Getting ready for Rhinebeck with Mason-Dixon Knitting

This is the 12th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting have been corresponding about knitting since 2003, so they know a thing or two about Rhinebeck. This year, they will be the hostesses with the mostest in what is being dubbed the MDK Lounge at the fifth annual Indie Untangled Trunk Show.

I recently asked Ann and Kaye about their plans for the big weekend:

Who are you both most looking forward to seeing at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show?

An event like Indie Untangled gives us the opportunity to see our invisible internet friends in actual 3D human form — it’s incredibly good fun. We’ll be in the Indie Untangled Lounge all day — beginning at 1 p.m. rope drop! — so we hope to say Hi to as many folks as we can. Really looking forward to talking yarns and designs with everybody. Pub nights are kind of a branded thing with us. We love a good sit ’n’ knit.

Tell me about some of the most recent dyers that you’ve stocked your shop with.

The MDK Shop, our online yarn emporium, features a bunch of dyers that we admire and respect so much — a number of them are Indie Untangled vendors, and we’re proud to be working with them. Recently, that group includes Julie Asselin of Julie Asselin Yarns, Amy Lee Serradell of Canon Hand Dyes and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks. We met them all at Indie Untangled, so it’s a bit of a reunion to get to see them again. And we have an MDK exclusive, beautiful yarn coming soon from Karin Maag-Tanchak and Jill Draper.

Are there any indie dyers and designers that you think should be on knitters’ radars?

We often say we’re living in a golden age of yarn — it’s hard for us to keep up with the dyers who are emerging on the scene, but what a wonderful problem to have. Naturally-dyed yarns are really making us happy these days. Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep is brilliant at pairing beautiful fibers with her color sense. Marcia McDonald of Lana Plantae gets these incredibly vibrant colors from plant dyes. And Meg Anderson of Nutmeg Yarns is working in the gentlest, softest palette imaginable.

Ann’s Birkin by Caitlin Hunter.

What are you each planning to wear to both Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival?

We hope for a daily high of 57 degrees, because that is the perfect temperature for SWEATA WEATHA. Ann has about a half dozen potential sweaters, ranging from Carbeth by Kate Davies (in case there is a blizzard—that thing is HOT) to Birkin by Caitlin Hunter (fingering weight). Kay is madly knitting away on a vintage Kaffe Fassett kit from 1986 that is going to ROCK THE FESTIVAL one of these days (three years since cast-on! This could be the year!). If the Kaffe is not quite ready for showtime, and even if it is, Kay’s brand-new Savage Heart Cardigan by Amy Christoffers is going to make its maiden voyage this year.

What do you think is going to be the most-seen sweater at Rhinebeck this year?

Our prediction: many, many, many yoke sweaters. When have we ever had such a bumper crop of yoke designs? My guess: Humulus (Isabell Kraemer). More Birkins (Caitlin Hunter) Fades being found all over the place. And Carbeth, our Bang Out a Sweater sweater of 2018, will surely be everywhere if the temps are cool enough. (You could cast one on right now and get it done in time. We aren’t kidding when we say BANG OUT.)

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Ann: Making a giant Parallelogram Scarf by Cecelia Campochiaro from MDK Field Guide No. 5: Sequences. And Thea Colman’s Appleseed Mitts from MDK Field Guide No. 8: Merry Making. And every other pattern from that Field Guide because we’re in the midst of a giant Bunchalong on MDK, where knitters are making holiday gifts in multiples. I’ve got ten weeks and a mighty momentum getting warmed up.

Kay: Currently blocking: three (three!) Stranded Diamonds Hats from MDK Field Guide No. 8. Next up: untold numbers of Slip-Stitch Caps and Appleseed Mitts and Chalice Cowls from Field Guide No. 8. I’m going to win the Bunchalong. (Wait — I’m not eligible to win the Bunchalong. But: bragging rights!)

Stranded Diamonds Hats from MDK Field Guide No. 8.

What are each of your favorite FOs from the last year?

Ann: I love my Birkin yoke sweater by Caitlin Hunter so, so much. I used Backyard Fiberworks Sock in the shades of Jamberry and Patio, aka the loudest colorway I’ve ever made. It makes me feel pretty and witty and bright.

