What to stash this week: Another shawl in the sweater box

The latest design from Casapinka, called Another Brick In the Shawl is everything I love about shawls: it uses multiple colors and has plenty of mindless stitches and nice non-lace visual interest with mosaics. Bronwyn used a trio set of Yummy 2-ply from Miss Babs, but the color possibilities are endless.

Kayleen, the latest IU newcomer, transitioned over the last year from selling crocheted items to dyeing yarn out of her home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. For her new biz, Littlebean Loves Yarn, the bright speckled colorways, as well as semi-solids and self-striping sock yarn, are inspired by pop culture, with an emphasis on Harry Potter. She generally has shop updates at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, so head on over to see what’s outta the dye pots.

If you missed out on sign-ups for the 2017 Where We Knit Yarn Club, you’re in luck! A couple of spots have opened up, one of which includes the latest collaboration from Eden Cottage Yarns and Mindy Wilkes! Please fill out this form if you’re interested in snagging a spot.

Slipped Stitch Studios has stocked the shop with an awesome selection of craft-themed bags and supplies. The first 10 customers get a glitter ball stitch marker!

Untangling: Anne Hanson

When I first started knitting, Anne Hanson’s patterns were some of the first that I came across. I found that she had a talent for creating designs that look incredibly complex, but are simple enough for beginner knitters. The Aria Delicato I knit for my mom was stunning, but also easy TV knitting.

In 2014, when I was organizing the first Rhinebeck Trunk Show, I knew it was a sign that the event was going to be a hit when someone from Anne’s bespoke yarn company, Knitspot, asked if they could be a vendor. Anne has since gone on to collaborate with Kim of The Woolen Rabbit for the first installment of the 2017 Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. Her club pattern, Shared Rib, is set to become available for sale to the general public.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was 4 years old. Before that I would hang around and watch her knit and ask her to teach me (as far back as I can remember, I loved exploring knitted fabric with my fingers). She told me that when I could write my name, she would teach me. So I enlisted my older brother to teach me to write in the afternoons when he got home from school. I thought I’d be able to knit everything on the first day and was a little disappointed when knitting turned out to be hard and I couldn’t make cable stitches right away, haha. Those were my holy grail at the time…

Tell me about your work as a a patternmaker/draper, technical designer and costumer in NYC and how that influences your design work today.

I learned so much during my years working in the fashion industry, it’s hard to distill it all down to a few lines! But I think the most important thing I learned was to think beyond my own experience about how a design is worn and used by a broad cross-section of people. A good design not only expresses the voice and artistic vision of the designer, but is useful and flattering to people with a variety of lifestyles, body types, and preferences. Precision at the beginning is also essential as a design goes through production and is interpolated into a range of sizes, then cut and sewn. And finally, I learned the importance of being a good problem-solver, using my creativity to envision shapes and mold fabrics to get the results I wanted. I am so grateful to the designers, technicians, manufacturers, and stitchers who I was privileged to learn from and work with during those years!

How did you move into knitwear design?

I actually started designing knitwear as a teenager, well before working in the fashion business; it was something I did on my own, applying what I knew from sewing and tailoring, which I had also learned at a very young age. During my years in the fashion industry, many people encouraged me to “do something” with my knitwear design, but I didn’t really have access to the right outlets through my existing work. Once the internet became a more common tool, I was able to begin publishing my design independently and turn my “side” passion into a career option.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Oh, I really get inspiration from many directions… Obviously nature contributes a lot to the surface design in many of my pieces, especially in lace work. But I am equally inspired by the human form, by fabric behavior, and by the tactile/emotional effects of texture. Some inspiration is more abstract and some is more concrete. But all of it seems to funnel into knitted expression; it’s not unlike other of my artistic pursuits, such as painting and photography.

In the case of the Shared Rib cowl for instance, I was working from a desire to knit a particular cable that I had my eye on. But when I also realized that the pattern would be released near Valentine’s Day, I thought “hmm, shared rib has a kind of Adam and Eve theme and is very vine-like.” I brought up the idea of doing a color with the dyer that would be like dark red roses, which brought the concept back to the place I had chosen for my inspiration: the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. So many disparate threads came together in the concept for this simple cowl, but the knitter doesn’t need to know any of that for it to be appealing and knitworthy. The design would work equally well in any rich color with depth.

