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!

What to stash this week: Harry Potter in NOLA

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.

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!

How to wear your hand knits: Shawls 3 ways

1

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

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

Half circle

Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur

Draped over your shoulders: Shows everything off

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

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

Triangle

Timenoguy by Carolina Carvalho-Cross

Tied at the front

With a shawl pin

Bandana style: Perfect for showing off all those ruffles!

Asymmetric triangle

Drops of Honey by Janina Kallio

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

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

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

Crescent

Loop by Casapinka

Tied at the front

Bandana style

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

Crescent with lace

Jackson Square by Beth Kling

Tied at the front

Bandana style with curled edges

Scarf style

Vogue Knitting Live NYC 2017: A weekend of color

2

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

The classes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Marketplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to stash this week: Winter brights

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

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

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

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

A 2016 IU Year in Knitting Review

1

Considering the year we’ve had, most of the looks back at 2016 are not going to be likely to lift your spirits. My hope is that this roundup of Indie Untangled FOs will be the exception.

For my Year in Review, I’ve culled a list of several FOs using yarn and/or patterns from Indie Untangled dyers and designers — or both, in the case of the photo above of my Drops of Honey shawl. Designed by Janina Kallio for the inaugural Where We Knit yarn club, it used Silk Single Fingering in an exclusive colorway from Lakes Yarn and Fiber (the photo above is from fellow knitter Carolina of Triple C Photography, taken for an upcoming blog post).

I hope these projects serve as an inspiration for your 2017 knitting.

Mindy/knitwithhappiness’s Goldfinch in Magpie Fibers Swanky DK

Kelly/KellyInTexas’s Safer in Cages in Duck Duck Wool DK Limited

Nance/kathynancygirl’s Toketee in Lakes Yarn and Fiber Kelso Sock

Erica/ejsufka’s Palier in Western Sky Knits Willow DK

Danielle/OnEdge28’s Gimmers and Vianne in Astral Bath Yarns Spectra DK

Lori/Momwouldbeproud’s A Hat for Dana in YOTH Yarns Father

Lavanya’s Season of Persimmons in Astral Bath Yarns Tesseract DK

Amy/booeyedee’s Atlantique in Bare Naked Wools Hempshaugh Lace

Adrienne/killerb’s Crosshaven in Canon Hand Dyes Charles Self Striping Sock

Marta/sbnyc’s Imagine When in Skeinny Dipping Silky Worsted

Kim/Xarix’s Barley Wine Hat in Skeinny Dipping Polwarth DK

Behind the scenes with Signature Needle Arts

Signature group

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

After doing an interview last year with Cathryn Bothe, the founder of Signature Needle Arts, I thought it would be interesting to go behind the scenes at the Wisconsin factory, which makes both custom metal parts — things like surgical tool components and mining safety equipment — as well as high-end knitting needles. Here’s a little video they made that takes a look at the manufacturing process.

While Signature will not have a booth at the trunk show, they will be offering attendees 10% off any online order over $25 from their website through Oct. 19 (the code will be available at the show).

What to stash this week: ‘Knitflix’ this

Mazikeen-and-luci-black-indie

This collaboration is the coolest thing to come out of the UK since The Great British Bake Off. Lola of Third Vault Yarns and Emily of Rhapsodye Yarns have teamed up for The Lucifer Project, creating two colorways inspired by characters from the TV show Lucifer, a police procedural based on characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

HereBeDragons

The Purple Dragon colorway of Big Bijou Bliss, a worsted-weight blend of yak and Cormo dyed by MJ Yarns for Bijou Basin Ranch, flew off the shelves (their pun, not mine!). Fortunately, the folks at BBR were able to scare up some more. The company also unveiled a new rewards program that gives you 5 points for every dollar you spend, with rewards that range from free shipping to $50 off your order.

Rhinebeck Tote Image

I’m planning to order the souvenir tote bags for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show next week, so if you’re attending and want to make sure you snag one with this adorable design from illustrator Eloise Narrigan, place your preorder ASAP!

My Mama Knits is having an end of summer sale to make room for new yarn bases and colorways, and is also holding a giveaway on Instagram.

Let the knitting begin

2

Acer swatches

Tomorrow night marks the start of something I look forward to every four years — the Ravellenic Games! Yes, I do also love the games that start with the letter O (as a business, I do have to watch my wording), but I am more partial to winter sports, especially figure skating.

What I like about Ravelry’s Ravellenic games is the idea of challenging yourself as a knitter. Two years ago, I completed a fingering weight cardigan for my soon-to-be born nephew. Two years before that, I knit a Multnomah shawl in fingering weight yarn, the first time I had finished such a large project in just two weeks.

This year, I’m taking on a challenge I never thought I ever would have considered — knitting a cardigan. In pieces. With set-in sleeves. Backtracking a little, I have long wanted to knit an Acer Cardigan and I picked up a sweater quantity of Skeinny Dipping’s Journey Worsted at last year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show to do just that, for this year’s Rhinebeck sweater. I knew I would be using Amy Herzog’s CustomFit, and after purchasing the Acer pattern, I generated a second pattern in CustomFit using my measurements and similar parameters: a crew neck cardigan with two inches of 2×2 ribbing and a 1-inch button band. The big difference is that CustomFit doesn’t account for stitch patterns that may affect your gauge. For cables, which generally compress stockinette, you have to add stitches to compensate. After gathering some advice from the awesome sweater-knitting experts in Amy’s Ravelry group, I knit a swatch in the cable pattern and then decided it would be less risky to knit the sweater in pieces, so that I would have a better idea of how it measured out before knitting too much of it.

I have set in sleeves on a CustomFit sweater before (it did take me several hours, but I did it!) so, in theory, doing the side seams should be a piece of cake. Still, I am a bit daunted by the prospect. My nightmare is that somehow not all of the pieces will block out to the right size and then won’t fit together. A couple of my knitting friends have offered to do some seaming handholding when the time comes, so I will probably take them up on it.

It didn’t help that last night, I attended a talk that one of my knitting groups held with designer Kristina McGowan, who developed a friendship with the fascinating Barbara Walker, a pioneer of top-down, seamless knitting. Barbara, Kristina explained, hated things like seaming and stranded colorwork, so she created her own innovative ways around them. Ultimately, as I’m a big follow-the-rules knitter, I will be sucking it up and seaming.

Since I already started the sweater, and most likely won’t be able to finish it in two weeks, I’m not planning for this project to be in contention for a Ravellenic medal. But, I am still considering this my Ravellenic project. Because the only way to grow, as a knitter, an athlete or just as a person, is to swallow your fears and jump in feet first (uh, or head first, if you’re a diver).