As much as I’ve embraced the digital world, there is definitely still part of me that needs physical books in my life. I know it’s cliché, but flipping through the pages, taking in printed photographs and taking pride in a colorful stack of spines on your bookshelf or nightstand… It’s actually kind of similar to having a yarn stash. I probably won’t knit every single pattern in every book I own, but I appreciate knowing that they’re there, to take me on a journey when I might need it most.
I’ve come across many books over the past few years, and while I don’t think I can do them all justice with a “proper” book review, I thought it would be helpful to provide a guide to some of the ones that have found a special place on my IKEA Kallax. And if you happen to find the perfect holiday gift, even better! (This posts contains affiliate links, meaning a small percentage of your purchase may benefit Indie Untangled.)
I may be biased about this book because I’m offering it in the Indie Untangled shop, but the reason I decided to carry this book is why I’d recommend it. I’ve admired the designs of Abbye and Selena, the team that makes up Wool & Pine, since I first saw the Sorrel sweater pop up on my Instagram feed. Aside from being a bound collection of the pair’s patterns and gorgeous photographs, the book provides access to video tutorials with instructions and tips for each design. I know I’m going to be referring to the Sorrel videos after I start my sweater.
The book is also bound in a way that it stays open to the page you need very easily. I certainly love the look of matte or hardcover books with thick spines, however, I find that if I want to knit from them I need to photocopy the pages or download the PDF (this book also comes with access to the PDF patterns if you prefer to knit from one).
I wasn’t familiar with Loretta Napoleoni until earlier this year, when her assistant contacted me about this new book. Napoleoni is a journalist who has covered the financing of terrorism — her first book, Terror Inc: Tracing the Money Behind Global Terrorism, is a bestseller that has been translated into 12 languages. The topic of knitting is decidedly softer, but Loretta tackles it with a well-researched expertise, weaving together the history of our craft with her personal experiences.
The book does include 10 patterns at the end, including a version of the Pussy Hat called the Pussy Power Hat. While the patterns seem a bit like an afterthought, and I think Loretta’s writing is strong enough to stand on its own, it is nice that they have connections to passages in the book, and the simple illustrations are quite lovely.
I was already a fan of Hannah Thiessen’s first book, Slow Knitting, which was everything I could ever want in a knitting book: stories about the creators of artisanal yarns that I’ve been fortunate to work with, including Anne Hanson, Jill Draper, Julie Asselin and mYak, and beautiful patterns to tie these stories together. Seasonal Slow Knitting is just what it sounds like, breaking up our mindful craft into seasons.
Whereas Slow Knitting brought together patterns from a variety of designers, Hannah designed all 10 patterns in this book, which was released in October, so the collection feels much more cohesive and is a beautiful showcase for the rustic yarns.
No knitter’s bookshelf is complete without the work of “yarn whisperer” Clara Parkes. In this book, released last fall, Clara recounts her Great White Bale project, in which she crowdsourced the transformation of a 676-pound bale of fleece into skeins that found their way into the hands of knitters. As you may know if you read my newsletter, I’m a sucker for a road trip, especially one that includes yarn, and Clara is an expert guide, taking us along with her to Catskills Merino in New York to the Saco River Dyehouse in Maine and many places in between, all in the pursuit of yarn.
I knew that I needed this book on my shelf ever since I heard that it was being published by Pom Pom Press. Emily Foden of Viola was one of the first indie dyers that I fell for as a new yarn collector and the 12 patterns in this book show them off beautifully. I haven’t knit any of them yet, however I scored two skeins of her Shadow DK (a blend of Polwarth, Wensleydale and Zwartbles) in a shop update over the summer and realized it’s the perfect match for her Skyhill hat.
The book is filled with beautifully styled and composed shots of knitwear against the snowy backdrop of Emily’s home in Ontario, Canada, though for me it is definitely meant for admiring and not knitting from. Fortunately, the book comes with a code to download a PDF version via Ravelry.
Through my text thread with Nina Mayer Ritchie — her husband, Eric, was the photographer for the Great Basin National Park photo that Robin picked, but they both take the stunning photos in her feed — I learned that there was a deeper connection to the fiber arts — and a fascinating story that the reporter in me had to tell.
