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!

Indie Untangled goes to MDSW 2018

I usually like to go to fiber festivals with some sort of plan. At this year’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, while I had a few things that I know I wanted to snag, like Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks’ Vintage No. 4 (a blend of Shetland, fine wool, silk and a bit of ramie — the next best thing to cuddling her sheep!), I let myself get swept away in it all. Some of my purchases were guided a bit by Instagram:

Some of them were impulse buys, like the not-pictured Jill Draper Kingston, which I guess technically wasn’t an impulse buy since the color I wanted was sold out and I ended up buying it on Etsy Tuesday.

Aside from stashing, I also had fun taking everything in and spending time with my fiber friends.

The Knot House

The weekend started as it usually does at The Knot House indie pop-up. Well, it started with an amazing dinner at Black Hog BBQ a few blocks away. Then, after making sure my hands were completely clean of sauce, I petted the yarn.

The Friday night kickoff party was a much calmer affair than last year thanks to the early bird shopping that I couldn’t make it in time for. It was a nice atmosphere for chatting and snapping photos.

Autumn & Indigo

Linen bags from That Clever Clementine

The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers

Little Fox Yarn

The festival

Weather wise, this was probably the best Maryland to date. The temperatures were perfect T-shirt and shawl weather, whereas previous festivals were either “I really regret wearing any handknits” or “What is this, Rhinebeck?”

After snagging my Vintage No. 4 (which may become a Charlie’s Cardigan), I visited the Into the Whirled booth to see the Bruce Canyon-inspired Hoodoos in person and admired the rest of Cris and James’s new speckles.

Vintage No. 4 from Middle Brook Fiberworks

Saying Hi to James and Cris of Into the Whirled.

Into the Whirled Bryce Canyon-inspired Hoodoos colorway for Knitting Our National Parks on display.

Jill Draper models a cute short sleeved cardigan in her new Kingston base.

A close-up of Kingston, DK-weight Targhee wool from NY’s Finger Lakes.

What to stash this week: yarn from your LYS

Bronwyn of Casapinka has come up with an ingenious way to help you support your LYS for Local Yarn Store Day, which is next Saturday, April 21. If you buy yarn for her Local Yarn Shawl pattern that day from any of the participating LYSs, you will be given the pattern for free! 

If you’re looking for a new shawl pin — and some advice on how to show off your shawls — check out Crafty Flutterby Creations’ website. She not only crafts lightweight pieces, but her Product Tips include some styling lessons.

Tulips from a friend inspired Terri of Whole Knit ’n Caboodle’s latest striped sock yarn. It’s available for preorder in limited quantities only on her website.

Rocket’s Cardigan, the second installment in Mary Annarella’s brilliant Cardigans of the Galaxy series, is inspired a genetically modified raccoon and an unlikely superhero.

A few patterns can cover you in Marianated Yarns from head to toe! Above is the Millcreek Canyon Hat by Katinka Designs being releaed in mid-April.

The Knitspinquilt April update is all about the sea creatures. It includes sea turtle stitch markers and manatee bags. As always, 30% of the purchase price will be donated charity, which this year is the Hispanic Federation’s ongoing Puerto Rico disaster relief efforts.

Yarn from Squirrel Mountain Fiber Arts is sourced, spun and naturally dyed within 100 miles.

Mosaic Moon has stocked its new website with tons of roving.

What to knit with Kiowa by The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers

Since Candice of The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers sent me the photo of Kiowa, her Yellowstone-inspired colorway for Knitting Our National Parks, I’ve been agonizing over what to make with my skeins when I get them. I think I love planning what to knit almost as much as knitting — it’s like planning a vacation, picking just the right hotels and tours to take.

I’ve compiled a short list of options based on my Ravelry research:

What to make with a single skein

Silverwing by Amy van de Laar

Goldwing by Ambah O’Brien

What to make with multiple skeins

Tegna by Caitlin Hunter

What to make with Asylum Fibers Acadia Lights


I loved that Stephanie of Asylum Fibers dyed her Acadia Lights Knitting Our National Parks colorway on two bases, as it provides multiple project options for those of us who aren’t always in the mood to take on a fingering-weight project (though I’m still going to get both bases!).