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

I almost always start by swatching; getting to know the materials and their limits, feeling the fabric they will make, and working out which stitches and textures interplay well with the fiber is essential to figuring out the geometry, shaping, and detailing in a design.

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

Color is truly relative — how a color “behaves” or appears really depends on what you put next to it and what fabric it will become. Of all the full spectrum colors, I really don’t have a favorite for that reason — they all change and become different with varying applications and moods. That said, the neutral range is endlessly fascinating for me; grays will always have a special place in my heart!

How did your Bare Naked Wool line come about?

When I became a hand spinner, I was exposed to a whole new world of variety in fleeces; I quickly gained a new appreciation and awe of the range of natural colors available. I started the Bare Naked Knitspot club to celebrate the knowledge I was gaining and it was through the club that I began producing bespoke yarns. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had a full palette of single breed yarns and luxury blends on offer. I was excited to meet small production farmers and millers, then marry their talents. It just seemed that there were gaps to fill everywhere for knitters seeking a fresh, pure, and unique yarn product, beautifully prepared and free from dyes and chemicals. Farmers and millers had unique fiber and yarn to offer; knitters were ripe for knowledge and new yarn experiences — I wanted to bring them together!

What does designing those yarns entail?

Designing yarn is very interesting; one has to know about the individual fibers involved and how they behave to end up with a yarn that makes the most of their strong points. It’s important to put time and energy into research and development, testing it in stages with the mill to get just the right yarn structure. Many times the mill owners and operators are not knitters so working closely with them, communicating observations and results clearly is key. Another challenge is communicating to knitters how lovely a yarn can be without dye; unadulterated fiber is just softer, bouncier, with a natural sparkle that often gets lost when dye and chemical treatments are applied — even natural and organic ones. We are constantly working on educating our community and offering pattern support that inspires, to help make our customers’ experience the best it can be!

Where is your favorite place to knit?

We have a sofa in our dining room, which is a very quiet part of the house. I do a lot of knitting there while listening to audiobooks. I also knit while watching TV late at night; staying up long into the wee hours and knitting is my favorite thing, especially when my husband knits alongside me.

What to stash this week: Fetch this yarn ball

I’m excited to debut these custom IU stitch markers! Crafted by Maria of A Needle Runs Through It out of San Jose, California — who I discovered last year when she released Gilmore Girls stitch markers — these wooden accessories are the perfect way to show off your love of indie yarn.

IU newcomer Long Dog Yarns is named for, as you might suspect, a dachshund, specifically a wire-haired dachshund called Rufus. Dyer Brandy started dyeing a year ago after publishing her own designs and her yarns are of the bright, speckled variety that we’re all crazy about these days. She’s just restocked her shop, so head over for your summer knitting needs. 

Wingpoint, Pam’s latest design, is a bias triangle shawl with a twist. It’s decorated with stripes and bunting-like marled triangles that are a fun way to combine your main color and accents, whether they’re 75-yard mini skeins or scrap yarn. Best of all, it’s 25% off through May 31 with the code madmay.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Wildflower Button Studio is offering free shipping on any domestic orders over $25 through May 16 with the coupon code HAPPYSHIP.

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.

What to stash this week: Kitted up

Over the weekend, I decided to get creative and put together some kits with The Woolen Rabbit’s newest bases. I have three pairs of Silky Biffle, a blend of BFL and silk, in three different colors that are available with Laura Aylor’s Pennant shawl pattern. I also have a few skeins of Kim’s new Dove base, a Merino/yak/silk blend that I just started using for Anne Hanson’s Shared Rib. Anne designed this clever ribbed cable pattern — which comes with short cowl, scarf and infinity ring options — for the first installment of the 2017 Where We Knit Yarn Club. I love it so much that I’ve decided to include Anne’s pattern at a discount, and before it goes on sale to the general public May 15, with the purchase of a skein.

Visit The Woolen Rabbit shop on Indie Untangled to get your hands on one of the kits. As a reminder, you also get 10% off through April 30 with the code IU3.

It’s finally beginning to feel like spring, and Kim Dyes Yarn is ready with a bunch of new colorways, including the beautiful Peaches pictured above. Her shop update, which takes place at noon Eastern Time today, will include new shawl length skeins on Croissant sock, a 100% Superwash Merino fingering yarn and bulky Cream Puff Superwash Merino.