Nina has been taking Navajo weaving lessons from Emily Malone of the Spider Rock Girls, a family that has been weaving rugs for four generations. Emily’s mother, Rose Yazzie, owns a Hogan, a traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, and has a flock of sheep that provides the wool for their pieces, which they sell (I’m planning to post an interview with Emily as well). Above is an in-progress rug that Nina is weaving inspired by a photo she took of sunset through the “Window” at Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Nina and Eric also have an impressive track record in the national parks, having visited 48 out of 62, some with their two young children. Both Nina and Eric are MedsPeds physicians (dual board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics), and they have been working over the last several months in Chinle, Arizona, the geographic center of the Navajo Nation, which for a period of time had the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Eric is the chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital there and Nina works with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health as a public health doctor.
I spoke with Nina about learning Navajo weaving, her family’s parks visits and about the public health response to the coronavirus in the Navajo Nation. In addition to supporting the parks, 10% from the sales of Robin’s colorway will be donated to the NDN Collective COVID-19 Response Project.
Emily Malone of the Spinder Rock Girls uses raw fleece for a weaving project.
Tell me about your weaving lessons. Have you done any other fiber crafts (knitting, crochet or spinning)?
I started taking weaving lessons from a local weaver in March 2018. She is part of a family of weavers called the Spider Rock Girls. Her mother weaves and taught her, and then she taught her daughters. They live near Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly. According to Navajo teachings, Spider Woman lives atop Spider Rock and bestowed the gift of weaving to the Navajo. The Spider Rock Girls keep their own herd of sheep and sheer them to spin the wool into yarn for weaving.
This weaver has been offering weaving lessons to a small group of us over the last few years. She made looms for all of us, and we would typically meet one to two times per month to weave and learn together. Now with COVID, that has been put on hold, but we each have our own loom at home and weave individually. I learned how to crochet with my Yiayia (grandmother) when I was a little girl, but weaving in the traditional Navajo way with a loom is completely different!
Emily spinning yarn from her sheep before weaving.
It sounds like you and Eric are longtime hikers! When did you start visiting national parks?
We actually didn’t start “seriously” hiking until our honeymoon to Kauai in June 2008. After that, we immediately moved to Boston to start our residency training and found that during our off-time – without having access to a car – we would walk/hike the entire Boston area pretty regularly… roughly 11-12 miles on an average weekend day.
The first national park we visited together was the Grand Canyon, where we hiked North Rim to South Rim with my father during the last week of June 2009. It was the first time we had ever visited the Southwest, during record high temps, and we were smitten. It was one of the most formative experiences of our lives and we truly became enchanted with this part of the country. After that, we kept seeking ways to return to the Southwest to visit more national parks and to complete clinical rotations with the Indian Health Service.
We had always felt strongly about providing medical care to underserved populations and the Indian Health Service seemed like the best fit for us. As we visited more and more national parks, both out West and back East, we realized that our time spent in the parks was incredibly restorative and balancing especially while juxtaposed to our hectic schedules as medical doctors. We have visited 48 out of 62 national parks so far and it is our bucket list to visit them all together. As we started having children, our little boys visited the Grand Canyon as their first national park when they were each 2 weeks old. They have visited over 25 national parks each.
The Ritchies at Arches National Park in Utah.
Do you have a favorite national park?
This is the toughest question for us, and we get asked this all the time! I think we love different national parks for different reasons, and each could be considered a favorite in their own way. We are also very lucky to live close to so many of them, and we get to revisit these ones (roughly 15 of them) over and over again. Before spikes in visitation over recent years, I think we would easily say that Zion, Yosemite and Glacier were our top three, as these parks truly fill you with awe and wonder when you are immersed in them. However, as those parks have become more and more crowded, even during the “off season,” we have a new appreciation for the parks that are either off the beaten path or have enough space to really spread out. These include Death Valley and Big Bend.
James, the couple’s youngest son, in front of a Bristlecone Pine in Great Basin National Park.
