What to stash this week: Anybody want a peanut?

It’s inconceivable that there are still Princess Bride bags and accessories available from Slipped Stitch Studios.

You bullet journalers will appreciate the new base from With Pointed Sticks. Fountain Pen, named after the height of luxury in writing instruments, is a blend of 70% Superwash Merino, 20% silk and 10% Cashmere. Susan’s also running an Instagram giveaway that ends today.

Just in time for the official start of baseball season (meaning spring training) Lindsay’s Pitch Cowl is a blend of triangles and parallelograms that recalls baseball stripes. A video tutorial is available for the more challenging bits.

Margaret of French Market Fibers is closing shop (::sob::) and is having the first of her final updates today at 11 a.m. Central. 

Check out the new Sand Layers Shawl kit from Bijou Basin Ranch.

IU newcomer Andre Sue Knits creates artsy painted sock blanks that provides a beautiful yet unpredictable colorway for your project.

IU on the road: A trip to London’s Loop yarn shop

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to visit London and Lisbon, joining my mother-in-law and more than two dozen of her friends on their annual ladies trip. Our itinerary was jam packed with museum and gallery visits (including the phenomenal Picasso Portraits exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and Anselm Kiefer’s haunting Walhalla at the White Cube), but I couldn’t make it across the pond without seeing the yarny sites.

I hadn’t been back to London in 15 years, since I spent a semester there through the Friends World Program, now called LIU Global. I was certainly seeing a different side to the city, especially since I didn’t know how to knit back then.

After arriving at Heathrow Friday morning, one of the first things I did, after checking into the hotel, freshening up and getting a UK SIM card for my iPhone, was hop on the Tube and head to Islington, home to Loop, which is the London yarn shop to visit, especially if you’re an indie-obsessed knitter. Conveniently, shortly before my trip, Loop’s owner, Susan Cropper, published a London guide for knitters on Mason Dixon Knitting.

Before I left, I made sure to check out Loop’s website so I could strategically plan my shopping, for which I knew I’d have a short window (because we all know you can spend ages poking around yarn shops). It was there I discovered my first London souvenir: Viola yarn in a speckled pinkish purple dyed exclusively for Loop. It may seem strange to travel to London just to buy yarn from a dyer in Canada, but as Emily of Viola has a history in the UK, having done an apprenticeship at John Arbon Textiles in North Devon, it seemed a fitting purchase. Plus, it was exclusive!

I’ll likely be using it to knit Meghan Fernandes’s Wreath Shawl, designed exclusively for Loop for its 10-year anniversary in 2015.

With my yarn purchased ahead of time and waiting for me at the shop, I could focus on exploring. What first caught my eye were the cute drawstring project bags, in fun, bright colors, stamped with the Loop logo.

Then, I took in all the yarn from my indie favorites scattered around the shop. Among the familiar faces/labels were goodies from The Uncommon Thread and Eden Cottage, both based in the UK, and Germany’s DyeForYarn and Wollmeise.

I enjoyed taking in the shop’s overall aesthetic, which was very cozy, crafty, warm and welcoming.

At the end of my visit, I got to speak to Susan, who coincidentally grew up not very far from where I live now in Brooklyn! She has created one of my dream yarn shops, and I’m so glad I could pop in during my trip.

Next week, you’ll get to travel with me to Lisbon, where I made another great yarny discovery…

What to stash this week: Yarn love

Fides and Gaby at Siidegarte have released a limited edition Valentine’s Day colorway that is only available through February 19. The rose-inspired color — blush pink, mixed with an almost lilac silver and a tiny bit of green — is available on three bases: the laceweight Siide-Füürneem, a blend of silk and Royal Alpaca; Siide-Fideel, a silk/Merino fingering weight; and Siide-Liind, a mix of fine silk and Merino, combined with SeaCell.

Speaking of love, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has special Outlander Wedding kits available for preorder through Feb. 19. The kits, inspired by the love shared between Jamie and Claire, contain a skein of Snug light fingering in the Tartan colorway, a project bag by Debra of Addicted to Sock Knitting in special Outlander Wedding fabric designed by Julia and a matching notions tin.

Aside from collaborating with Casapinka on her latest shawl design, Gray Area, and getting ready for upcoming shows, including Stitches West, Sue of Invictus Yarns has created a special colorway for Sock Madness.

Lindsay of Knit Eco Chic’s latest design, Alternating Paths, is a cozy cabled sweater that will keep you beautifully toasty during these winter months. It’s worked seamlessly, with some room for customization.

Picking complementary colors is a no brainer with Bijou Basin Ranch’s latest Master Color Series.

Sound of Music fans, this new club from Go Knit Yourself is for you.

Wild Hair Studio’s latest shop update includes some Harry Pottery-themed goodies.

What to stash this week: Knit start my heart

No matter what you think about Valentine’s Day, there’s no way you can’t fall in love with these handmade heart stitch markers by Ann Tudor. They’re available in classic red and a rainbow of colors, in four different sizes for knitters and two clasp options for crocheters.

