Kitterly gets ready for Rhinebeck

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

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

Can you believe it’s exactly one month until Indie Untangled — and Rhinebeck?! Before this popular knitting weekend extravaganza, I asked Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower, the founders of Kitterly, which sells knitting and crochet kits, to talk about their plans for Rhinebeck and their predictions for this year’s most popular Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck sweaters.

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

We’re really excited to see the variety of products, new products that inspire us and catch up with our vendors and meet new ones!

What are each of your Top 5 favorite Kitterly kits from the last year?

Mari: From a site popularity standpoint, the Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman and Wonderland Yarns is a perennial favorite with our customers.

We’ve been so fortunate to work with so many amazing designers like Andrea Mowry, Isabell Kraemer and Melanie Berg, to name a few. It’s been fun to meet and feature designers from all over the world.

Liz: I love them all! Our designers as so talented and it’s always so inspiring to work with them.

Sushi Scarf by Stephanie Shiman.

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

Mara of Aya Fibers
Steffi of Uschitita
Renee of Spun Right Round
Aimee of La Bien Aimée

There are so many more we could list but we’re running out of space!

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

Mari: Depending on weather I’m going to wear my newly knit Humulus pullover by Isabel Kraemer knit in The Fibre Company Cumbria and Spincycle Dream State. I hope to be able to finish my Rose cardigan, knit in Olann Sock Sport, in time.

Liz: I’m going bring my Sheltered poncho by Andrea Mowry, my Sipila pullover knit in Olann Singles as well as my Impressionists shawl by Helen Stewart. Hoping to have my Comfort Fade cardi in Olann complete too!

The Throwback © Andrea Mowry

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

Mari: I’ll think we’ll see a bunch of The Throwback cardis by Andrea Mowry, Sipila by Caitlin Hunter, Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry, Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies and Weekender by Andrea Mowry.

Liz: I imagine we’ll see many Fading Points by Joji, Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry and The Doodler by Stephen West.

Tell me the things that are currently on your needles.

Mari: Rose cardigan by Andrea Mowry and Separate Ways by Joji.

Liz: Comfort Fade Cardi by Andrea Mowry, Neridah by Ambah O’Brien and a test knit for Lesley Robinson of Knit Graffiti.

A WIP of Mix and Mingle by Andrea Mowry.

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

Mari: Weekender by Andrea, Mix and Mingle, a Kitterly Special project for Kitterly by Andrea Mowry, and Kobuk by Caitlin Hunter.

Liz: Too many to name!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Amor Valdez of Crave Yarn

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

The upstate New York LYS Yarn Culture has been a fixture at knitting marketplaces around the country — this will be Patti and Mitch’s fourth year as a vendor and sponsor for the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Show.

Yarn Culture always brings a variety of dyers and indie yarn companies. This year, they will be representing Crave Yarn, Spun Right Round, The Uncommon Thread and WalkCollection. I decided to learn a little bit more about Amor Valdez, the New Mexico based dyer behind Crave who also has an LYS of her own — AMORES in Santa Fe.

Tell me about how you got started dyeing yarn.

My dyepot journey was catalyzed by a hunt for pistachio green. I wanted to knit a shawl for a friend in her favorite color, as a personalized gesture to say, “I see you and love you.” Her favorite color, you likely guessed, is pistachio green. The hunt in my LYSs was in vein, but it did lead me to the doorstep of perhaps the most life-changing lighting bolt of an idea… maybe I can dye the color myself.

I found an online course created by Kim McKenna. In this course Kim guides you through the process of creating a color wheel in tiny mini skeins to get acquainted with color theory and dyeing methods simultaneously. Well, once I got started I just couldn’t stop with the mini skeins and color play. Approximately 200 mini skeins later, I dyed my first full skeins in, predictably, pistachio green. Even though I was at the tail end of graduate school at the time, I dove full tilt into the realm of color and fiber. And when I completed my degree, I respectfully tucked it away, and started Crave Yarn… as I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

Explain how your Crave yarn is dyed, as I understand it’s done on a much larger scale than other home or studio-based dyers.

