Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Signature Needle Co.’s Signature Sock Series

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Signature needles have long been a coveted item among knitters, though the company’s offerings have remained pretty standard — until now. The Wisconsin-based Signature Needle Arts — run by knitter Cathryn Bothe, also president of Bothe Associates, which makes custom metal parts such as surgical tool components and mining safety equipment with the same precision as the needles — recently debuted its Signature Sock Series. The new needles come with a tougher cable and no rotation of the needle stalk and cable.

I recently spoke with Cathryn about the new product:

How did the Signature Sock Series come about?

Signature has manufactured our “Convertible” circular needles in sizes from US 3 up for some time. Those needles have the ability to attach various lengths of cables in a given size.

We knew we wanted to be able to provide the many, many customers asking for the smaller US sizes 1 and 2 as well as the 2.5mm size so loved by our Canadian and European customers.

However, having been in the metal manufacturing business for 67 years (see bothe.com) the shop folks knew the challenges of using the Convertible model within the small diameter of the size 1 and 2 needles.

Because we felt like we were setting ourselves up for failure if we asked customers to screw on the tiny internal threads required we decided to make these small sizes “fixed,” that is, they don’t unscrew or rotate.

To differentiate we chose a different name, Signature Sock Series, and changed the color of the cable.

Will they only be available for socks?

These small size needles will be wonderful for any project that calls for US sizes 1 and 2 and 2.5mm. Actually, I have done a scarf using them, but any lace project or anything else would be great with our points.

Why are you only starting with size US 1?

We know that making the US Size 2 would be easier since there is more diameter in the needle shaft with which to work. However, we decided that if we could manufacture the size 1s successfully the size 2s would be easier.

What has been feedback on the needles?

Customers love being able to have our fabulous hand polished points in this small size.

Are they manufactured differently than other Signature needles?

Yes they are. Instead of a rotating, removable cable the cable is affixed permanently into the tiny needle stalk. The color of the cable is different (white) than our regular cable on the Convertible Circulars (black) for easy recognition.

Can you say if there is anything else new on the horizon for Signature?

Whenever I bring up something new I can see the look on the faces of all concerned with the manufacturing. They know that I will be the worst “customer” ever. I will proudly accept that I am demanding and unbending in what I want even when they tell me that something is impossible. I do have a few new product ideas but I can’t really reveal at this time.

Having said that there is a new area that we are giving attention: that is of adaptive products for knitters with physical challenges. As well I have another, to quote Wendy of Wendy Knits, “stealth project” in this same vein.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Kitterly

From left to right: Kitterly co-founders Elizabeth Rowen and and Mari Bower.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I often like to get creative by pairing yarns and patterns, and putting colors together, but sometimes it can be much easier to leave it to the professionals: the dyers, designers and the folks at Kitterly. The Los Angeles company, launched by Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower in 2015, works with several indie businesses to put together knitting and crochet kits. Indie Untangled regulars they work with include the designers Casapinka and Anne Hanson and dyers Spun Right Round and The Uncommon Thread.

I spoke to Liz and Mari to learn more about their operation:

How and when did Kitterly get started?

Mari was a customer of Liz’s store in Los Angeles, Knit Culture Studio. We came together in 2015 to combine Mari’s background in digital media, tech and ecommerce, and Liz’s experience in the fiber community as owner of Knit Culture Studio and create Kitterly as you see it today. We launched in January 2015, and we have been building our community of amazing designers, dyers and makers, one kit a time!

How do you decide on which designs to offer kits for?

We like to create a broad mix of styles and skill levels to ensure that we have a perfect selection for our customers to find their next perfect project. We are always coming the Ravelry design charts to find what’s new, but we also find that there is an amazing catalog of perennial favorites to choose from. You will find anything from Andrea Mowry’s latest Fade, to gorgeous classics like Melanie Berg’s Ashburn shawl.

It’s been really fun to find something that may have been designed in a yarn that is just no longer available, and revisit it in a new fiber.

Casapinka Koi Pond Kit

How do you pair up the yarn, including colors, and patterns?

We spend a lot of time researching designs to ensure that we can either offer it in the original yarn (down to the colors if we can), or find the perfect substitute. When we launch a collection with a designer or dyer, there was a considerable amount of time spent on pulling it together to ensure we have the right mix of new, classic and skill level. Once we settle on the collection, we then collectively will select color palettes that we review and even vote on at times. It’s a really fun process, and everyone gets involved!

Can you talk about any new dyers or designers you’re planning to work with?