Kay: My most recent FO is always my fave. I love love lurve my Savage Heart Cardigan, and may cast on a second one in Spud & Chloe Sweater, because it’s such a perfect match for the pattern. I also have to give a big thumbs-up to the Parallelogram Scarf from Field Guide No. 5. I’ve made 2, which are really 3, since the second one was a double-wide version. Once you start some soothing sequence knitting with Freia Fibers’ slow-changing Shawl Balls, you can’t really find a good stopping point. Just… keep… knitting…

Viola’s ‘Knits About Winter’

This is the 10th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Ever since I discovered indie-dyed yarn, Viola has been one of the dyers whose yarns I have lusted after. Emily’s colors are lightly speckled, but not the eye-poppingly bright speckles that have become popular in recent years. They’re more like gelato, with subtle swirls that look good enough to eat.

While following Emily’s business over the years, through her work experience with UK-based mill John Arbon Textiles — which created a line of colors inspired by her — to her move to a studio in Mooresburg, Ontario, and development of bases, like her Mooresburg DK, it was my dream to have her vend at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show. So I was thrilled when, earlier this year, Amy of Pom Pom Quarterly asked if Emily could have a booth to sell her yarns, which would be featured in Knits About Winter, a book of Emily’s designs that Pom Pom Press was publishing in the fall.

In advance of the premier of Knits About Winter at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival (you can preorder your copy from the Merritt Bookstore to pick up in their booth at the festival), I spoke to Emily about the book and her work as a dyer.

What inspires the designs in Knits About Winter?

Knits About Winter is entirely inspired by the winter landscape surrounding my home in Mooresburg, Ontario. I moved here at the beginning of a very cold and snowy winter a few years ago and was almost instantly captivated by the quiet magic of winters here. Winter can be cold and harsh but also mysterious and magical. My goal with each of the designs in Knits About Winter was to create patterns that would be warm and comfortable in the cold of winter, all the while remembering the colours, shapes and light of winter.

Did you come up with new colorways for the collection?

Yes! There are four new Viola colourways that are launching at the same time as the book. Each colourway is also inspired by Mooresburg winters past and present. I knew roughly what I wanted each colour to be, but did a lot of visual research and experimenting before I landed on the finished colourways. Visual research is one of the most fun jobs that I have, especially in winter, because it involved frequent snowshoeing adventures with my camera! Each colourway is inspired by a variety of different sights in my winter landscape. I decided to combine elements of texture, light, shape and, of course, colour that stood out to me and suited the palette I wanted to achieve.

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

My answer to this question changes every day, so I suppose they’re all my favourites. My focus was to create designs that would be versatile and serviceable, yet beautiful. I also wanted to create pieces that would be easy to layer and wear together, so I think of these patterns as a knitted outfit rather than individual pieces. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to wear all of them, and am so pleased with their minimalistic beauty and wearability.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

After working in a small knitting store in Toronto, I discovered the wonders of hand-dyed yarns. It didn’t take long before I was experimenting with dyes for myself, and just a little while longer before customers at the shop claimed skeins for themselves. The business grew quickly from there, along with my dyeing and business skills. I learned everything as I went along, through lots of trial and error and lots of making mistakes.

How did you decide on the name Viola?

That was an easy decision actually. Viola is the name of both of my grandmothers! Both women were seriously talented knitters and made my sister and I countless amazing outfits. One grandma is even known to have been able to knit whilst reading a book and snacking (I think apple slices were her favourite).

Do you have a favorite color or colors, and have they changed since you became a dyer?

That’s even trickier than choosing a favourite design from the book! I find that my colour preferences change reliably with the seasons, even more than they change through the years. Since I started dyeing yarn I have developed a more focused way of observing colours around me. Right now (and I think always) I know that I am drawn to complex, layered and hazy colours. I’ll always pause to inspect a colour under frost or water or behind mist. Reflections in puddles or the sky hidden by clouds. A bright colour might catch my eye, but it is usually the murky tones, textures and light around that colour that interest me. I also like to explore the balance between warm and cool in colours, and often prefer shades that land right in the middle.

That said, I do have some favourite starting points, they become more faded and subdued in the winter and a little more colourful towards the summer. All types of pink, copper, peach, beige, gold and olive are my go to shades, and I use these colours more often than you might think in all Viola colourways.

Is there a color that you would love to dye, but that is challenging to create?

