the natural world.
Before becoming a knitting pattern designer a decade ago, Kirsten worked as an apparel and textile designer in the garment industry in New York City, where she also lives. While the city may not seem like an immediately obvious place to get natural inspiration, there’s plenty.
“In this city we have some pretty amazing places we can go,” Kirsten said. “We have some fabulous parks, like the New York Botanical Garden, Central Park. I go to these places and find inspiration for color, texture, obviously the shapes of the plants.”
She also uses the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (near me!), Hudson River Park, Rockaway Beach in Queens — particularly in winter — and the aforementioned Wave Hill. After taking photos, Kirsten returns home and starts playing around with the yarn in her healthy stash, drawing on the colors from her images of flowers and leaves, water and animals — even seaweed.
Kirsten then pores over stitch dictionaries and then plays around with charting software, making the patterns work for the look she’s trying to achieve. A lot of her design work also happens once the yarn gets on the needles, with changes made when stitch patterns aren’t working.
While some of Kirsten’s design names are obvious, many are particularly clever. Her Reynard Socks, for example, are named for the fox character in fables, and feature a fox-like lace pattern when viewed upside down. Cladonia, one of Kirsten’s best-known patterns, is named for the lichen on a rock she photographed it on.
The photographs are also what draws me to Kirsten’s patterns, and she recounted what it took to capture this view of A View From the Hill, on Rockaway Beach on a freezing, windy January afternoon.
After Kirsten’s talk, and after we finished up our tea and pastries, there was also the opportunity to shop the mYak pop-up, which had such a beautiful display.
Of course I wore my own Cladonia to the event and Kirsten was nice enough to pose for a photo with me while wearing the sample!
I’ll admit that I’ve never been a truly monogamous knitter. But, since moving, rearranging my stash and dedicating a box just to WIPs (I’m an optimist, so I don’t like referring to them as UFOs) I’ve realized that I have more than a couple. These were projects I plunged into headfirst and then another shiny pattern caught my eye, or I got to a point where the project became a little more complex. So, in an effort to get them back on track and the box under control — my stash has already migrated into another bin and I don’t want my WIPs to — I’ve decided to create a little strategy that I hope will also help you.
First, I got realistic about what I was going to finish. That Rock Island I started a few years ago in Spirit Trail lace, only getting through seven repeats of the beginning edging? Frogged, getting a much-loved project bag back in return. I know that mostly lacy shawls, especially in dark, laceweight yarn, are just not for me. I wasn’t far enough in that frogging was painful, and I figured if I wasn’t getting joy from the project right from the beginning, it wasn’t worth continuing. Maybe one day I’ll knit it, but not now.
Then, I found a project that was still in the mindless garter stage — my Marrakesh shawl pictured above — and designated it as a subway/knit night project. Until I get to the lace egding, it is forbidden to be a knit-at-home project. I’m limiting those to my latest sweater, Mary Annarella’s You Wear It Well, which is up to the sleeves and no longer very portable, and Anne Hanson’s Shared Rib cabled infinity scarf. Both make for good TV knitting, ensuring I’ll finish them soon-ish.
I’ve decided to prioritize finishing one languishing WIP before casting on another project. When I finish Marrakesh, my plan is to cast on a 3 Color Cashmere Cowl with my Vintage No. 1 from Middle Brook Fiberworks.
I’m also creating general deadlines — ideally, finishing one WIP every month or two months, depending how far along I am. I plan to actually write these deadlines down in a fancy journal, so I can hold myself to them and not keep changing them in my head.
Ideally, I will end up in a place where I have a good mix of mindless, complicated and/or non-portable projects so that there’s an ideal WIP for every activity. Because we all know that knitting — and FOs — make everything better.
My husband and I are mostly unpacked since moving into our new apartment this past fall, but it was only recently that we started the process of hanging up our art and photographs. We realized we have a lot of empty wall space! This includes my office/craft room. I finally sprung for the Fringe Supply Co. yarn pyramid print that I’ve long coveted, and that sent me down the rabbit hole of knitting art on Etsy. Here are some of my favorite discoveries:
Last month, I got to introduce you to Asylum Fibers, a brand-new dyeing operation started by Stephanie Jones, who I met via the knitting group she organizes here in New York City. I wanted to know a little more behind her inspiration for this new craft biz and share her story.
