2017 Indie Untangled holiday newsletter giveaway

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As I have done for the past few years, I am giving back to the knitters who let me into their inboxes each week with a special holiday giveaway. For the 2017 Newsletters to Santa and Hanukah Harry giveaway, I’ve gathered together prizes from several artisans who were new to the Indie Untangled community this year and doing a string of giveaways (eight plus one) starting this Sunday 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 special Indie Untangled yarn) that I will ship out to the winner.

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 skein of the winner’s choice from any in-stock color on either Nona, Sunna, Birte or Verdande from Spirit Trail Fiberworks

December 18: A skein of the winner’s choice from any in stock yarns from Baad Mom Yarns

December 19: One skein in the base and colorway of the winner’s choice from Old Rusted Chair

December 20: A skein of 400-yard fingering weight, 80% Superwash Merino, 20% nylon in colorway Borealis and an enamel pin from Lavender Lune Yarn

December 21: “Last Christmas” on New Wave DK (75/25 Superwash Merino/Nylon) from I Would Dye 4U

December 22: One skein in the base and colorway of the winner’s choice from BigFootFibers

December 23: A skein of DK weight yarn in the colorway Copper Lake from Color Craze Yarn & Fiber

December 24: One skein of Element Number Five on Shokan Singles (100% Superwash Merino fingering) from Into the Whirled

December 25: A mystery package of yarn and knitting stocking stuffers.

A true yarn diet, plus a review of ‘A Stash of One’s Own’

My Rhinebeck 2017 haul.

I often think of my relationship with yarn as similar to my relationship with food. Obviously this isn’t a huge stretch with the phrases most of us throw around regularly — “yarn diet” and “cold sheeping” — heck, even the term “stash” likens yarn collecting to an addiction.

While I don’t literally need yarn to live, I know I do need it around me to make me happy and keep me sane. But I also know that having so much of it surrounding me, unknit, or going to a place where I’m surrounded by skeins just begging me to buy them, makes me as anxious as being at a buffet and knowing I don’t have room in my stomach (or room in my apartment, enough in my bank account) for everything.

Just like I can be a snob about food, I’m definitely a proud yarn snob. I often recall a passage in the memoir Blood, Bones & Butter in which chef Gabrielle Hamilton writes about an afternoon spent frantically driving around Brooklyn with her husband and two children, starving, but not wanting to stop just anywhere to eat because she had a specific craving that none of the all-you-can-drink brunch places that were open could sate. When I’m looking for yarn for a particular project, I generally don’t head to a big box craft store and just pick up the first skein of a certain color that I see. I’m going to pore over websites and destashes, see if one of my LYSs has something I can’t resist, or wait for a dyer to update her shop with the perfect color that would make this one project exactly what I’m envisioning.

Of course, I’m also going to wait on line for an hour for the apple cider donuts at the Maple Sugar Shack at Rhinebeck, even though I know I can just go to the farmer’s market the next weekend and buy some. It’s not the same.

Yarn on the brain.

When I go away on a trip, I make sure to indulge in the local cuisine. Sure, I can get a basket of bread or a plate of pasta anywhere, but it’s not going to be as memorable as the one I ate while sitting beside a Venice canal on a chilly early spring evening. Sure, those skeins of Portuguese Merino haven’t become a colorwork hat yet, but I enjoy taking them out of the plastic bin from time to time and thinking about how, on my first day in Lisbon, I set off on my own, determined to navigate myself to the city’s best yarn shop, and how I had a wonderful conversation with the woman behind the register about U.S. politics and the allure of knitting around the globe. And, yes, I bought more than one skein, just as I had a second custard tart the next afternoon at Pastéis de Belém, despite one of the women in my tour group commenting on my “hearty appetite,” because when was I going to get the opportunity to have the best pastel de nata again?

To me, Rhinebeck is like Thanksgiving, the one time of year when I feel obligated, like it is my duty as a knitter, to indulge in the special colorways and the sweater quantity of the yarn I see in that amazing sample hanging in a booth. Sure, I may feel like I need to pop a Tums when it comes time to squeeze my newly-acquired lovelies into the four… wait, make that five plastic bins I swore I’d keep my stash relegated to, but that’s what working out/listing yarn in your destash is for.

And it’s definitely hard not to feel guilty about the stash that is overrunning those bins, just like it’s hard not to shame myself when my jeans are not fitting like they did a few years ago, before one too many times giving in to a craving for a plate of sour-cream laden nachos. But, it is because of this that I know yarn is the best indulgence — I can easily re-experience the joy that comes with looking at a beautiful speckled skein or soft hank of Cormo, which gets even better when it’s finally set free to become the hat, cowl, shawl or sweater it was meant to be.

A stash of one’s own

My review of the Clara Parkes-edited A Stash of One’s Own is a little late, because the book came out when I was preparing for the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, I didn’t get my review copy until the week the book came out and I decided that instead of rushing to devour it so I could write something, I would keep it on my nightstand and nibble on it, savoring each morsel before I went to bed each night.

Before Clara’s appearance at Knitty City in September, I did jump in and read some of it. I was touched by the essay written by Aimée Osbourne-Gille, the talented dyer behind La Bien Aimée, about learning to knit as an American expat in Paris and keeping the spirit of her mother, who passed away shortly after Aimée moved overseas, close via the stash she left behind. And the piece on stashing as a form of feminism by Debbie Stoller made me feel even prouder of one of my main indulgences.