This happens to me quite often, actually. The more layers of dye in a colourway, the easier it is to tip too far in one direction or another and become too hazy or simply transform into another colour altogether. Often I discover great new ideas when overdyeing colours that I’m not happy with, and that’s just what happened with a colour called Peat that I’ve been struggling with for months. I’ll get there, because it is a beautiful and moody colour (and I want to knit a sweater with it!) but often the first run of a colour is almost impossible to recreate for me.

Tell me about the decision to work for John Arbon. What were some of the best things you learned while there and how did it inform your dyeing?

About three years after I “accidentally” started Viola I was feeling overwhelmed by how quickly the business had grown. It was a fluke that John and Juliet had a job opening up exactly when I contacted them, and even more of a fluke that they took a chance on a Canadian girl they’d never spoken to before! I think it only took about a month or two from contacting them, to boarding the plane to England.

I loved working for John and Juliet as well as living in beautiful North Devon. I learned more that I could have ever hoped to about fibre, yarn construction and operating loud and dangerous fibre processing machinery. I think the most useful thing that I took away from my time at John Arbon Textiles was John and Juliet’s attitude, creativity and work ethic. I never slacked off at Viola, but would often struggle when a problem arose. Running a small business, this happens at least once a day. Watching John and Juliet navigate similar issues rationally and calmly taught me that there is no ready made solution and I have to figure it all out for myself. I still struggle with complicated problems and decisions, of course, but take comfort in the fact that I am in control of the journey as well as the outcome.

How has having a new studio space changed your business?

I have been working in the new studio space for just over two years. When we renovated the space I was optimistic that it would make my dyeing process more efficient and as of about three months ago, it finally did. My answer to this question two years ago would have been that the new space will allow me to dye more yarn and be more productive. While that would have been fantastic, I think my business gained something even more valuable – resiliency. Countless things have broken, gone wrong, fallen apart, frozen, blown up and been eaten by ants. Just at the moment that one problem was fixed, the next one materialized. Amidst it all, I simply had to keep going and deal with the issues as they arose. The new studio space as taught me that good things take time, and lots of patience. It’s working really well at the moment, but I am still braced for the next potential catastrophe.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Nomadic Knits

Becky (left) and Melissa (right) heading out to find all the local yarn.

This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2018 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

You may know designer Melissa Kemmerer by her adorable sheep-y sweaters. You may not know that she and former yarn shop owner Becky Beagell are creating a new knitting magazine, called Nomadic Knits, that will focus on local regions and feature indie dyers, producers and designers. Their first issue, which will look at the knitting scene in Florida, is set to be released in the coming weeks.

How did the idea for Nomadic Knits come about?

Becky loves to travel, and recently sold her house and closed her yarn shop, The Glitter Ninja, to explore the country in a van with her poodle, Bubba. Melissa loves knitting and has been designing for several years. We wanted to find a project that could incorporate both of these passions while allowing us the freedom to expand the idea and grow with it as we discover new possibilities. There may have been a few cocktails involved as the original idea came to life.

Aside from designs, what will the publication include?

Each issue will feature local dyers or fiber producers, as well as articles about the local knitting scene and some interesting finds. The Florida issue includes information about fibers that are great for knitting in warm weather, a cocktail made with local ingredients, and tips for knitting on the beach.

Shadows in the Rain, a shawl design included in Issue One, using Be So Fine 100% bamboo yarn by Kristin Omdahl.

Why did you decide to focus on Florida for the first issue?

Both of us happened to be spending last winter in south Florida, not far from each other, and we wanted to share all of our knitting fun with the rest of the fiber community. We also wanted to correct the misconception that no one knits in Florida. It’s actually full of amazing dyers and passionate knitters!

Can you reveal what regions other issues will focus on?

Our second issue is focusing on New York, specifically upstate (everything north and east of NYC), where we both grew up. After that, we have plans to explore the southwestern United States. From there… the world!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Melissa: My aunt taught me the basics when I was 16, and after a year of garter stitch scarves, she introduced me to patterns and how to read them.

Becky: After a few failed attempts at learning from family members, I taught myself to knit on a circular loom. Then one day I decided it was time to learn to use sticks and I grabbed a copy of Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller, and I was off and running. Or knitting.

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

We both LOVE shopping for craft supplies, a hobby in itself! Melissa dabbles in cross-stitch, and wants to learn more advanced embroidery and basic sewing. Becky is your standard maker, trying anything she can get her hands on.