Stephanie sent my several good ideas for both her Solitary fingering and Golden Goose DK.

Solitary

Haruni by Emily Ross

Constellate by Hunter Hammersen

Messaline by Bristol Ivy

Boxy by Joji Locatelli

Golden Goose

Boxley Hat and Boxley Mitts by Bristol Ivy. Photos ©Tolt Yarn and Wool

Lake Reed by Asita Krebs

Campside Cardigan by Alicia Plummer

Campside Pullover by Alicia Plummer

Check out more suggestions here.

Your indie shopping guide to VKL NYC 2018

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I’ve been attending Vogue Knitting Live in NYC regularly for the last several years, and each year I’ve seen more and more indie dyers and makers in the marketplace. VKL NYC 2018 is shaping up to be one of the indie-est years in recent memory, with a huge selection of dyers and makers, many of them local, scattered over the two floors at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square from January 12-14.

To help prepare you for what I know will be a whirlwind weekend, I decided to create a special shopping guide to some of the Indie Untangled vendors at the show, with a sneak peek at the yarns and products they’ll be bringing.

I’ll be around all three days, taking classes with Melanie Berg, Clara Parkes, and Andrea Mowry, and doing some damage in the marketplace. If you see me, definitely come by and say Hi!

Alex Creates

Sixth Floor, Booth 907

Alex is a NYC native, born and raised in Harlem. He taught himself to crochet at age 13 and opened his Etsy shop in 2011, and is known for his candy-colored gradient yarn.

Pictured clockwise from the top left are Ombre Sock yarn in Strawberry Lemonade, MCN in Disco Heaven, Ombre Targhee in Blue Bombsicle, and Single Ply Merino in Pennies from Heaven.

Backyard Fiberworks/I Knit NY

Fifth Floor, Booths 314 & 316

Alice, who is based in Maryland, is not only bringing her popular semisolid and speckled colorways, but is debuting the first installment of the Knit Like a Local series she has collaborated on with designer Kathleen Dames. I Knit NY includes 10 patterns by a team of local designers — including Brittney Bailey, Kirsten Kapur, Xandy Peters, and Lars Rains, along with Kathleen — inspired by New York City landmarks like Rockefeller Center and the clock at Grand Central Terminal, all made with Alice’s yarn. The book also includes a yarn store guide written by yours truly and an essay by Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting.

In the first image, pictured clockwise from the top left are Backyard Fiberworks Sock in Urchin, Stormcloud, the Spiced Cider mini skein set, and Mallow.

In the third image, pictured clockwise from the top left are Xandy Peters’ Rockefellar Center, Kathleen Dames’ 42nd & Lex, Kirsten Kapur’s Jane Jacobs, and Kathleen’s Opal Clock.

Dragonfly Fibers

Sixth Floor, Booth 910, 912 & 914

Also from Maryland, Kate and her crew are VKL veterans, and always bring a huge selection of colorful yarns to their massive booth.

Pictured above is their exclusive VKL colorway, Twilight Skate, along with, from top to bottom, the colorways Jocelyn, Springtime In Washington, and Denaili.

Fuse Fiber Studio

Fifth Floor, Booth 102

Rebecca launched her business after taking a dyeing class with Felcia Lo at last year’s VKL. This fast learner creates gorgeous colorways from a studio in northern Connecticut, housed in a factory that once manufactured safety fuses for mining.

Pictured clockwise from top left are Wintergreen, Straw, and Moorland and Stone Walls on Fuse Fingering and Pearls on Fuse Merino Singles. Rebecca will have a sample of Caitlyn Hunter’s Zweig sweater that I can’t wait to see.

Junk Yarn

Sixth Floor, Booth 1103

Kemper’s hand-dyed yarns are inspired by inspiring women, from actresses to activists.

Pictured above is Andrea Mowry’s Comfort Fade knit with Junkyarn DK (100% Superwash Merino) in the colorways Fleur, Lara, Dolly, and Diana. The top photo is of Holly Golightly, a VKL 2018 exclusive, and below that is the colorway Amilyn.

