What to stash this week: Yarny holidays

Hanukkah collage with orange, purple, pink and gray yarn.

The dyers collaborating with me on this Indie Untangled Eight Nights of Hanukkah Kit all have their own beautiful aesthetics: Spencer and Reggie of The Fiberists create vibrant semisolids, Julia of Pandia’s Jewels has a talent for subtle speckles and Raya of Blissful Knits is known for her colorful mini skeins. While their full skeins/mini sets for the kit will be a surprise, here is an example of their talents.

Preorders are open only through the end of the day today. I hope you celebrate with us!

Pink, green and blue yarn.

Sue of Invictus Yarns is also getting ready for the holidays (it’s not too early!) and has been adding to her collection of holiday colorways, restocked some that had sold out and have added gift cards to the shop.

A beige oversized cardigan

Issue 4 of the NF Magazine comes out today and is filled with fall warmth. It includes four knitting patterns and three cold-weather recipes.

A pink scarf that looks like leaves.

Andi Smith’s newest book for Cooperative Press, called Scarves Two Ways, will make you a scarf knitter again. The book, released at Rhinebeck, includes a dozen new scarf designs using a variety of techniques. The patterns are both charted and fully written out, hence there are two ways you can create them. The motifs from scarf to scarf also riff off each other. You can save $6.95 through the end of 2019 by using the code STARGAZER on Ravelry.

Post-Rhinebeck Untangling: ‘I Knit San Francisco’

The cover of I Knit San Francisco

This is the 15th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Designer Kathleen Dames and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks have taken us to New York and Paris through their Knit Like A Local series of bookazines from One More Row Press. Recently, they launched I Knit San Francisco, a fiber journey through the Bay Area, which is available to preorder. Here’s more about their latest trip.

How did you decide to include San Francisco for your latest book?

We started talking about San Francisco after attending Stitches West a couple of years ago. There is a vibrant knitting culture in Northern California, lots of great yarn shops, local designers and dyers, and, as we all know, the weather in San Francisco is such that having something woolly on hand is always a good idea. Plus, we both have connections to the area: Alice’s grandparents lived south of San Francisco (and her brother lives in the city now), while Kathleen worked for two different publishers, one in Sebastopol and the other in Pacific Grove, so she has spent working time in the area, in addition to more touristy visits.

Which designers do you have lined up for I Knit San Francisco?

We are thrilled to have Vilasinee Bunnag (founder of The Loome) in collaboration with Kathleen, Faina Goberstein, Juliana Lustenader, Audry Nicklin, Sonya Philip (100 Acts of Sewing), Yvonne Poon (Gamer Babe Knits), Sloane Rosenthal (co-founder of brand new Hudson + West yarn company with Meghan Babin), Heatherly Walker (the Yarn Yenta), Julie Weisenberger (founder of Cocoknits), and Kelly White, plus yarns from Bay Street Yarns, The Dye Project, Hudson + West Co., Little Skein in the Big Wool with help from Seismic Yarns, Love Fest Fibers, Sincere Sheep, Speckled Finch Studios, Twirl Yarn, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. Getting to know the designers and dyers is the best part of this job.

A yellow knit rug.

What are each of your favorite designs from the book?

We love them all (of course)! Seriously, every book we publish is a whole new wardrobe we want to knit.

So far Julie’s rug, Half-moon, made with Love Fest Fibers crazy cool and crazy big yarn, and Sloane’s Ferry Building pullover in WELD from brand new yarn company, Hudson + West Co. (Sloane’s bicoastal partnership with Meghan Babin, former editor of Interweave Knits) have been most popular on our Instagram feed.

Aside from designs, what will the book include?

We interview each designer, so you will learn a little about their design journey and, of course, their favorite local things, particularly places to go that you might not know about and restaurants to try. Then, we take you on our three-day Yarn Crawl from Santa Rosa up in Sonoma County all the way down through Napa County to the East Bay and San Francisco itself down through Santa Cruz to Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay. We definitely recommend taking more than three days, if you want to do the whole tour – we had to be ruthlessly efficient in our research trip due to time constraints, but our doing so means you can take your time and enjoy everything a little more thoroughly.

Woman models a gray sweater on a beach.

What surprising things did you learn about San Francisco while doing your research?