What’s the story behind your photo of the tree at Great Basin?
This photo is from an incredible camping trip we took a few years ago to celebrate our youngest son’s first birthday… with the oldest living things on the planet: Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park! This was his 17th national park visited during his first 12 months of life.
We had the coolest campsite up on Wheeler Peak, and spent an entire afternoon hiking around the impressive Bristlecone Pines, scouting out a favorable one to photograph later that night… My husband then hiked back out over a mile in the dark (while I stayed back, cozy with the kiddos in our camper) to reach this awesome tree and photograph it with the night sky. Such a fun memory!
How did you and Eric begin working for Native American healthcare organizations?
During our first year of residency, we attended a Grand Rounds held by two other married physicians that had completed our same residency program a few years prior. They had been working with the Indian Health Service in the middle of the Navajo Nation and everything they shared with us about their experiences truly spoke to us. We arranged to have two clinical rotations with the IHS, one in 2009 and the other in 2010, and fell in love with the communities we served. We decided to join the IHS in Chinle, AZ (the geographic center of the Navajo Nation) after completing our residencies in 2012 and have been here ever since. I transitioned into public health in 2014 with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and Eric is still with the IHS.
Can you talk about how the COVID-19 crisis has hit the Navajo Nation and Native Americans particularly hard and what kind of work have you and your colleagues been doing to address this?
As many have probably seen in the news, the Navajo Nation had the highest rate of cases per capita in the country for a period of time. Contributing factors include remote and impoverished living conditions (difficulty accessing resources, such as medical care, grocery stores, etc.), lack of running water and electricity, multigenerational/overcrowded households where the virus can easily spread throughout the family, higher incidences of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and lung disease, limited access to broadband/internet, as well as difficulties with “staying home” when folks have to travel long distances to obtain supplies. With strict and comprehensive public health measures, such as universal masking, social distancing, limiting capacity in essential businesses, and curfews, the Navajo Nation decreased their case counts and have been flattening the curve. The mortality rate among Navajo is still the highest of any ethnic/racial group. Through our work, and collaborations with other philanthropic groups, we have been integrally involved in the public health responses here: increasing testing, increasing hospital capacity, increasing resources and securing PPE, developing and distributing educational materials, expanding contact tracing, supporting communities through delivery of goods and water to households, etc.
Oxbow Bend at Grant Teton National Park in Wyoming.
How has the pandemic impacted your travels? As physicians, do you have any advice for people looking to safely explore the country?
The biggest way the pandemic impacted our travels is that it prevented us from taking previously scheduled time off. With Navajo Nation weekend curfews and the increased workload, we needed to stay put and work. No more weekend camping trips for around three months straight, which is very atypical for us (we usually camp almost every weekend). As things have slowly improved on the Navajo Nation, we have been able to venture out a little more, but we are sticking to dispersed/boondock camping in more remote areas to remain physically distanced from others. We are now discovering some hidden gems.
I think the advice we would offer folks looking to safely travel during pandemic times is to think about their own risk tolerance and how that (and their actions) may affect others. Getting through this is going to take a “team” effort and we all need to do our part.
Outdoor spaces are generally the safest option for recreating, and getting there by personal vehicle is preferred. Identifying places that are not crowded is ideal.
I know we all love to visit our iconic national parks but these spaces are at risk of being “loved to death,” especially during these challenging times when everyone is looking to get outdoors and away from others. It’s getting harder to achieve this as our national parks get more and more congested. I would encourage travelers to look for hidden gems closer to home in other public lands that don’t normally get as much attention as our national parks.
Back in March, I decided back to launch the Indie Untangled Super Special KAL so we’d have some fun knitting incentives. Not that we really need prizes, let alone a pandemic, to inspire our crafting mojo, but it is nice to have deadlines.
Over three months, there were 70 total entries, including 16 in the sock category and 15 in the sweater category (but only one in the new bralette category, which surprised me!). Last week, I selected 15 winners in eight categories via random number generator. Here are the winning FOs (please note that the links go to Ravelry).