Crave operates on two scales simultaneously. As my wholesale representation expanded, I found myself dyeing 10+ pots a day of a single colorway and eventually felt that there must be a better way to fulfill this portion of yarn demand. At that time, my colorways were primarily semi-solids. So I explored the prospect of working with a small batch dyehouse. Of course, a dyehouse small batch is 10 to 20 times larger than my personal dyepot capacity. So I focused my energies on creating beautiful color stories in the form of cohesive color palettes. For each palette, I dyed an average of 50 samples per color to find precisely the hue that I was after to fit in with the full color spread. I made a tandem shift toward custom-milled yarn bases, giving me the freedom to create the fiber blends, weights and yarn structures that I dreamed of. These yarn lines are the result of my artisan passions, but can now be maintained and reproduced on a scale that allows me to reach more shops and fiber artists with my fiber and color love.

Another reason for this shift was to create space in my studio schedule to return to my artisan passion for color play with more freedom. Alongside my solid colors, I threw myself into the creation of one-of-a-kind colorways on my custom bases and on any other yarn bases that inspire me to explore the beautiful and infinite possibilities of color. These colorways are available in my Santa Fe Shop, AMORES, and soon online. They will also be featured in the Yarn Culture booth at the Indie Untangled Trunk Show!

Tell me about the decision to open AMORES and how it stands apart from other yarn shops.

AMORES Yarn Shop + Studio is my wildest fiber dream come true. The first time I stepped into a yarn shop, I was immediately struck by cupid’s arrow. That was eight years ago, and I think I have been planning my own shop since that very moment. One year ago, I felt that the time had arrived to pluck the notion from my daydreams and begin the search for a location. In 300 square feet and with the endless support and talents of my family, AMORES was born. It is a beautiful sunlit showroom where I feature the fibers that I love and the colorways I create. Along with a wide selection of knit samples that inspire my customers (and myself) to try new techniques, to embrace the elegance of simplicity and to imagine the power of color to uplift mood and self (not an overstatement). Aside from a small lovingly-curated collection of notions and tools, the shop is focused on my fiber projects and collaborations.

By far, the greatest gift received by opening the shop is the community. I have met the most amazing and kind individuals, fellow Santa Feans and visitors alike. It really has been wonderful to join and serve our ever growing knitting community in a new way— and to create a space where fiber lovers are valued and celebrated for their craft and friendship.

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

I definitely have favorite colors, but since becoming a dyer it is basically a rapidly changing and hugely expansive category for me. I fall in love with new colors every time I step into my studio or hang a new colorway in the shop. So I would have to say that more than changing my “favorite colors,” my dye life has changed the way I see and value color.

My favorite colors change with my mood, with the quality of the light, with the season, with a song transition on the radio. It’s an extremely dynamic and playful aspect of my life, for sure. Above all, I think I am acutely tapped into the way colors make me feel about the moment, the day, myself, the place I find myself in, the world and about what is possible.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit 14 years ago when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. I made a garter scarf… although as I think of it now, I’m not sure I actually finished it. It didn’t really stick at that point. Then I got curious again in 2008 and like a message from the gods I stumbled upon the newly minted Ravelry. Fun fact about me, my right brain (the artist’s realm) basically has two speeds, meh OR let’s buy the farm. When I found Ravelry and started knitting again, I was an overnight zealot.

I also crochet, which was the first fiber art I learned sitting at the hem of my grandmother’s skirts. My grandmother whispers to me through crochet stitches, and in that there is love. But my design life and most fervent passion resides in knitting. The super short story of all this is: I LOVE YARN!

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

I strive to capture the beautiful color transitions of our New Mexico sunrises and sunsets. Santa Fe is surrounded by mountain ranges in virtually every direction and the sun’s comings and goings at the edge of those mountainous peaks is magnificent. Those are the colorways that I often seek in my dyepots. I’ve arrived at many beautiful colorways in this pursuit, but I’m still reaching to capture the incredibly dynamic color symphonies of our northern New Mexico skyscapes.

What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?