Magpie Fibers

Fifth Floor, Booths 600, 604, 606 & 610

Not only does Dami, another dyer from Maryland, create lovely colorways, but she also collaborates with other popular yarn companies, including Spincycle Yarns from Washington State.

Pictured clockwise from the top left is 5 Pointz in Swanky DK, Paris Train and London Rain in Swanky Sock, the Stoirm cap in Swanky Sock Castaway and Spincycle Dyed in the Wool Family Jewels, and the Gailleann sweater in Domestic Worsted. Christina Danaee will be debuting both designs in the Magpie booth.

Mollygirl Yarn

Fifth Floor, Booth 514

Based in New Jersey, Angela offers both colors and bases that take cues from pop and rock music.

Pictured clockwise from top left are Walk This Way, Rolling in the Deep, A Thousand Years, and Electric Love.

One Geek to Craft Them All

Fifth Floor, Booth 117

Marsha, who lives just a few blocks away from me in Brooklyn, crafts fun stitch markers with a geeky, pop culture spin (think Dr. Who and Harry Potter).

The above sets, which include a VKL exclusive, are just a small sampling of what she’ll be bringing. Marsha is sharing a booth with one of my favorite NYC LYSes, Woolyn, which will have store exclusive colorways from Asylum Fibers, MollyGirl and more.

Shelli Can

Sixth Floor, Booth 1103

If you collect (or want to start to collect) knitting-related enamel pins, you need at least one from Shelli. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, Shelli also designs creative knitting-related accessories, like the gift tags, mug and t-shirt pictured above (I’ve already claimed a shirt in XS!).

Youghiogheny Yarns

Fifth Floor, Booth 114

Pronounced yock-i-gainey (think “yock” like “sock”), this team from the Youghiogheny River valley in Pennsylvania creates vibrant colorways.

Pictured clockwise from top left are Forest Sprite on Wooly Yak, Spilled Wine on Highlands Festival, Warm Honey on Silky Yak Singles, and Cloudy on Somerset Silk.

A 2017 IU Year in Knitting Review

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I love nostalgia, especially when it’s knitting related.

I’m continuing my tradition of an Indie Untangled Year in Review, featuring several talented knitters who finished projects in 2017 using yarn from Indie Untangled dyers. There are so many beautiful shawls, socks and sweaters — oh, the sweaters! — to show off.

Above is my On the Spice Market using Backyard Fiberworks’ Sock in Stormcloud and the Dove in a Plum Tree miniskein set (photo taken by the wonderful Nancy of Knitty City). It was one of my favorite FOs of the year.

I hope these projects provide some inspiration for your 2018 knitting.

Lavanya’s Treccia

Kelly/KellyInTexas’s Elegant Sweatshirt

Kim/Xarix’s Rocio

Erin/skistricken’s Purple Spotted Socks

Karen/penchant4yarn’s Alecia Beth

Marta/MonogamousKnitter’s Veronika

Adrienne/killerb’s Gothy Gauntlets

Judy/miriamsdottir’s Superellipse Socks

Erica/ejsufka’s Chemistry

Amy/booeyedee’s Anniversaire

I’ll be adding more of my favorites to this tag.

What to stash this week: Yarn of the dog

If you want some help easing your Rhinebeck hangover, or want to get that same “happy place” feeling even if you weren’t in New York this past weekend, you can browse the post-Rhinebeck pop-up shop on Indie Untangled. You’ll find the remaining skeins of Julie Asselin’s exclusive Road to Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers’ Rhinebeck’s All the Craze, a selection of Merino/silk and plump Merino fingering across the seas from New Zealand’s Dark Harbour Yarn and the awesome Stash Indie enamel pins designed by Shelli Can. You can also preorder Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show tote bags, which I’m having reprinted due to popular demand.

Mary’s latest sweater design, Heart of Glass, is fresh off its Rhinebeck debut. I, and I’m sure many knitters at the fairgrounds, were envious of the short-sleeved version of this drop-shouldered pullover, which drapes beautifully and features a lovely lace hem. 

I’m convinced knitters will one day take over the world. Until they do, you can get your hands on Laura’s Pinky & the Brain Bag of the Month. They will be on sale from today at 9 a.m. Pacific time to Monday at midnight.