Since I don’t think there is anything to critique here, I would just say if you are a knitter who likes to read, you need this book on your shelf, just like you need that particular skein in your stash.

And I’ll leave you with a one of the quotes from the book that stood out to me, from the incomparable Stephanie Pearl McPhee:

Most of my yarn is for knitting, but some of it has a more complicated destiny as support staff: It is there to make me want to knit. It’s absolutely possible that I need the green Merino to inform how I’ll use the blue alpaca, and that ball of gorgeous variegated yarn? You bet I’ve had it for ten years, and I completely admit that it’s a yarn pet. I have no intention of ever knitting it, but it’s earning the real estate it takes up with how it makes me feel about knitting. It is the textile artist’s equivalent of a painting hung on the wall. It’s there to be beautiful and to help me dream of possibility.

What to stash this week: Mountains, valleys and legends

Here’s look from above at the Pigeonroof Studios colorway for Knitting Our National Parks. There are only 14 skeins left of this limited run as of “press time,” so act fast!

If you have a soft spot for medieval legends, then you’ll probably fall hard for this new colorway from Karen of Round Table Yarns. Called The Wooing of Isolde, this icy blue with subtle streaks of silver is inspired by the love affair between Tristan and Isolde.

The Highland Thistle Cowl pattern from Mouse House Fiber Co. is now available on Ravelry, as well as through kits.

What to make with Pigeonroof Studios Mountains & Valleys

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I always find it a fun challenge to find the perfect projects for variegated yarns like the Pigeonroof Studios Mountains and Valleys colorway for Knitting Our National Parks. I didn’t have to look too far to find some great options, particularly from designer and frequent IU poster Casapinka.

Here are several options, whether you want to use a single skein or pair it with a semisolid. You can also check out the ever-growing bundle I’ve created on Ravelry.

One color

One and Done by Casapinka

Hitchhiker Beyond by Martina Behm

Bingham Hill Cowl by Daniela Nii

Wave by Kristen Finlay

Strathcona by Jane Richmond

What to make with North Cascades Night: multicolored shawls

Backyard Fiberworks’ North Cascades Night for the Knitting Our National Parks project looks stunning on its own, but one of the things I love about Alice’s colorways is how well they work together. She often says that Melanie Berg is her brand’s spirit animal, because Melanie’s multicolored designs show off her coordinating skeins beautifully.

So, I asked Alice to give North Cascades Night some friends from her current line of colors and paired them with some of my favorite multi-skein shawls from Melanie, as well as Andrea Mowry and Francoise Danoy. You can order the other colorways on the sportweight Terrain base directly through Backyard Fiberworks. (The skein amounts on a couple of Melanie’s shawls are padded so that you don’t run out of yarn.)

Perhaps, Perhaps by Melanie Berg. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud & Pollen and Blackberry & Alpine; you will need one skein of each color.

Eifelgold by Melanie Berg. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud and Hosta; you will need three skeins of the main color and one skein of the contrasting color. (I like either Stormcloud as the main with North Cascades and then North Cascades as the main with Hosta.)

Drachenfels by Melanie Berg. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Blackberry & Alpine and Stormcloud & Pollen; you will need two skeins of Colors A (the brownish purple in the sample) and C (the red in the sample) and one skein of Color B (the lilac in the sample).

The Girl In Me by Melanie Berg; From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud, Walnut and Hosta; you will need three skeins in the main color and two skeins of the contrasting color. (I like either Stormcloud as the main with North Cascades as the contrast, Walnut as the main with North Cascades as the contrast, or North Cascades as the main and Hosta as the contrast.)

Goldfinch by Andrea Mowry. From left to right, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud & Pollen and Blackberry & Alpine; You will need one skein of each color.

Fields of Lavender by Francoise Danoy. From the top, North Cascades Night is paired with Stormcloud, Hosta and Walnut; you will need two skeins for the main color and one skein for the contrasting color.

What to make with Backyard Fiberworks North Cascades Night

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.

Shawls

Hint of Autumn by Laura Aylor: 2 skeins

Tidepools by Simone Kereit: 3 skeins

Enamored by Laura Aylor: 3 skeins

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

Sweaters

Orne Cardigan by Meiju K-P © Knitscene/Harper Point: 5-9 skeins

Pauroxo by Jennifer Dassau: 4-6 skeins

Silver Girl by Laura Aylor: 4-7 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

One-skein projects

Coast Oak Hat by Stephannie Tallent © Yarnbox

More Cowl Bell Please by Mary Annarella

Moutons’ Boutons by LeMou Designs

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!

A glimpse into knitting designer Kirsten Kapur’s inspiration

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!

Whipping your WIPs into shape

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.

Getting realistic

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.

Something mindless

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.

Prioritize

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.

Create deadlines

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.

Knitting art for your craft room

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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:

Knitting seascape from ekatearcherShop

Things I’ve learned from knitting illustration by JMillsPaints

Cable watercolor painting by LesiaBinkinArt

Knitting sheep art print from doodleandhoob

Knitting needle patent posters from WunderkammerStudio

Gray cable painting by PigmentandPurl

Yarn love print by ArtbyTaymarie

Abstract giclee print by The Knitting Artist

Untangling: Asylum Fibers

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!

A self-striping Chaos colorway.

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!

Bad Bad Girl on Golden Rule: Merino/nylon/stellina

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!