Rather than specific projects, I think my favorite FOs fit into a particular category, gift knitting. I am always impressed by the generosity of knitters to execute thousands upon thousands of stitches in completing a beautiful project, to then turn around and gift it to someone. Wow! Knitters knit for family and friends as a gesture of love, they knit for strangers in crisis, they knit for peace and advocacy. Amazing! And in this category I also include the occasional gift of knitting for oneself. When a knitter takes the time to bestow a kindness on themselves through the slow and mindful practice of knitting, to create beauty and know that they deserve to enjoy the fruit of their energies… that too is a well deserved gesture of love.

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

The entrepreneurial community of the fiber arts industry has revealed two outstanding truths to me: 1) Women are AMAZING; operating at levels of ingenuity and integrity that are endlessly inspiring; 2) Kindness and empathy are as relevant in business as they are to all human experiences; passion and ambition fit just fine alongside the goals of leading a just, compassionate and charitable life.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: PostStitch

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

We knitters have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sources for indie yarn. If you’re up for surprises, a subscription box is a great opportunity to try out a new dyer or small yarn company.

PostStitch is one of the ideal ways to discover new dyers, and Megan Graddy puts together some fantastic finds, including Indie Untangled dyers such as JunkYarn, Marianated Yarns and Circus Tonic Handmade.

How and when did PostStitch get started?

My mom had worked in knit shops for as long as I can remember and she always loved helping customers pick out new projects, even me who lived 500 miles away. Surprise projects from her were such a thrill to receive. Not only did I not have to drive an hour to my local yarn shop, but I didn’t have to agonize over what to buy once I got there. Plus, my mom was always sending me the latest and greatest yarn.

In 2014, we launched PostStitch to bring this yarny joy to other knitters. We want to expose knitters to yarns they may not have access to and encourage them to knit something they may not ordinarily knit, so that they can experience their craft in a new way.

How do you decide on which dyers to include in your subscription boxes?

We love discovering a new yarn or rediscovering an old favorite and sharing it with our members. There’s no set formula as to how we pick a yarn for one of our kits. We like to vary the weight, blend, and style of the fiber from month to month while choosing yarns that aren’t widely accessible or too commonplace. We follow trends on Instagram and Ravelry, and go to TNNA and other retail shows to find the yarn we feature. We also love when a dyer reaches out to us directly. We have found some of our favorite yarns that way.

Are the patterns designed exclusively for PostStitch, already published or a mix of both?

We don’t have a set formula when it comes to choosing a pattern. We like to keep our projects seasonal, small so they can be started and finished within the month, and complementary of the yarn we’re using. We also like to challenge our members to learn a new skill, while still keeping the project doable and fun for all skill levels.

We may fall in love with a pattern that is a few years old, discover one through a pattern distributor, use a pattern the dyer has written, or collaborate on a new design with a designer we have met at Vogue Knitting Live. We make it a point to use a mix of designers and feature patterns that are not super popular or free. It’s all about delivering something “new” to our subscribers.

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

Sure… as long as you don’t go dropping spoilers to our subscribers in our Ravelry group! While they might not necessarily be new dyers or designers (but possibly new to our subscribers), we’re anxious to connect our knitters with two fiber brands in particular – Emma’s Yarn, who we met at one of our Florida yarn shops, and Idaho-based Palouse Yarn Company, who we met at a Vogue Knitting Live event. We were also thrilled to meet a couple of designers on the floor at TNNA who will be designing new patterns for us – Ellen Thomas of The Chilly Dog and Jennifer Dassau of The Knitting Vortex.

Which subscription that you offer is the most popular?

We have three subscription types – KnitStitch (with Big, Middie and Lite customization options), SockStitch, and Notions Box. Our KnitStitch Big subscription is our original and most popular. It features a one- to two-skein accessory project with printed pattern, yarn, needles from ChiaoGoo, and notions. It’s everything you need to knit a project start to finish. But our newest subscription kit – the Notions Box – is quickly becoming a favorite. It’s perfect for those who have too many WIPs or an overwhelming stash. Our Notions Box delivers unique notions that we hope will inspire you to knit more efficiently (or have more fun) as you work through your WIPs.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me how to knit in 2000 when I was a senior in high school. I had been a competitive swimmer for most of my life, but when an injury sidelined me, I had a lot of time to fill. My mom taught me the basics and I absorbed all I could from the women around the table at the shop she worked. It would have been nice to have YouTube tutorials available, but there is something special about in-person lessons and learning the different quirks and hacks of seasoned knitters.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Currently, the only other “craft” in my life is cleaning up the crayons, paint, and paper scraps of my three girls (they’re 6, 4, and 1) who we call our interns, but have big plans to learn how to crochet and weave. One day!