That walking around is no joke! Coming from the east and being used to walking everywhere (New York City and Washington, D.C., for us are walking and subway-riding cities), the hills of San Francisco are deceptive. What seems like a doable walk is an intense workout. We also were surprised/not surprised to notice the quality of the light. As intensely visual people, we were both struck by that West Coast golden light, and we think Alli did a great job of capturing it in our photos.

There has been an explosion of local “bookazines,” such as the By Hand serial and Nomadic Knits. How would you say One More Row Press is different?

We start with the question “Where shall we (as knitting people) go next?” Then we work hard to find local designers, some new and others more established, who design across many categories and for varying skill levels, and then we collaborate with them to find yarn partners that make each project sing.

Beyond the interviews and yarn crawls, we also seek out local photographers and models who bring the designs to life on location. We focus on curating a collection that is rooted in place with additional information that allows you to go to that place and make your own personal connections (or be an armchair travel knitter).

Woman models a white sweater with pom poms.

What other cities or places are next for your series?

That is the question we are asked AND that we ask everyone we meet! Our “To Visit” list includes: Chicago (where Kathleen grew up), Kyoto (or Tokyo), London, Detroit (people keep mentioning it, and there are a lot of yarn stores in the area, so we are totally intrigued), and Los Angeles. We have also talked about Italy, Cuba, Australia, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, though we have been focused on individual cities thus far.

It’s a matter of finding the right people (designers, dyers, LYSes) and making the timing work for everyone (including us with our own jobs and families to manage). We are also in talks to do a crochet book with a handful of designers using their favorite buildings as inspiration for elegant, wearable crochet garments and accessories.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Pom Pom Quarterly’s Sea Change issue

An African American woman models a blue and sand textured wrap on the cover of Pom Pom Quarterly

The cover features Seelig by Katrin Schubert, modeled by Arrish Wol. All photos by Shingi Rice, with make-up by Eleanor Hammond.

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Pom Pom Quarterly‘s autumn issue focuses on the conversations about racism and white supremacy in the fiber industry that have been taking place since January. Called “Sea Change,” it includes sand- and surf-inspired garments by designers and makers, including some who were brought to editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes’ attention due to the movement for more diversity and inclusion in the knitting community.

Over its seven-year history, Pom Pom has featured models of diverse races and ages, and has plans to continue working with a larger range of designers. I asked Lydia how she and Meghan tackled this topic in the issue, which was released August 30, and how they plan to continue to address inclusivity going forward.

How did you decide on the sea as a metaphor for the ongoing discussion about diversity and white supremacy in the fiber industry?

We had been thinking about a sea-themed issue for a while, as it’s almost an obsession for me; I grew up on the Welsh coast and will always go for a salty dip if I can. The sea is also part of Meghan’s father’s background. He is from the tiny seaside state of Goa in India, and that heritage really resonated for Meghan at this time. I guess the sea has always been a source of solace and inspiration, but we hadn’t quite found the right time to do the issue. When we were thinking about putting together this autumn we realised it was the perfect time for the sea theme. We think that the outward-looking feeling that the shore gives, along with the place for reflection it provides is a great way to embody the expansive feeling of trying to create a genuinely inclusive and welcoming space. The sea is always changing, and we hope to carry on growing and changing too.

How was your approach to this issue of the magazine different than previous ones?

We had been spending a lot of time following and engaging with the racism, diversity, and inclusion conversations that have been more present online in the knitting world and felt that we had to start putting what we were learning into practice. We want to make Pom Pom a good option for people who feel that they aren’t represented in the knitting world at the moment. For this issue we put more time into making sure our line-up of contributors and collaborators was more diverse in various ways, and we hope that through diversity will come inclusion and we know Pom Pom will only be richer for it.

Our approach has also been different in terms of layout; we added pages to the magazine so that we could increase the font size – something we have wanted to do for a long time and finally have been able to because we have changed the way we ship the magazines (yay logistics!). We also added sizes to make our sizing more inclusive. We owe so much to the BIPOC and other marginalised voices who have been bringing to our attention what needs to change to make publications accessible and inclusive and we couldn’t be more grateful that they have done such difficult and dangerous work to make our world a better place. They are the heroes in this story.

A woman models a mosaic sand and blue sweater

Trove by Emma Ducher, modeled by Gina Patch.