Becky’s dog, Bubba, joining in the photo shoot fun, with design Take Me To The Beach, knit in Sprout Sock by The Fiber Seed.

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Melissa: I crocheted an enormous acrylic blanket while I was in college. It took me about four years to complete it, as it was entirely in single-chain, and I only worked on it sporadically. The tension changed from year to year, and one end is loose and wonky, while the other end is so tight, it’s almost bullet-proof. My dad proudly displays the blanket on his couch, and I have never crocheted another thing.

Becky: A few years ago I made what I thought was going to be a trendy, chunky sweater. It became lovingly known as the Wooly Grimace at The Glitter Ninja. Does anyone remember Grimace, the McDonald’s character? Anyway… it was LARGE and purple and ridiculous. It probably weighed about forty pounds. We kept it around for comedic relief and threatened to make grumpy knitters wear it during knit club.

Where are each of your favorite places to knit?

Melissa: In theory, I love to knit outside, soaking up the sunshine by the pool or on the beach, but in reality, I can usually be found knitting in a cozy chair, binge watching Netflix.

Becky: I love knitting in the car. Unfortunately, Bubba can’t drive, so I usually only get to do that while Melissa and I are on yarn tour and she’s at the wheel. Qualified drivers, feel free to submit your applications.

A true yarn diet, plus a review of ‘A Stash of One’s Own’

My Rhinebeck 2017 haul.

I often think of my relationship with yarn as similar to my relationship with food. Obviously this isn’t a huge stretch with the phrases most of us throw around regularly — “yarn diet” and “cold sheeping” — heck, even the term “stash” likens yarn collecting to an addiction.

While I don’t literally need yarn to live, I know I do need it around me to make me happy and keep me sane. But I also know that having so much of it surrounding me, unknit, or going to a place where I’m surrounded by skeins just begging me to buy them, makes me as anxious as being at a buffet and knowing I don’t have room in my stomach (or room in my apartment, enough in my bank account) for everything.

Just like I can be a snob about food, I’m definitely a proud yarn snob. I often recall a passage in the memoir Blood, Bones & Butter in which chef Gabrielle Hamilton writes about an afternoon spent frantically driving around Brooklyn with her husband and two children, starving, but not wanting to stop just anywhere to eat because she had a specific craving that none of the all-you-can-drink brunch places that were open could sate. When I’m looking for yarn for a particular project, I generally don’t head to a big box craft store and just pick up the first skein of a certain color that I see. I’m going to pore over websites and destashes, see if one of my LYSs has something I can’t resist, or wait for a dyer to update her shop with the perfect color that would make this one project exactly what I’m envisioning.

Of course, I’m also going to wait on line for an hour for the apple cider donuts at the Maple Sugar Shack at Rhinebeck, even though I know I can just go to the farmer’s market the next weekend and buy some. It’s not the same.

Yarn on the brain.

When I go away on a trip, I make sure to indulge in the local cuisine. Sure, I can get a basket of bread or a plate of pasta anywhere, but it’s not going to be as memorable as the one I ate while sitting beside a Venice canal on a chilly early spring evening. Sure, those skeins of Portuguese Merino haven’t become a colorwork hat yet, but I enjoy taking them out of the plastic bin from time to time and thinking about how, on my first day in Lisbon, I set off on my own, determined to navigate myself to the city’s best yarn shop, and how I had a wonderful conversation with the woman behind the register about U.S. politics and the allure of knitting around the globe. And, yes, I bought more than one skein, just as I had a second custard tart the next afternoon at Pastéis de Belém, despite one of the women in my tour group commenting on my “hearty appetite,” because when was I going to get the opportunity to have the best pastel de nata again?

To me, Rhinebeck is like Thanksgiving, the one time of year when I feel obligated, like it is my duty as a knitter, to indulge in the special colorways and the sweater quantity of the yarn I see in that amazing sample hanging in a booth. Sure, I may feel like I need to pop a Tums when it comes time to squeeze my newly-acquired lovelies into the four… wait, make that five plastic bins I swore I’d keep my stash relegated to, but that’s what working out/listing yarn in your destash is for.