Tell me about your most memorable FO.

This is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid! We have knit so many memorable projects, but our most beloved will probably be Ysolda Teague’s Scroll Lace Shawl that we paired with Luna Grey Fiber Arts’ Zeta yarn. It was the project that we featured in our very first kit back in 2014 and to say we knit picked over every little detail would be an understatement. But, in the end, it was so well received and we wear that cozy, soft shawl with lots of pride.

The latest in the Bijou Basin Ranch Indie Dyer Series

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

Bijou Basin Ranch is known for producing yak, Cashmere, Paco Vicuna and Qiviut blends from a small ranch just outside of Elbert, Colorado. Owners Carl and Eileen Koop also collaborate with some indie dyers, such as ModeKnit Yarns of Minnesota and MJ Yarns of Seattle, who create a little magic in their dye pots and complement their luxurious blends.

Here are some of the latest yarns from their indie dyer series:

Autumn Spice

This is a coordinated collection for colors dyed by MJ Yarns on BBR’s new Himalayan Summit fingering base, a 50/50 blend of yak and Superfine Merino.

Explore Collection

Dyed by Colorful Eclectic on 50/50 yak and silk lace weight, Shangri-La. Each of the colorways in this series would look fantastic on its own, but are designed to pair together, as in the Blood of My Blood shawl from BBR’s Outlander collection, pictured above.

Reflections Collection

Dyed by Colorful Eclectic on Lhasa Wilderness yak/bamboo yarn. Each color in Reflections contains all five colors, with one being the predominant color.

Gobi

Hand-dyed colors from MJ yarns inspired by the Sheildmaidens of Nordic mythology, and popularized in Richard Wagner’s opera “The Valkyrie.” The yarn base is Gobi, a blend of baby camel and silk.

Stripes

Self-striping colors on Himalayan Summit dyed by Modeknit Yarns.

Gradients

Hand dyed on Tibetan Dream by Modeknit Yarns.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: The Yarnover Truck

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Barbra and Maridee in front of the truck.

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

There’s a meme I’ve seen floating around social media about how great it would be to have a truck that would drive around your neighborhood ringing a bell and selling yarn. Well, the Yarnover Truck is that meme come to life.

Based in Southern California since 2013, the Yarnover Truck is the brainchild of Barbra Pushies and Maridee Nelson, two knitting friends who realized the dream of owning a yarn shop with a unique business idea. They outfitted a former Little Debbie snack truck with cubed shelving and offer a large selection of indie dyers, including several who post on Indie Untangled, and set up shop at breweries, parks, fiber festivals and special events. I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago and it was everything I dreamed it would be.

Tell me how the idea for the Yarnover Truck came to be.

Barbra and Maridee were friends from a knitting group. One night at group, Maridee mentioned she was thinking about opening a yarn store. She had a name and a location all picked out, but the financial realities of a brick and mortar yarn store seemed overwhelming.

Later that week during her weekly knitting class at work, Barbra brought up her friend’s yarn store idea. It was always a dream of Barbra’s too, but like Maridee, it always seemed just out of reach. One of the members of the knitting group suggested a yarn truck and immediately Barbra was enamored with the idea. Hours of Google research on mobile retail business and one overwhelmingly long email to Maridee later, they found themselves on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood talking with one of LA’s first mobile boutiques. On July 5, 2012, the idea of the Yarnover Truck was born and the Truck launched March of 2013.

What did each of you do before you became yarn shop owners?

When we started the truck both of us were working in the entertainment industry. Barbra had worked in animation production management for Walt Disney Studios for seven years. She was lucky enough to assist with the knitting portions of Disney’s 50th animated feature, Tangled and on the Winnie the Pooh movie. Both Rapunzel and Kanga were “taught” to knit by Barbra.