What does diversity and inclusion look like for Pom Pom?

Diversity and inclusion looks like the magazine being accessible, welcoming to, and representative of anyone who wants to be part of our community. We want to work with and amplify the voices of people whose perspectives and experiences aren’t usually included in and reflected by the media.

Who has most inspired the Pom Pom team as you’ve taken on anti-racism work?

The team behind Unfinished Object have been particularly inspirational. Without those voices, we don’t think the movement would have burst forth in January in the way that it did. We are all making progress, and continuing to make progress now thanks to their work.

A sand colored cabled sweater modeled by the sea

Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry

What advice would you give to crafters and fiber business owners looking to take on anti-racism work?

Remember that whether racism exists in the knitting world is not a debate. That’s step one. Then educate yourself; we would say visiting Unfinished Object is a good place to start, and the anti-racist educators @rachel.cargle and @laylafsaad have plenty of resources. Make sure to be respectful when you are visiting spaces held for and by marginalised people, and check whether an answer to your question already exists before asking it.

The most important thing is to be ready to learn and get things wrong. There’s a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing, but we think it’s important to make sure that fear doesn’t come from a place of defensiveness or thinking that people will deliberately misinterpret you. If you get something wrong and receive critique from the community, it’s vital to listen and make sure you take feedback on board. No one is expected to be perfect, but we think it’s worth holding yourself to a high standard, while being kind to yourself. We can and must do better as a community, and in order to do that we have to be ready to rigorously examine our deeply embedded biases and our unequal societies.

And, if it’s possible for you, do pay people for the education you have received from them. Ko-fi is a great way to do that. Again we want to emphasise that we are following the lead of others in this regard, and we advise doing the same.

I’ve noticed this is the first published design for a few of the designers in the magazine. How do you work with designers who haven’t self-published a knitting or crochet design before? How are you finding new designers and dyers?

We have always worked with designers who haven’t been published or self-published before. Most issues of the magazine have had an open call for submissions because we are always interested in finding people who are not yet part of the knitting scene. We try and provide as much support as we can when we are working with new designers. We know there’s a lot about the process that might be new, so we are on hand to answer questions and can provide help with technical aspects, for example getting assistance with grading if needed. We are always honoured when someone entrusts their vision to us, whether they are a new designer or not, so our main concern is making sure we do their creativity justice.

We also spend a lot of time looking for new designers and dyers online through social media, and if appropriate reach out to people who we think would be interested in working with us. Sometimes people email us too! If we go to shows we make sure to go and check out stands that we don’t yet know.

A peach hat with cables

Timbre by Meghan Fernandes

Have either of you knit any of the designs from the issue (aside from Meghan’s Timbre hat, of course!) or do you plan to knit them?

I am working on Astragal by Ainur Berkimbayeva in some beautiful avocado-dyed yarn from Hey Mama Wolf, and I’m planning to make Eventide by Inyoung Kim next. Meghan is waiting to get her hands on some of Ocean Rose’s yarn to make Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry. If we had time we would make every pattern… but at least we get to live vicariously through our reader’s projects online!

Speaking of Timbre, how did you decide to include a pattern from Meghan in this issue?

When Pom Pom first started we both designed a lot of the patterns (we did all of them for Issue 1!) but as the business has grown we’ve had less and less time to design. Turns out running a magazine is pretty time-consuming! And of course we love making the patterns that we publish. But every now and then, if we have time, we like to design, and if we feel we have an idea that fits the brief then we’ll pitch it to the other and to the team. Meghan’s hat was perfect for this issue because the mohair cables skim over the surface and look like little rivulets, and the rhythmic quality of cables made us think of the sound of waves. I designed a sweater (Woodwardia) for Issue 28 this year which I loved, but we both feel that one design a year is probably plenty for us!

Are there plans for a plus size issue?

We don’t have plans for a specific plus size issue at the moment. We have increased our sizing, so we are intending for every issue to feature a larger range of sizes so that our patterns are accessible to more bodies. We plan to continue featuring a range of models of different sizes too.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Anne Vally of Little Skein In the Big Wool

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A woman sits at a desk looking down.

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

For most people, crafting evokes the same feelings as getting into a good book. Anne Vally decided to bundle that feeling up into curated kits for knitters through her business, Little Skein In the Big Wool. While Anne has expanded beyond her hand-sewn project bags to include her own hand-dyed yarn, she has continued to remain true to the values that she started out with.