And it’s definitely hard not to feel guilty about the stash that is overrunning those bins, just like it’s hard not to shame myself when my jeans are not fitting like they did a few years ago, before one too many times giving in to a craving for a plate of sour-cream laden nachos. But, it is because of this that I know yarn is the best indulgence — I can easily re-experience the joy that comes with looking at a beautiful speckled skein or soft hank of Cormo, which gets even better when it’s finally set free to become the hat, cowl, shawl or sweater it was meant to be.

A stash of one’s own

My review of the Clara Parkes-edited A Stash of One’s Own is a little late, because the book came out when I was preparing for the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show, I didn’t get my review copy until the week the book came out and I decided that instead of rushing to devour it so I could write something, I would keep it on my nightstand and nibble on it, savoring each morsel before I went to bed each night.

Before Clara’s appearance at Knitty City in September, I did jump in and read some of it. I was touched by the essay written by Aimée Osbourne-Gille, the talented dyer behind La Bien Aimée, about learning to knit as an American expat in Paris and keeping the spirit of her mother, who passed away shortly after Aimée moved overseas, close via the stash she left behind. And the piece on stashing as a form of feminism by Debbie Stoller made me feel even prouder of one of my main indulgences.

Since I don’t think there is anything to critique here, I would just say if you are a knitter who likes to read, you need this book on your shelf, just like you need that particular skein in your stash.

And I’ll leave you with a one of the quotes from the book that stood out to me, from the incomparable Stephanie Pearl McPhee:

Most of my yarn is for knitting, but some of it has a more complicated destiny as support staff: It is there to make me want to knit. It’s absolutely possible that I need the green Merino to inform how I’ll use the blue alpaca, and that ball of gorgeous variegated yarn? You bet I’ve had it for ten years, and I completely admit that it’s a yarn pet. I have no intention of ever knitting it, but it’s earning the real estate it takes up with how it makes me feel about knitting. It is the textile artist’s equivalent of a painting hung on the wall. It’s there to be beautiful and to help me dream of possibility.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting

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

Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner’s Mason Dixon Knitting was one of the first knitting blogs I heard about when I first fell down this rabbit hole several years ago. I’ve been excited to see what started out as a public correspondence between two knitting friends from different parts of the East Coast — before they even met IRL! — turn into a booming business, with daily articles from some of our industry’s stars, a shop full of patterns and exclusive yarns and goodies and an upcoming retreat in Tennessee (which sadly sold out before I could commit to going).

I’ve recently been corresponding with the pair via email and asked them to expand on how their mini knitting empire has evolved:

Tell me how Mason-Dixon Knitting got started. How did you come up with the idea of an ongoing correspondence and how has your website evolved?

We started a blog in 2003, just for kicks. We had been emailing each other constantly up until that point, so it seemed natural to just continue in that style.

Over the years, we developed a vision for a larger website for knitters, one that would be a wide-ranging online magazine and beautiful shop. Our new site launched last October, after a year of development. It has been a huge year for us, and we are so glad to see our idea become reality.

The URL is still MasonDixonKnitting.com, but the richness of content and offerings is completely different from the old blog. We feature the brightest designers, great writers, supersmart teachers, and our Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide series of pattern books.

We publish new stories every single day, so our readers start their day with a peek at something beautiful, profound, funny, or surprising. We’ve become a daily habit for thousands of knitters, and we treasure that connection.

The most exciting component of the new site is our online shop that features the most exquisite yarns we can find. We add new yarns constantly.

That’s why we are such supporters of Indie Untangled–we want to celebrate independent yarnmakers any way that we can–by telling their stories, collaborating with them to create special editions, and teaching knitters why these yarns are so important.

What would you say are the most important traits that each of you bring to your business?

Curiosity and enthusiasm are continuously bubbling up, and we think that’s the core of Mason-Dixon Knitting.

We never get tired of knitting. No matter how much knitting we do for MDK, or for our series of books (Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guides), we remain extremely susceptible to casting on the next great thing we see, just for fun. We are endlessly curious about what people in the knitting community are doing, whether they’re designing or making yarn or tending sheep. Important fact in all this: we both type very fast.

Was it strange to start such a partnership without meeting each other (before Ravelry made that kind of thing slightly more “normal” for knitters)?

Starting a blog was such a lark, and so casual, that it didn’t seem like a big deal. At one point Kay got it in her head that this “Ann from Nashville” might actually be the author Ann Patchett (who lives in Nashville).

When we got a book deal in 2004, we made haste to meet in person!

Mason Dixon Knitting Field Guides.