Yes! We’re super excited to be adding Anthony Casalena, Carol Feller, Miriam Felton, Asa Tricosa, Christopher Salas, Berangere Cailliau/lilofil, Hanna Maciejewska/Hada Knits, Yellow Cosmo, Lesley Anne Robinson/Knit Graffiti and Bristol Ivy to name a “few”!

New dyers coming on board are Stolen Stitches (Carol Feller’s yarn), YarnLove, Hue Loco, Spun Right Round and we hope to begin working with Uschtitia in early 2018.

We’re always on the hunt for new dyers and designers!

ANKESTRICK Walk Along Kit

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Liz: my grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and sew when I was 7.

Mari: I learned around 10 years ago, when my mother-in-law gave me a cute knitting kit set for Christmas. I taught myself how to crochet when I was around 8, since my mom couldn’t figure out how to show me since I’m left handed.

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Liz: crochet, sewing, quilting, rubber stamping and card making, needlepoint, embroidery. Unfortunately since starting Kitterly I’ve only had time to knit and crochet but I have a fabulous collection of rubber stamps waiting for me!

Mari: I’m a serial crafter! I’ve been sewing since I was a small child, and I love to make pretty much anything! I love to cook and bake, and I can my own jam/pickles every summer. I also design jewelry (wire wrapping, beading, even some silversmithing), and I have been known to do some serious home DIY (I installed my own hardwood floors in a previous house). I’ve even done some welding, thanks to high school metal shop!

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Liz: My spiderweb lace shawl in Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb — but I’m afraid to wear it. But my two favorites are Andrea Mowry’s FYFHaha and Casapinka’s Sari not Sari!

Mari: My Om Shawl by Andrea Mowry. I fell in love with the pattern and had to make it! It was quite the endeavor, as it’s a rather large piece, but it turned out magnificent. Thankfully Fall weather is coming soon, so I can show it off!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Knitting Outside the Box with Bristol Ivy

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Pom Pom Quarterly is one of my favorite knitting magazines, if not my very favorite. Aside from publishing four magazines a year, the team there also partners with some very talented designers to publish pattern books. The latest is Bristol Ivy’s Knitting Outside the Box, which just became available to preorder this week. If you’re going to Rhinebeck, you can also preorder it to pick up from the Merritt Bookstore booth.

The book originates from Bristol’s Knitting Outside the Box workshops and provides an insight into her design process as well as 15 garment and accessory patterns using plenty of hand-dyed yarns. I asked Bristol to tell me a bit more about it.

What inspires the designs in Knitting Outside the Box?

The designs in Knitting Outside the Box were all inspired by wanting to push boundaries. With each, I wanted to explore certain techniques and see what that method of manipulating stitches could do to create a garment that made knitters think about knitting in a new way. Whether that was starting from a different direction, combining techniques to get the result I wanted, or asking a simple “what if?” s I wanted to make sure that the way the garments worked would open new doors of exploration and thought. I also wanted to make sure that they did this while maintaining wearability and knitting interest. I hoped the garments would feel like things that I would want to knit, AND want to wear!

What makes this book different from other pattern collections?

I spend a lot of time in the book going into not just the “how” of the knitting patterns, but the “why.” Why have I chosen to use this stitch pattern? Why did I use this increase rate here, and a different one there? I talk through the process of how I use what technique where, and I hope by doing so I give other knitters the license to experiment and play with the structure of their knitting.

Which special techniques did you use and why?

The book is divided into three different sections, one of which explores exercises to help you jump-start your creativity, one of which goes through a series of ways to manipulate your fabric to get the end result that you want, and one that talks you through the design process from start to finish. Within this, I concentrated on three big areas of manipulating your fabric: increases and decreases, short rows, and stitch patterns that can change your gauge. I think each of these has so many possibilities for restructuring how we think about knitted fabric, and I really wanted to highlight them. That way, we can see how even these simple techniques that we know and have used for our entire knitting careers can make something entirely new.

Do you have any tips for knitters who are intimidated by certain techniques?

Just go for it! I think one of the best things about knitting is that it can be undone and you can start again. There’s no risk factor—at the end of the day, if what you tried didn’t work, you still have the same materials you started with, PLUS a wealth of new knowledge on what works and what doesn’t. So there’s no risk at all in trying something new, or trying something that you thought would be intimidating. Give it a go!

Why did you chose the dyers and producers that you did?