Tell me about how you started a project bag business?

I started Little Skein with the idea of making project bags and kits that would bring to life my love of books. Knitting is something that’s central to who I am — and so are books. I make the things I want to use: project bags that tell a story, kits that not only make me eager to knit them, but that also fill me with the happiness and rich emotion of a favorite story.

I started out on Etsy with my first kit (Velveteen with Susan B. Anderson) but pretty quickly moved to littleskein.com. Details are important to me, and I wanted to create an experience where shopping for a kit or project bag of mine felt like being welcomed home. Something special, full of good feelings, just for you.

What did you do before you launched Little Skein In the Big Wool and how do you think it informs what you bring to the business?

I live in San Francisco and before starting Little Skein, I was a program officer at a large California foundation for more than a decade. Foundation work is not easily explained, but the big picture is that I made grants to nonprofits around California that were (and are still) working to create positive social change.

My foundation work absolutely informs how I run Little Skein. My degree is in economics, so I’m particularly attuned to how I run my business. I talk a lot on social media about fair pay for makers, the importance of art, and making room at the table for everyone.

I believe the way a business operates adds something intangible and important to the final product.

An African American person holds a bouquet of colorful yarn

When did you decide to incorporate yarn?

I’ve always worked with other yarn dyers for my kits, but I started dyeing yarn myself about three years ago. I realized I was becoming increasingly involved in designing the colors, and I also had a vision of the final fabric I wanted. It became a passion for me to figure out how to make that vision come to life.

Like many knitters, I often fall in love with yarn that’s showy in the skein but doesn’t always create a fabric I enjoy. So, my journey in learning how to dye yarn was to create a yarn that makes a subtle and complex color of fabric—one that might look semi-solid from a distance, but up close would have little hints and gradations of color with itsy bitsy, random pops of intensity.

For the first year, I studied, experimented, and dyed only for myself. But now I have an outdoor dye kitchen (an essential in foggy San Francisco) and I do periodic Live streams on Instagram where I show what I’m dyeing. I still work with other dyers, but about 90% of the yarn I offer is now dyed by me.

Tell me about how your yarn is sourced and dyed.

I source my yarn from three mills: two in the U.S. and one in Canada. I’m especially interested in what each yarn will be used for: a sweater? socks? a shawl? I’ve chosen bases that are ideal for a particular purpose. I think my start as a sewist and project bag maker is a big influence. I’m interested in the fabric.

For example, my sock yarn, House Sock, is 90% American Targhee wool and 10% nylon. It’s different from the multi-purpose sock yarn that most dyers offer. Mine is especially perfect for socks. The Targhee wool is soft and sproingy when you knit with it, and it makes a plush, hard-wearing sock.

A woman knits with green yarn

When and how did you learn to knit?

It feels like I always knew how to knit. My Nonnie and grandmother knit, but their knitting was for utility. I remember knitting as a young adult, but it was when my son was about 2 that I felt this deep urge to make things for him. I picked up my needles to knit fruit for his play kitchen (I started with this strawberry!). Oddly enough, I didn’t feel daunted by the tiny stitches or knitting in the round. I just kept at it, and my boy’s delight at getting a new piece of “fruit” every few days was rocket fuel to me.

Then, I discovered Ravelry and, boom, down the rabbit hole I went!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

If it involves making something by hand, I have probably tried it. I am a sewist, I draw, embroider, cross-stitch, play with polymer clay, and have recently begun block printing on fabric. (I’ll be debuting something special with my new block prints at the Rhinebeck trunk show!)

A project bag with a city skyline holds two skeins of gray and aqua speckled yarn

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your fiber business?

That it’s possible to do good and do well at the same time.

I believe that knitting, reading, and making things by hand is art, and art matters. Using your imagination ripples out into the world in powerful ways. Art changes you, and in turn you change the world for the better. (Not an original idea, though! This is from Neil Gaiman.)

I try to lead by example. I make sure that everyone who works with me is compensated and valued. I believe diversity makes our community better, and I believe in sliding over to make space at the table for everyone. This shows up in the causes I support, in the inspiration for some of my kits, and in discussions I lead on Instagram.

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.