Maridee worked in marketing for a variety of different companies in Minneapolis (where she grew up) and in Los Angeles, most recently working in theatrical advertising for Warner Bros. Studio for many years on many popular movie franchises. Jumping in to run the Yarnover Truck full time felt very natural taking all the knowledge learned in a variety of industries and putting it into running our successful venture.

How did you choose the dyers and brands that you carry?

When we started the Yarnover Truck, indie dyeing was still growing and starting to get more popular every day. We decided to make the focus of the products we sold on the truck hand-dyed yarns and work hard to showcase as many other small companies as possible.

Our goal is to find unique and talented dyers and show them off to our customers. We try and have things on the Yarnover Truck that you won’t see in many other shops in our area. We know that shopping with us takes a bit of effort from our customers so we work hard to make it worth their while and have thing they won’t find anywhere else.

What are some of the biggest challenges of owning a mobile business? What are some of the greatest rewards?

Our biggest challenge is to find locations where we can bring the truck to reach the most people. We cover a large area in Southern California going from San Diego up to Santa Barbara with visits to Palm Springs and the Inland Empire occasionally too. It’s hard to know all the best spots in such a large region so we rely on our customers who know their neighborhoods best to help us find good spots.

Our greatest rewards follows along this same storyline – we have some of the greatest customers around! We have lots of loyal yarnies who are willing to come and find us in all of the different locations where we bring the truck. They often tell us how they love to “stalk” us and to check out the new places we find for the truck.

Since you’re in Los Angeles, have you had a lot of celebrity customers?

We haven’t yet had many celebrities come on the truck and we think because we move around so much and are rarely the same spots often. We do dream of getting Julia Roberts on the truck one day and are still working our industry contacts to hopefully make it happen someday.

But being in Los Angeles, with ties to the entertainment biz has enabled us to be “knitting consultants” for a major motion picture called “Backseat.” Last fall we received a call from the prop master on this film set in the 1970s. He was looking for help to teach the extras used in the scene to knit and crochet properly and to provide some props to be included in the scene. The film is set to release near the end of this year so we won’t know how much of our work will be seen but it was a great time and definitely something we hope to do again someday!

Can you talk about any new products the shop is going to carry or special events in the works?

The truck is gearing up for fall and we have lots of fun things planned. In addition to our regular schedule, we will be part of the San Diego Yarn Crawl in September featuring a trunk show from indie dyer Destination Yarns. We’ve worked with Jeanne to create a special colorway just for the crawl too.

Plus, we will be bringing the truck to the Stiches SoCal show in Pasadena in early November. We get to drive the truck right onto the showroom floor and we will be featuring the wonderful work of Dragonfly Fibers in our booth. Plus we will be launching a new exclusive color we’ve developed with Kate and her team. We love working with the talented dyers to create new and special colorways whenever we can!

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Barbra is a self-taught knitter and over the years, she has worked hard to teach herself new techniques and challenge herself with large projects. Both her grandmother and grandfather were excellent knitters and Barbra always wished they had lived to see her become the skilled knitter she is today. Her favorite thing to knit is sweaters, always adding extra length for her long arms.

Maridee has been crocheting since she was 12. Her grandmother first taught her the craft as something to help pass time during an extended hospital stay. Fifteen years ago, she took up the craft again and this helped lead to the creation of the Yarnover Truck. She had Barbra teach her to knit, too, so she is a bi-stitual crafter these days

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Owning a yarn shop means that most of the projects we work on are shop samples. We love being to show off the beautiful yarns we carry on the truck and know how a great sample can really help us sell lots of yarn!

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.

What to do with yarn scraps

After knitting for 12 years, my stash of scrap yarn has started to rival my actual stash, though it’s admittedly a lot more compact. While I do save significant amounts of leftover yarn in Ziplock bags for use in other projects, to bring to classes or in case someone PMs me on Ravelry in desperation after losing a game of Yarn Chicken, I have plenty of tiny balls that are no longer useful except for holding sleeve stitches.