As I mentioned in my post about getting a behind the scenes look at her first shop update, Stephanie, who hails from Maine and now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a background as an opera singer — I actually got to see her perform a year ago and she is fantastic. While making her living in finance, Stephanie uses knitting and dyeing as her main creative outlets, along with crocheting and knitting. She creates bright and complex repeatable colorways, but her signature are unpredictable Chaos colors, which are OOAK and fleeting. Here’s a little peek inside the Asylum:
What made you decide to start your own dyeing business?
I love dyeing so much, and I can’t possibly use all the yarn myself. It only made sense to put it out there and see what the community would think. Every time someone purchases a skein, I feel justified in dyeing 5 more! I get so much joy seeing others knit with my yarn, and I really can’t think of anything quite like it!
How do you go about creating your colorways? Do you plan your repeatables ahead of time and improvise with the Chaos colors?
For the most part, my repeatable colorways have very specific inspiration. I have a word or phrase or idea that is translated into color within my mind. The next step is figuring out the recipe. Sometimes, the yarn comes out beautiful, but it’s not what I intended. In that case, we have a chaos colorway. I’ll let you in on a secret – Chaos 75 was my first attempt at Hydrotherapy. I absolutely loved it, but it was a lot greener than I wanted Hydrotherapy to be. Not all chaos colorways are failed attempts at a new recipe, though. Many are just for fun! I do use them for experimentation and find them to be extra special, since they’re essentially “limited edition”. Every chaos colorway is made up of no more than 5 skeins, so you know you have something special.
What are your favorite colors?
This depends so much on my mood. Black and grey are essential, but I also gravitate to blue, green, purple, and pink. Some days I’m all about yellow, and sometimes orange makes me really happy. ALL OF THE COLORS!
What projects are you currently working on with your yarn?
Aside from a whole lot of swatching as I really settle on what bases I plan to keep long term, I have a couple projects going right now. I’m designing a two color brioche cowl in the round using Bedlam, my one ply super bulky base. I’m also doing a crochet along of the Movie Night Cocoon Cardi, using Errant Aran. I’m lucky to have some friends working on samples in my yarn as well. Anne is making a Waiting for Rain shawl using Golden Rule in Bad Bad Girl, while Devon is making a lace shawl using Lunacy Lace in a OOAK color I dyed special for her. Valerie is crocheting with Golden Age and Jenn has a skein of Bedlam Ombre that is soon to be a hat! I’ve seen some Instagram friends working with my yarn as well, which is so fun. I finally have Asylum Fibers up (at least in the most basic form) on Ravelry so we can all share our stash and projects there.
How did you learn to knit?
I learned at daycare when I was very young, but really started advancing in 2012 with the inspiration and motivation from other knitters in my Meetup group. When I ran into problems, I’d check Youtube for help. Since then, I’ve taken a ton of technique classes with great teachers including Lorilee Beltman, Steven Berg, Edie Eckman, Faina Goberstein, Franklin Habit, Amy Herzog, Felicia Lo, Nancy Marchant, Kristy McGowan, Alasdair Post-Quinn, Leslye Solomon, Debbie Stoller, and Stephen West.
Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.
I made a pink cotton sweater for my grandmother for her 80th birthday. The pattern was Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier and is available on Ravelry. I used Debbie Bliss Bella, which was soft and pretty, but since it didn’t have much stretch, it made my hands tire very quickly. I’m glad I made this sweater, though, because my grandmother is extra knit-worthy and wears it all the time!
Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?
Of course I do! Dyeing and knitting definitely dominate my craft time, but I also enjoy crochet, sewing, beadwork, painting, and scrapbooking. I’m planning to try soap making soon as well.
Any future plans for Asylum Fibers you can share?
I’d like to put together some fun blog posts discussing my color inspiration. I’m also planning to take my yarn on the road in the near future. Otherwise, keep an eye out for regular shop updates, and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like reminders!
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!
Aside from dyeing bright and cheerful NOLA colorways, Robyn of TeenyButton Studio also has a geeky side. Her latest offering is a Harry Potter Yarn of the Month Club — you pick your base and Robyn sends the yarn, with a colorway that will be exclusive for three months, or that will disappear from her lineup entirely.
Sarah of One Hand in the Dyepots has updated her shop with two new colorways. Above is Smokey Aubergine, a moody pink, purple and grey. There’s also Quantum, which uses a tie dye technique.
The annual April knit along is going on in the Elliebelly Dye Works group on Ravelry.
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.
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.
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!
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:
Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur
Timenoguy by Carolina Carvalho-Cross
Drops of Honey by Janina Kallio
Loop by Casapinka
Crescent with lace
Jackson Square by Beth Kling
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.
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.
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.