I am lucky enough to know some amazingly talented yarn dyers and producers, and it was a definite struggle narrowing down the list to just the ones used in the book! (I have my fingers crossed that someday I’ll write another book just so I can use the yarns I didn’t get to use in this one.) We had a very specific color palette that we were working with, and that dictated a bit whose yarn would work for the book. I also wanted a healthy mix of nationalities represented, since the audience for PomPom is so international. And I also chose yarn that I was just plain excited about working with! I love every garment in this book to bits and a good portion of that is that they’re all knit in AMAZING yarn.

Do you have a favorite pattern from the collection and, if so, why is it your favorite?

It changes daily! The Lillemor Shawl, the Pina Cardigan and the Arbus Pullover are always high on the list, but there’s also the Wislawa Cowl, the Carr Shawl, the Yayoi Pullover, the Mailou Mitts… it took me a long time to put together the list of designs for this book because I wanted to make sure none of them felt like throwaways or filler. I wanted each one to be significant in and of itself, and to feel true and authentic to how I feel about fabric and design. And I also wanted them to feel like something I would want to wear and never take off! My only hope is that other people will feel the same. 🙂

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: One More Row Press

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Alice O’Reilly, the dyer behind Backyard Fiberworks, and I have an ongoing text conversation, and a few months ago she shared news with me about an exciting project: she and Manhattan-based designer Kathleen Dames were collaborating on a series of books on knitting around the world, starting with my home of New York.

I’ve admired Kathleen’s elegant designs for a while (her Sotherton pullover has been in my favorites ever since I saw a sample a couple of Rhinebecks ago at the Spirit Trail booth) and I’ve long been a fan of Alice’s yarn. They’ve put together an amazing collection of designers for the book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of I Knit New York when it’s published next year. I recently asked them to tell me more about the project:

How did the idea for I Knit New York come about?

When Kathleen started designing a mini collection for Backyard Fiberworks, she made the mistake of telling Alice that she had always wanted to do a collection inspired by New York City. Alice picked the idea up and spun it around. Then it started to grow. “What if it were bigger? What if there were more designers? What if we did more of them?” So, now we are One More Row Press with plans to visit cities around the globe.

Aside from designs, what will the book include?

We will have profiles of our New York designers, our favorite places in the city to find yarn and notions, and where to knit, plus all the inspiration that New York City has to offer.

Which designers do you have lined up for the book?

Brittney Bailey, Kathleen Dames, Kirsten Kapur, Xandy Peters and Lars Rains, plus an introduction by Kay Gardiner [of Rhinebeck Trunk Show sponsor Mason Dixon Knitting, with all the yarns from Backyard Fiberworks.

Will the designs themselves be inspired by New York City?

Yes! We were inspired by Washington Square, Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge and more.

Which other cities or places will you be including in your series?

Our flights of fancy so far have inspired thoughts of Paris, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and more New York. Of course, we are open to suggestions.

Backyard Fiberworks Sock in Walnut.

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Alice: I don’t remember learning how to knit. I could always knit, just like I could always read.

Kathleen: My maternal grandmother taught me when I was young, but she lived far away, so it wasn’t until 2003 that I relearned with a friend from my publishing days, and we would knit at lunch. From the very beginning I was making changes to patterns to create the knits I wanted, so I was always on track to be a designer (being on the creative side of publishing as an art director helped, too).

What is your most memorable FOs?

Kathleen: An Aran for Frederick from the first issue of Jane Austen Knits (2011) — Inspired by Frederick Wentworth, Anne Elliot’s love interest in Persuasion (my favorite Austen novel), it’s a pullover that tells a story through cable patterns (Ensign’s Braid, Twin Waves, XOXO, Celtic Flourish), and the construction (seamless, in the round, from the bottom up, EZ hybrid yoke) makes it exciting to knit. I call it “knitting Sudoku” because you have to keep all these cables going *while* working the shaping that forms the yoke — it really keeps you on your toes.

Kathleen, where’s your favorite place to knit in New York City?

I can’t just say, “On my couch, with my cat George,” can I? On the subway (when I can get a seat), sitting on a park bench in Morningside or Riverside Parks, at my LYS Knitty City (shout out for their summer knitting lessons in Bryant Park — a fabulous place to knit). But most of the time when I am off my couch, I’m taking in the wonders of New York City because I’m not a native — I’m #tenyearsanewyorker, so I still find everything pretty fabulous: Grand Central Terminal, Patience and Fortitude (the lions guarding the NYPL), the Costume Institute at the Met, the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. And that’s the tip of the iceberg! I try to share my knitting and New York adventures on social media because I still find it all so exciting — the people, the architecture, the history, the geography. New York is a special place, so Alice and I are very excited to share it with I Knit New York.