I’ve been taking immense comfort in my knitting these last few weeks, treating myself to afternoons and evenings on the sofa, accompanied by special snacks. It’s the perfect time to share that knitting, so I decided to launch a super special KAL on April 1. It also happens to coincide with the sixth birthday of Indie Untangled (where does the time go?)!
The entry form with all the rules and a list of the amazing prizes can be found here.
There’s also a Ravelry thread where you can share what you’re working on!
Yarn Pirate Booty from Treasure Goddess Yarn: Three skeins of Treasured DK Luxe yarn, a cotton mermaid tote bag, a holographic pirate sheep vinyl sticker/decal, a white pirate sheep enamel pin and an orange pirate sheep keychain
The 2019 Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show seems like it was ages ago, and also like it was just yesterday. For the second time, we organized a massive KAL with eight separate categories, which brought in more than 200 entries! I thought it was appropriate to share the randomly-selected winners as part of a Year In Review post. Hopefully some of these FOs will inspire your 2020 projects.
When it comes time to decide on my next project, I sometimes tend to want to save the special yarn, such as the Indie Untangled exclusive colorways that I’ve had dyers create for the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, the Knitting Our National Parks project or the Where We Knit yarn club.
One of my new year’s resolutions has been to put that yarn to use. To inspire you to do the same, here’s a look back and knitters who put some Indie Untangled exclusives to use for projects.
Pictured above is a sample of Ritual Shawl by Marceline Smith that Susan/knit4u created with the Onyx Fiber Arts IU exclusive Cider Donut Dipped In Coffee (along with Adria’s Coffee Grounds and First Cup, which are available on her website). There are only a dozen or so skeins of DK left in the shop, and it’s a fast knit to have in time for winter.
Continuing an Indie Untangled holiday tradition, I am thanking those of you who invite me into your inboxes each week with a special holiday giveaway.
For the 2019 Newsletters to Santa and Hanukah Harry giveaway, I’ve gathered together some amazing prizes from several artisans, some who were new to the Indie Untangled community this year and others who are favorites, and doing a string of giveaways (eight plus one) starting this Tuesday and running through Christmas Day. There’s also a new twist!
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 very special package of yarn and knitting stocking stuffers that I will ship out to the winner.
On Friday, December 20, I will select five winners from a list of people who open the newsletter between the time it’s sent out to 5 p.m. Eastern time that day. Those people will win a swag bag from this year’s Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show.
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.
On behalf of the team organizing Indie Untangled, I want to address my actions related to compensation of special guests at my events.
I owe Denise Bayron an apology for not offering to provide monetary compensation for her time at a for-profit event when I first asked her to appear. It was wrong to assume that publicity or exposure was sufficient compensation in this instance, and to make it her responsibility to ask to be paid. I know the historical baggage that is attached to asking women, especially BIPOC women, to do work in exchange for less than they deserve.
Additionally, in my sincere effort to make sure Indie Untangled was an inclusive event, I recognize that specifically asking a person of color to do something that benefits my business can look like tokenism. That was not my intent.
Of course, one of the things I have learned over the past several months is that intent does not cancel out the impact of one’s actions. It is obvious to me now that I have not fully absorbed this idea, and have a lot of work to do to truly understand how this kind of situation can come from good intentions.
I also want to take responsibility for the initial response when the details of the compensation discussion were made public. The response that we thought would “set the record straight” only led to more miscommunication and bad feelings.
On a related note, I need to apologize to Stephen West for making the details of his compensation public, without his consent.
And, finally, I want to apologize publicly to the vendors who entrusted me with their reputations and livelihoods. We all know that running a business isn’t easy in the best of circumstances, but that doesn’t negate the hurt that my actions have caused.
This situation has given me a greater insight into the discussions that have been occurring in our industry, and I will be using this experience to inform the guidelines and standards I will be setting for future events.
I sincerely hope that what happened doesn’t tarnish what has always been an enjoyable weekend.
I don’t know about you, but my project bag stash is starting to rival my yarn stash.
OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I definitely have more bags than I have WIPs at a given time (projects in my queue is another story. There are not enough bags in the world for those).