How did each of you get into designing?

We love and respect the work of knitwear designers so much and have only rarely designed sweaters ourselves. There is so much expertise and nuance in a sweater design!

But early on, we wanted to knit open-ended projects like blankets, or fun little palate cleansers like dishcloths or other home items. When we went looking for patterns for those items, we didn’t see exactly what we had in mind, so we invented our own patterns. Kay still occasionally gets a blanket idea stuck in her brain and can’t rest until she knits it and writes it up. It’s a fun puzzle! And even more fun when knitters take an idea we’ve had and run with it. We love going to visit our patterns on Ravelry and seeing what knitters have done with them.

How did you come up with the idea for your Knitting Getaway next June?

In 2015, we went together to Shakerag Workshops, an annual two-week craft workshop in Sewanee, Tennessee, which is a wonderful place not far from Nashville. The entire time, we kept thinking, “We have to make this happen for knitters!” It’s very special to spend time in the company of other knitters, relaxing, learning, knitting, walking, swimming, and then to have delicious meals appear all by themselves: that’s heaven!

The only bummer is that we have such limited space. Fingers crossed that everyone will behave and we can host another Knitting Getaway.

Ann Weaver’s Sommerfeld Shawl.

When and how did you each learn to knit?

Kay learned as a Camp Fire Girl, made one thing (acrylic slippers!) and didn’t think about knitting again until she was in her thirties, when she picked up the needles and remembered how to knit. Ann was starting out on her career in book publishing, and took a night class in knitting. We both got the bug real bad from the start. In the early 2000s, we each found our way to the Rowan website’s chat board, where we met so many amazing knitters and characters, and each other.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Kay: It’s not an FO yet, but I’m nearing the finish line on a giant Kaffe Fassett intarsia cardigan that I’m making from a vintage 1980s kit. It is by far the most difficult knitting I’ve attempted. Just weaving in the ends is going to merit a Lifetime Achievement Award. One of Ann’s most memorable projects is a pullover she made out of at least eight different cream-colored yarns that she had collected, in her own pattern of randomly twisting cables. It shouldn’t work at all, but it’s beautiful!

What are you most excited to check out at the Indie Untangled trunk show?

OK, here’s a confession: when we go to Indie Untangled, we are shopping for ourselves, but also for the MDK Shop. We can think of nothing more exciting to offer our readers than the beautiful yarns that hand-dyers are making these days. It’s a golden age of yarn, and we feel very lucky that we get to travel to Rhinebeck and see so many rare yarns in person.

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What to stash this week: Reading yarn

Lola of Third Vault Yarns is encouraging knitting and reading with her new yarn club. A subscription to the sci-fi and fantasy-themed Vaulter’s Book Club comes with themed yarn and a specially designed pattern, along with a UK sweet treat. There will also be book discussion on Ravelry or in The Vault Facebook group. The first edition of the club is inspired by the urban fantasy I Bring the Fire series by C. Gockel.

Elakala, Mindy Wilkes’ new colorwork cowl, is inspired by the Elakala Falls, part of the Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. The two swirling motifs are knit in two colors of fingering weight yarn.

Start your fall knitting with a new hand-dyed palette of fall colors from Bijou Basin Ranch called Autumn Spices. The seven semisolid and two variegated colorways are dyed on BBR’s new Himalayan Summit, a 50/50 blend of yak and Merino.

More a binge watcher than a reader? Melanie of Baad Mom Yarns has launched a yarn club inspired by the TV show Reign.

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.

What to stash this week: Game of Color

If you’re crazy about medieval literature (no, I don’t mean a certain yet-to-be-finished-before-the-TV-show-spoils-everything series of books) then you must order Karen of KarenDawn Designs/Round Table Yarns’ new book, A Parliament of Cowls. Based on Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, the book’s eight cowls represent various birds who are debating which suitor the female eagle should choose as her mate.

While I have Rhinebeck on the brain, remember that it’s still summer (though seeing feels like 99 on Weather.com did the trick for me). The latest installment of the Bijou Basin Ranch Master Color Series features a palette of hues inspired by refreshing warm-weather treats in the Lhasa Wilderness yak/bamboo blend. There are two kits featuring patterns for breezy summer garments. 

Color Craze Yarn & Fiber has expanded from fiber to yarn, with braids of all colors along with fingering-weight sock 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!