Last year, I saw a fantastic idea at the Maryland Sheep and Wool indie pop-up at The Knot House:

The owner, Cathy, told me the clear glass head was from Pier 1 and I ordered one on my phone right then and there. While sadly Pier 1 no longer sells it, you can find it online by Googling “recycled glass head.”

I also have a pretty large and growing tote bag collection, so my scrap yarn also works as decor by propping up the totes from previous Rhinebeck Trunk Shows that I decided to display on my Ikea shelves (I put the yarn in plastic bags first since I’m extremely afraid of the m-word). If you also have a bag full of bags, it’s a great way to put your scraps and totes to use!

Here are some more admittedly more crafty ideas for scrap yarn on Pinterest. Comment and let me know what creative ways you use to store or display your yarn scraps!

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IU on the road: Hot in Cleveland at TNNA

TNNA, or The National Needlearts Assocation’s summer trade show, hadn’t originally been on my calendar. Though I did have some FOMO with last year’s show (at its usual location in Columbus, Ohio, home of the knitter-approved Jeni’s ice cream) I heard that a lot of people were skipping the 2018 summer show in Cleveland because of an increase in membership dues. But Bronwyn, AKA the designer Casapinka, convinced me to attend and be her roommate, and my husband had really enjoyed Cleveland when he visited a couple years ago, so I booked my flight and packed some business cards.

Casapinka’s soon-to-be-released Acoma sweater in the Dream In Color booth.

Whereas at the show in Washington, DC, I only went on the show floor, this time I got the full TNNA experience, attending the opening night fashion show, where companies showed off the newest designs in their yarns — Acoma, Casapinka’s soon-to-be-released sweater, knit with Dream In Color Smooshy With Cashmere, was a highlight and is getting on my needles as soon as it’s published — and Sample IT!, an Indie-Untangled-at-Rhinebeck-like shopping frenzy where shop owners buy kits to make samples of the products they plan to carry.

Shelli Martinez, who’s behind the brilliant enamel pins and T-shirts of ShelliCan.

The major buzz around the show was the sharp decrease in attendance, as many shop owners, designers and others in the industry had decided not to pay the higher dues. On the flip side, over the last few years there has been an increase in the number of indie dyers attending the show to build the wholesale side of their businesses, and there were even a few dyers who only sell wholesale. It created an interesting dynamic and a lot of the shop owners I spoke with were excited to find unique products that they could introduce to their customers.

One of my favorite discoveries was Emma’s Yarn, which has a great background story: it’s run by 16-year-old dyer Emma Galati and her older sister, Aspen, who just graduated college (their parents own the Four Purls Yarn Shop in Winter Haven, Florida) and the business is part of Emma’s home schooling curriculum. Emma and Aspen currently only sell wholesale to yarn shops, or do trunk shows and events, so if you like what you see you might want to ask your LYS to look into hosting them.

I was also excited to see Cashmere People, a company I’d first discovered at a Brooklyn General trunk show during the Brooklyn yarn crawl. The company, which has a U.S. rep in Portland, Maine, works with a collective of women in Tajikistan and Afghanistan who hand spin and hand dye Cashgora and Cashmere yarns. Mainer Bristol Ivy recently designed her Shape of a Bay shawl with their Cashgora Fingering and there were also kits at Sample IT! for Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Flora Cowl.

mYak, which also has a similar fair trade ethos, sourcing yak fiber and Cashmere from a Tibetan cooperative of nomadic herders, was also at the show and a lot of yarn shops were excited about their designs from Justyna Lorkowska and Michele Wang.

Among the other indies, Twisted Owl Fiber Studio was showing off new Batman colorways. I also was excited to discover Round Mountain Fibers. The Vermont-based company’s nature-inspired colors are pretty much available only at yarn shops, but they do have an online store that offers seconds at 50% off the retail price (you may also see a Knitting Our National Parks colorway from them in the near future…).

Of course, what would a knitting event be without some sort of offshoot indie event? Jeanne of Destination Yarn came through with an open house at her gorgeous Cleveland studio.

There were TNNA attendees and non-industry knitters browsing the shelves of colorways inspired by travel, with clever base names like Postcard, Letter and Souvenir.

