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.

What to stash this week, whether you’re at MDSW or not

Following on the heels of her luxuriously rustic Vintage No. 1, Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks has introduced Vintage No. 2. It’s a blend of hand-selected fleeces, including 40% Cormo and Merino from a sheep named Marshall in New York’s Hudson Valley and 15% alpaca fleece from Angel. There’s also 35% superfine Shetland and 10% cultivated silk. Anne has hand dyed this DK-weight yarn in five deliciously soft and bright colors. 

Speaking of pettable yarn, Siidegarte’s silk/cotton base looks absolutely divine. Called Siide-Gfroit, which is Swiss German for “enjoyable,” it comes in 10 colors inspired by the Pantone Spring 2017 palette and would be perfect for summer projects.

Calling all literature lovers: the Regency Collection from Pandia’s Jewels features yarn inspired by Jane Austen characters and novels. There are three-skein and four-skein kits, while three of the four colors are available individually. The collection is available to preorder until May 14.

Spencer Hill Naturally Dyed Yarn is welcoming spring with two new bases. Ruth is a Superwash Merino fingering-weight single that takes on her natural dyes beautifully, while Meg is a non-Superwash organic wool in what Barbara calls a “sporty/DK-ish weight.” Also new are naturally-dyed sock blanks.

Still looking for a Mother’s Day gift, or need to leave some hints? Go Knit Yourself’s Gift of Yarn program is the perfect solution. The way it works is you or your loved one buys the package and then the gift recipient chooses the color and fiber. Conveniently, Melanie is also celebrating Small Business Week with 15% off through tonight at midnight with the coupon code SMALLBIZWEEK.

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!

What to stash this week: A Joji mystery

The interknit is abuzz over the latest mystery knit-along from designer Joji Locatelli. Several indie dyers have come up with kits to knit this. Here are just a couple:

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers has curated two beautiful sets, using Joji’s guidance, that include some new yet-to-be-named colorways. Each kit is comprised of five full skeins of Stephanie’s Madhouse fingering yarn, which is 100% Superwash Merino wool. Bonus: the kits are available at a discount!

Denise of Yoshi & Lucy also has some Joji mystery wrap kits available in softer, springy colorways. There are two, including Georgia Peach (pictured) and Under the Sea. They’re available on 100% Superwash Merino or a 75/25 blend of Merino and nylon.

Speaking of spring, Sydebascht from Siidegarte is the pattern to welcome the season. It’s a light and airy shawlette named for dyer Fides’s favorite spring shrub. She of course has kits with the silky Swiss gorgeousness needed for the shawl, including a complimentary mini skein for the contrast border, in luminous spring colors.
 

There are also only a couple skeins of the exclusive Indie self-striping colorway from Berry Colorful Yarnings available! And you have just about a week left to get 10% off Berry Colorful Yarnings, as well as The Woolen Rabbit, on Indie Untangled with the code IU3.

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.

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

What to stash this week: A slice of yarn sale birthday cake

I have been waiting until the perfect time to put a small batch of the exclusive Indie self-striping colorway from Michelle at Berry Colorful Yarnings up for sale, so here it is in honor of Indie Untangled’s third birthday! Through April 30 you can get Indie, along with yarn from The Woolen Rabbit, for 10% off with the code IU3.

Kate and the crew at Dragonfly Fibers has released two new bases that are perfect for warm-weather knitting. Dharma, pictured above, is a light fingering weight made of 50% yak and 50% silk. Just as tempting is Selkie Sport, a soft but hearty combination of 70% BFL and 30% mulberry silk. 

Melanie at Go Knit Yourself has updated her shop with popular colorways, including the speckled Fiona, pictured above. 

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Laura of Fiber Dreams has released Helaine, a light fingering-weight cardigan named for Sir Lancelot’s mum. She happens to go by a few names, so Laura is running a sale on both Helaine and a companion cowl, Clarine.

Gaby of Galiana Creations, who is based in Pennsylvanie, is getting ready for this weekend’s Steel City Fiber Festival in Allentown. She’s prepared with six-skein mini sets, new silky yak yarn, plus lots of speckles and gradients. Because of course.

Lara Smoot’s latest design is Wind Song, a deceptively easy to knit lace shawl that is perfect for spring and summer.