There are only a couple skeins of the exclusive Berry Colorful Yarnings Indie colorway left! It comes on her self-striping sock yarn, perfect for socks, obviously, but also accessories — cowls, hats — and baby items. You also get 10% off through April 30 with the code IU3.

Beautiful Mess Yarn Works will be having an update of sock yarn inspired by Willie Wonka and his chocolate factory tomorrow.

Pandia’s Jewels has opened preorders for her 12th Doctor Who-inspired sock kit.

Go Knit Yourself is having a weeklong challenge exploring different dyeing techniques via newsletter.

What to stash this week: Voolenvine update and more from the yarn ‘whirled’

Voolenvine was a huge draw at last year’s Rhinebeck even, so I’m excited to have Kristin on the Indie Untangled marketplace! She’s having one of her famous shop updates tonight, so set your alarms and get ready to pounce on several colorways.

Also new to Indie Untangled, Cris of Into the Whirled has restocked the shop with a fresh batch of kettle dyed Element Number Five, a rich mix of purples, blues, greens and browns and probably other colors I can’t identify because they blend so well.

Barbara Benson’s Oscillare cowl is a deceptively simple (meaning it’s easy) colorwork design that’s created with stripes and slipped stitches. Pair two of your favorite colors and get cracking on an accessory that will carry you into spring.

Courtney of FloofyMoose Designs’ Grace Fryer Shawl is a perfect project for Women’s History Month. It’s named for one of the “Radium Girls,” whose lawsuit against U.S. Radium helped bring about labor safety standards.

What’s black and white and knit all over? Pam’s new White Noise shawl. It uses two colors of heavy laceweight or light fingering-weight yarn to create a marled rectangle that recalls TV static.

Dye is Cast Yarns now carries mini skeins.

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!

What to stash this week if you’re not in Edinburgh

The folks over at Siidegarte have made up for you missing out on the Edin Yarn Fest and the Find Your Fade craze. They’ve curated three Find Your Fade kits that include seven 90g skeins of their gorgeous silk-infused yarn. The kits are available on three different bases, using both existing Siidegarte colourways and a few special edition ones. And there’s a discount, this weekend only!

Sheila and Lance of BigFootFibershave stocked their shop full of spring colors (it might be snowing in the Northeast today, but it felt like spring earlier this week!) including Robyn’s Egg, St. Patrick’s Day, and some Rainbow mini and mega mini skein sets.

Because who can resist something called a llamicorn, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has her fun Pink Fluffy Llamicorns colorway available to pre-order through Sunday, March 19 at 8 p.m. Eastern. Plus, every customer gets a free Pink Fluffy Llamicorn stitch marker!

Socktastic, Lara Smoot’s latest sock pattern, was so addictive that it converted even her most sock-reticent test knitter, the lovely Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings. Use coupon code SisterlyLove for 40% off the pattern through March 15th.

Zombies are appropriate for any time of year, not just a certain holiday in October. My Mama Knits’ Zombie-themed yarns are now available on a variety of Superwash bases in varying weights, including DK and sock.

The latest from Stillwater Designs, Salt Pond, is a top-down crescent shawl worked with alternating sections of garter and slip stitch, framed by a simple eyelet border and inspired by the salt pond at Point Judith, RI.

What to stash this week: Spotted in the wild

I am one of the first to spread the word of Etsy and Indie Untangled newcomer BigFootFibers. This true mom and pop operation was recently launched by Sheila and Lance of Tulsa, Oklahoma, after they began dreaming about it last summer. They have both bright and springy, as well as rich and moody, semisolid and variagated colors available on bases like Yeti and Sasquatch Sock.

Ann Tudor has been crafting some seasonally appropriate stitch markers, including these adorable fish, which should help your next project come along swimmingly. To be really on the ball, go with her St. Patrick’s Day and Easter designs. 

Speaking of Easter, if you’re happy that it’s Peeps season, then you’ll really love Lara Smoot’s latest sock pattern.

Introducing Black Wolf Ranch, with Alpaca, Merino, Cormo and BFL yarns made with fiber from the ranch and others throughout Montana.

One Hand in the Dyepots has has added four new colorways to the Etsy shop.

The Yoshi & Lucy shop is stocked with spring-inspired yarns.