Overall, it was a productive trip, and you should see the ideas that were generated from it in the coming months…

Untangling SweaterFreak Knits

While I tend to discover most designers and patterns on Ravelry, I actually learned about Jenny of SweaterFreak Knits via Instagram. I was drawn to her modern, clean aesthetic and the use of subtle speckles in many of her shawls.

Despite her name, I approached her about pairing up with Nicole of Hue Loco to design a one-skein accessory pattern for the Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. The result was Nicole’s Chelsea Park Cowl, a lovely shawl/cowl hybrid that looks so easy to throw on with a spring outfit. It is now available to purchase by non-club members.

Read on to learn more about Jenny’s career as a designer and about how the cowl got its name.

How did you decide to become a designer?

It happened organically. I have always preferred to knit things out of my head and after plenty of encouragement from Ravelry community, I started writing up the instructions to my ideas which became patterns.

Is there anything from your software developer side that transfers over to design?

Actually, it’s a great question and the answer is yes! Software development is all about planning and details which is very similar to knitwear design. The math behind grading requires quite a bit of focus and attention to detail. Similarly, writing the pattern is akin to writing code – both essentially are a list of instructions. You will find that many designers were involved in tech before they started designing because it really does employ the same part of the brain.

How did you come up with SweaterFreak Knits and why do you use it as your designer name?

My very first project after a long hiatus was a sweater. Wanting specific sweaters really was the reason that I picked up the needles again. This was back in 2006 and in 2007 Ravelry made its debut. I chose SweaterFreak as my nick and of course I had no idea I will end designing knitwear! In 2011 when I released my first pattern, I considered changing the moniker but since so many people knew me already I decided to keep it.

Jenny’s latest pattern, White Light.


When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit in 1985 when I was 7 years old. My maternal grandmother, Rivkah, taught me and I liked it right away. She was an avid crafter and actually preferred to crochet but she taught me both. We also share total love for yarn! She had a sizable stash and I grew up with lots of fabric and yarn around me. Most of my family two generations back were dress makers so I feel that making clothes with my hands is really something I am meant to be doing.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It’s a bit of everything – sometimes I get a particular idea in my head, maybe from seeing it somewhere or just something I have wanted for awhile. I love browsing fashion magazines and see the clothing evolve. My personal favorite decade is the ‘60s which has lots of different elements – classic tailored pieces as well as boho-hippie style ones. I love both equally. Often times, the yarn itself starts everything in motion. For example, when you touch hearty unprocessed wool, you think fair isle.

The Vegas top.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

The first step is to sketch it. This usually gives me a good idea of what garment or accessory is going to look like, what kind of shaping it will involve. Sometimes, I use colored pencils to sketch, if the design is colorful.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My absolutely favorite color is blue – all shades of it, except periwinkle. It hasn’t really changed. I also love various shades of grey, green and natural. Lately, I have really gotten into yellow and mustard colors – they just look so smashing with grey!

Jenny’s most popular pattern is her Everyday Shawl.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

Definitely outside, either in the park (closest to me is Chelsea Park!) or on the beach, or even my backyard! Somehow the combination of fresh air, warm wind and wool in my lap equals heaven. I could do this forever!

What to stash this week: updates and an open studio

Jennifer of Spirit Trail Fiberworks recently had a shop update with her Luna non-shrink wool as well as Birte, her Superwash Merino/Cashmere/silk DK. There are plenty of semisolids and speckles, as well as “lucky pot” one-of-a-kind colors like the one pictured above. Jennifer has also put some bases and colors that she’s retiring on sale.

Brooke of Fully Spun, who dyes wool roving and has it mill spun into “handspun,” just had a shop update that includes three new colors and three colors she just had to bring back.

Pam Sluter’s Stepstone combines a sideways band, woolly sportweight yarn, elongated slip stitches and two fun buttons. The band is knit flat and stitches are picked up for the body and crown, while the button flap is worked last. It’s perfect for “spring” on the East Coast.

If you’re planning to go to Stitches United this weekend, or are in the Hartford area, Rebecca of Fuse Fiber Studio is having another open studio with Gabby of Once Upon a Corgi. The one I attended last month was super fun and I highly recommend going for the yarn and the hanging out.