Lola at Third Vault Yarns has a lot going on, including a new monthly yarn club that combines yarn, geekiness and tea; Rey of The Force Awakens is the theme for February. There’s also a new winter collection of yarn and large shawl called Blown Glass that utilizes short rows.

KarenDawn’s latest shawl design, La Belle Dame sans Mercy, is based upon a medieval love debate poem. It uses one main color and three accent colors, but is easily adaptable to other color options, from one solid color to a main body and border color to gradients.

Keya has a fever, and the only cure is More Sock Yarn. Her Cedar Hill Farm Co. Traveler base has a new look, as do her double-grommet project bags, available in seven new fabrics.

Because we could all use some closure, check out Melissa Jean’s latest ceramic buttons, including her scallop leaf design, modern waves and February-appropriate hearts.

Melanie of Go Knit Yourself is having a live shop update at 9 p.m. Eastern Time tonight over in her Facebook group.

Vogue Knitting Live NYC 2017: A weekend of color

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

The classes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Marketplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What to stash this week: Knit the force

Many of us are still reeling from one of the last losses of 2016. Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios has decided to honor our favorites princess with her Bag of the Month, a collection of accessories that goes on sale today at 9 a.m. Pacific time. 

Continuing the Star Wars tribute, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has a batch of Star Wars-inspired items, including two kits with stitch markers and additional colorways, that will be available for pre-order through this Sunday, January 8th.

Toby Roxane Barna, a designer who has long gravitated toward indie-dyed yarns for her shawls, sweaters and other accessories, has launched a line of yarn. The yarns include both subtle and bright semisolid and variegated colorways in fingering and DK weights. You’re sure to find something that would go well with one of Toby’s designs which, coincidentally, are 20% off on Ravelry through January 15th with the code INWITHTHENEW. Oh, and the yarn on her website is 17% off, too, with the same code!

Laura’s latest design, a scarf called Yarn Chicken, is not as daunting as it sounds. It comes with options and notes so that you can maximize the yarn you have, and win your own games of yarn chicken.

Bijou Basin Ranch is giving one lucky person a chance to win two skeins of Xanadu, 100% Mongolian Cashmere yarn, enough to knit Equinox, a pair of thigh-high yoga socks in Jen Geigley’s new book, EVERYDAY.

What to stash: Keep on knitting

In light of the craziness of the holidays, and because I’m in the mood to spread the joy of yarn this year, I’ve decided to extend the deadline for 2017 yarn club sign-ups through Monday, December 26th. As part of this club, four dyer/designers teams — The Woolen Rabbit & Anne Hanson, Eden Cottage Yarns & Mindy Wilkes, Three Fates Yarns & MK Nance and Spun Right Round & Casapinka — will create exclusive colorways and accompanying accessory patterns inspired by where they knit, with the first package shipping in February. And there is a gift option if you want to avoid any stores for the next couple of days!

The latest design from Laura of Fiber Dreams is the perfect way to help brighten up these short (but luckily getting longer!) winter days. Snow Flowers is knit in the round, incorporating an elegant Estonian lace pattern and shimmering beads. 

Untangling: Lara Smoot

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

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

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

When and how did you learn to knit?

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

What made you decide to become a designer?

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

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

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

The Game of Thrones-inspired Fire and Blood.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is your favorite place to knit?

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

What to stash this week: A mega rebellion

We all know that big, bulky yarns are a saving grace of the holiday season — or are perfect when we need to be warm, stat. So, it’s a great time to enroll in the SpaceMonsters Mega Club. As a club member, you get a skein of worsted or bulky weight, hand dyed by Stephanie in an exclusive colorway, delivered every other month, and a special gift tucked into every third parcel. The price isn’t too mega, either.

Inspired by the new Rogue One movie, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has dyed up yarn in colorways like Jedi, Vader, Is that an Ewok or a Wookie?, Rogue and Rebel, and debuted a new Rogue One notions tin. Join the rebellion!

Ami of Lakes Yarn and Fiber just introduced a new base called Rose, a decadent blend of 80% Merino and 20% Cashmere. She’s also offering free shipping on U.S. orders through Dec. 24 with the coupon code FREESHIP16 and $10 off international orders of at least two skeins with the coupon code INTSHIP.

Barbara Benson’s newest design is an easy-peasy cabled cowl that knits up quickly in bulky yarn, perfect for the polar vortex that has descended on much of the U.S. The clever design is knit vertically with no grafting required, joined together by sewing on buttons.

You have until Sunday, December 18th, to enroll in the 2017 Where We Knit yarn club. Four dyer/designers teams — The Woolen Rabbit & Anne Hanson, Eden Cottage Yarns & Mindy Wilkes, Three Fates Yarns & MK Nance and Spun Right Round & Casapinka — will create exclusive colorways and accompanying accessory patterns inspired by where they knit. If you need a last-minute gift for a special knitter in your life, or you still have to give Santa a hint, there’s an option to send a gift subscription.