Each of my bags has a specific purpose and advantage, and so I thought I’d round up some of my latest project bag “obsessories,” plus a favorite from one of my friends.
For stowing in a large purse
My go-to travel packing includes a backpack with my water bottle and a knitting project or two. This Sapling bag from Shannon of New Hampshire-based Woodsy and Wild is roomy enough for a large shawl and can easily fit inside my 16-liter Fjallraven Kanken backpack, with plenty of room to spare.
For sweaters and travel
I’ve used this Edin bag from Anette of Netherlands-based Pink Hazel — which I snagged at this year’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival — as a purse when I want to tote my sweater WIPs around. Aside from the fashion-forward fabrics and leather straps, I love that it has a zippered pocket inside for storing valuables.
While I’m a huge fan of their everyday bags, Arounna of Toronto-based Bookhou has become known for her waxed canvas project bags, including their large drawstring Project Tote in the gorgeous plummy red above that I got for my birthday last year. It’s also a great size for sweaters.
For not just knitting
I fell for this Twig & Horn canvas crossbody tote while at The Knotty Lamb in Oregon, but I have to admit I haven’t used it for knitting yet. It was the perfect bag for attending a conference for my day job, holding my laptop inside, plus my phone, digital recorder, business cards, notebook and pens in the four roomy outer pockets. And I definitely appreciate the zippered inner pocket for my wallet and keys. The zippered pocket also has holes for separating your yarn in colorwork projects but I haven’t used it for that purpose — yet.
For toting on your back
At The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers Montana Mountain Retreat last month, I finally caved and treated myself to a Knitter’s Backpack from Ritual Dyes. The salmon-hued canvas definitely swayed me. While I wouldn’t use it as a purse because of the lack of a zipper or a pocket (though Rachel’s Moon Pouch is nice for storing things you need easy access to) I like that the handles can be configured to use as a backpack or a tote and that it stands up perfectly straight to sit next to me and feed me my yarn. I take this along with another purse, like my beloved Bookhou mini bag.
My friend Thao of Nerd Bird Makery loves her backpack from Norway-based Plystre. It’s roomy, has comfortable leather straps lined with webbed fabric and comes in a variety of fun colors — if you can snag one.
I’ve loved seeing all the #todaysknitoutfit posts on Instagram, but as a work-from-home solopreneur, I’ve joked that participating would entail taking selfies in a T-shirt and sweats wearing a shawl. Which is not to say that I don’t wear the heck out of my hand knits, and that it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea to wear stylish clothes around the house, but… I really like my sweatpants and T-shirt work uniform, and prefer saving my more fashionable choices for a day other than one when the only person I see is my USPS carrier.
So, instead, I’ve decided to put together some outfits from one of my latest StitchFix scores, an adorable green floral dress from their house brand Market & Spruce and a blush-colored stretch linen moto jacket from Level 99 — two items I never would have chosen on my own, but that somehow seem to match many things I’ve knit. Funny how that works. (Disclosure: the above link is an affiliate link, but you get a $25 credit if you use it to sign up for StitchFix, a personal styling service; learn more about it here.)
Above is the outfit I wore for Andrea Untangled. I’m in love with the Shift cowl I knit up last year and it’s the perfect accessory for the transition into spring, as it provides just enough warmth for those days when it’s not quite T-shirt weather but not bitterly cold.
My Nangou by Melanie Berg, knit in Duck Duck Wool 80/20 Merino Silk Fingering, is one of my most treasured FOs. I had been lusting after this colorway from Sandra for ages and finally scored it at a trunk show. The moody gray with a hint of purple and green plays well with a lot of different outfits.
Another more recent favorite FO is Isabell Kraemer’s Akemi. This large shawl, which used three skeins of Kokon Yarn Fingering Weight Merino (there is still one more kit left in the Indie Untangled shop!) is a bit matchy with the jacket, but could also be a nice stand-in for when I don’t quite need the jacket but want to keep the chill off my neck and shoulders.
I look forward to sharing more ideas with you, and wearing these outfits… out. Now to make more plans outside my apartment. 😉