Laura’s latest design is Rusalka, a triangular shawl knit with about 175 yards each of five shades of yarn. You can vary things up with a selection of lace stitches, a bit of garter stitch and a bunch of stripes.

It’s probably a little late to knit your Halloween costume, but you can channel a dragon with Robynn’s latest designs. Haku and Chihiro are companion one-skein cowls using the dragonscale stitch pattern and beads.

Speaking of holidays, the Holidays with a capital ‘H’ are just around the corner, at least when it comes to knitting. This IU newcomer — pronounced “yock-i-gainey” — has three holiday colors to help you get in the spirit.

Samantha of Lavender Lune Yarn Co. has some aran weight yarns in her shop all ready to be made into winter hats.

It’s the last call for Pumpkin Spice Latte — mini skeins from BigFootFibers, that is.

Untangling Valerie Hobbs of laughingstar knits

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I love seeing my favorite indie dyers and designers collaborate on special projects — especially when it’s for something as special as Rhinebeck.

Massachusetts-based designer Valerie Hobbs recently worked with Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks on two designs that will be showcased at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show next Friday, Oct. 20. The Winter Creek Vest, pictured on Valerie above, was knit with Backyard Fiberworks Field, a 100% Superwash Merino worsted weight, and her Meadow Cardigan, which will be released Nov. 1, uses Backyard Fiberworks Meadow, a DK weight MCN. Both garments will be on display at the Backyard Fiberworks booth at the show.

When Valerie is not designing patterns, she works as an interior designer and furniture consultant for a large university. I asked her to tell me a little more about her inspirations and herself.

Tell me what inspired the Winter Creek Vest and Meadowbrook Cardigan?

Winter Creek – I was playing with a long scarf and came up with the idea of shaping it around the neck and having the ends drape down the front, and then adding stitches for the armholes and body. The stitch pattern was from a cowl I had designed previously but never published. I made a fleece mock-up to figure out the draping, and the shaping of the armholes and neck.

Meadowbrook – This one started as a sketch. I had an idea for a cardigan with columns of lace that started at different points. I then turned to my stitch dictionaries to find the right lace and ended up modifying a stitch pattern from a Japanese stitch dictionary. When I had the sweater almost completed, the lace and cashmere seemed to call out for a ruffled collar. I checked with my daughter, who has excellent taste, and she agreed it would be the perfect finish!

How does your work as an interior designer inform your knitwear designs?

I work at a university – my interior design work is classic and functional to fit my clients’ needs, and I think my knitwear design is similar.

What made you decide to start designing knitwear?

Like so many designers, I was always modifying patterns, whether they were for knitting or sewing. About seven years ago, I designed a cardigan because I couldn’t find the style I wanted. I got so many requests for the pattern on Ravelry, that I published it, and then a couple of years after that, started designing more seriously. I’ve always been a designer one way or the other, whether in the theater, where I worked in costume design and construction, or as an interior designer, or for my own personal needs. So when I reconnected with knitting after a long break, designing knitwear seemed like a natural choice.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I’ve been knitting for so long I don’t even really remember. I think my grandmother taught me the basics, but mostly I learned from books — it was the pre-Internet era!

The Meadowbrook Cardigan.

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

Usually, I’ll start with a sketch. I’m always scribbling down ideas – I even have a notebook in the car for those times I’m stopped in commuter traffic. When I’m ready to start a new design, I’ll go back through my notebooks to see what inspires me. Sometimes I’ll have a yarn or a stitch pattern in mind as I look at the sketches – and if not, I’ll go through my stitch dictionaries, look through my stash, research options, draw a schematic. And then I swatch!!

What are some of your favorite colors and how has designing changed them?

I like all colors except orange! My favorite is purple – but I’ve been staying away from it because it’s so hard to photograph. I seem to be using a lot of blues most recently.

Have you been to Rhinebeck before? What are some of your favorite things to see there?

Yes, I’ve been traveling there with a group of knitting friends for the last few years. My favorite thing – looking at the sweaters, shawls, and other knitted objects that people are wearing! And of course, all the yarn!