Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolution: Yarn Storage

It's just a start, and we'll get into it more deeply later.  For starters, how do you store your yarn right now?  Is it in bags and boxes and bins and closet shelves and basement corners and attic shelves?  It's time to update your plan.

This project will take a little planning, and some time.  Before you begin, figure out what kind of storage you're going to need to make an organized stash.  Make a solid estimate of how much yarn you really have.  Maybe a few plastic storage bins are all you need.  Maybe a few large plastic zipper-close bags.  Definitely labels OR index cards or both.

Next, you'll need to figure out where they yarn will be stored.  You can put it anywhere except the attic as long as it's properly packaged.  It needs to be safe from heat, humidity, and dust.  Under the stairs, a guest room closet, a heated garage, the basement, empty bookshelves, a wine rack... The places are endless.  The packaging is the key.

Many folks like to store their stash in open bins and shelves in their homes in a den, craft room or guest room.  That's very pretty, and effective in some cases.  However, if you leave your windows open at any time during the year, or prop your doors open, you risk moths and other pests settling in to your stash.  YUCK!  Pulling out a skein and discovering it's been moth eaten is annoying and expensive.  Yarn also absorbs cooking smells, cigarette smoke, pet dander and scents, and of course, cats love to play with any exposed yarn they can get their paws into.

The system of using shoe pouches is a better one, in that it protects the yarn on three sides, and it's easy to tell what colors and yarns are in your stash.  The yarn labels appear to be missing, which I would advise against.  Still, the yarn is open to bugs and contaminants.  Zipper bags in the pouches would be better.

The system I would recommend is putting your yarns in a sealed plastic container.  I love the clear plastic bins, and zipper bags.  I use them together.  If you want to use the shoe pouch system, put each skein in a zipper-close bag.  Ditto if you want to use an open bin system  No matter what system you use, keep a ball band with the yarn whenever you can. 

In the bin system at right, the ball bands are with the skeins.  The bins are completely sealed, so basements and garages are now an option, because humidity, pests and contaminants are kept at bay.  The bins are medium-sized, which makes organization and stash-diving very easy.  I would add labels to the ends and top of each bin, but otherwise, this looks like a major step in the right direction. 

Assess your stash, and start planning.  In the next article, we'll detail the packing process.  It will make your stash a delight.  I promise!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Bit of a Break

It's been another strange season, my friends.  My move has been delayed several times, but finally looks like it will happen this weekend.  My mother in law has been very ill, and has required a lot of attention.  And my Asperger's Syndrome daughter has learned to drive, received her license, and completed her first semester of college.  Managing her workload, her life goals and her schoolwork have lead to the violent meltdowns that only Aspies really understand, including visits from the police, and long suspicious looks from the neighbors.

Amid all of this, I haven't been blogging much.  (Perhaps you've noticed? Ooops!)  So a quick update:  I've been teaching less but I'm still out there.  I've been designing sweaters lately, instead of my beloved accessories.  Two of these patterns are for Mountain Colors Yarns.  The magical Colleen will once again be the intrepid sample knitter who turns my swatches and sketches into a garment. 

Upcoming blog posts include:  Sample Knitting; What Size to Make?; and Designing a Sweater.  Stay with me.  I'll be back soon! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Knitting and Ladders

I hear it all the time: "I'm not very good," or "I'm just learning."  So many of the best knitters I know are very talented, and yet shy of teaching what they know. Ask them a question, and they'll pass you on to a knitting teacher, and sigh with relief when you walk away.  What doesn't happen often enough is that they don't help you up the ladder of learning.  They stay on their rung, and let you stay on yours.
Why do so many of us doubt our own knitting skills?  Why are we so attached to one "right" way of knitting?  Let me burst your bubble:  there is no one right way to knit, and you're better than you think. 

Remember when you were a child and thought that your parents were magical beings because they could open tough jars, at least hit the backboard with the basketball, and fix your broken bicycle?  Well, knowing things about knitting makes you a wizard to anyone who doesn't know that same skill.  Maybe you aren't great at cables, yet you know three different, terrific cast-ons.  Teach 'em to anyone who asks. 

Are there "wrong" ways to knit?  Not really.  There are ways that are slower, ways that create stitches that twist a little, and other variations.  As long as the stitches stay knitted and don't unravel, you're off to a good start.  We tend to be so self-conscious about the skills we don't have that we overlook the skills we do well.  Not sure?

Try this.  Find one of your knitting friends, and plan some time together each teaching the other one skill.  Maybe you know a nice bind-off, and she knows a decorative lace stitch.  Trade knowledge!  Ask each other, "Do you know this stitch/skill?"  "I'll be happy to teach you a cable technique, or I-cords!"  A few cups of coffee and some hearty laughs later, you'll have bolstered your knitting skills and your friendship. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What to Knit Holiday 2013 3 - Adult Sweaters

This time of year as the evening temps drop and the day temps are a little schizophrenic always gets me thinking of all the wonderful sweaters I could knit if I just organized a plan.  It's definitely time to shop for yarns for holiday sweaters, and spend weekends completing assigned numbers of rows and finishing work in preparation for finishing on time.  With all the lovely yarns on display in the shops and magazines, I find I want to play with all of them at the same time, and not commit to just a couple for a sweater!  Well, one challenge at a time.

To give yourself some peace in all the decision making, try choosing sweater patterns that aren't dependent on a specific yarn to make them work.  The patterns below should help you shop with confidence. 

Original February Lady Sweater
Rosape's February Lady Sweater
This is the perennially popular February Lady Sweater.  It's the product of Flint Knits, based on a baby sweater pattern from Elizabeth Zimmerman.  This pattern is beautiful and easy, and incredibly versatile.  Any fiber in a worsted weight will work, and it has been knit successfully in cotton, polyester, tencel, silk, alpaca, wool, and many more.  The button sizes have been varied as shown, and of course, any color that you love will work beautifully.  As a worsted weight piece, it knits up quickly, too!

For the gentleman on your list, the Leo Sweater from Kristi Porter (Knitty, 2004) fits the bill for the "no frills" sweater so many of our men love.  It's beautiful and form fitting, and though it's knit in a finer gauge than the February Lady, it also offers a variety of warmth options by varying yarns.  Baby alpaca, camel, silk, cotton, mink (yes, mink) buffalo and quiviut all offer different levels of warmth with a very similar look.  How luxurious do you want your sweater to be?  How durable?  The choices are nearly endless.

The shoulders on this sweater are set-in, and the collar is rolled.  The sleeves are self-cuffed, making it a snap to make the right length.  It's an easy pattern that was definitely designed to accommodate men's shoulders and longer body length.  Adapting the pattern to a taller or shorter person would be easy, as the shaping is minimal.  Give it a go!

A jacket that will look terrific on all of the women on your list is the Tanja sweater jacket from Drops Design Studio.  The shaping is very easy due to the chevron knit into the pattern.  It largely shapes the garment for you!  Picture it in the recipient's favorite color or favorite fiber!  The shawl collar is flattering with most tops, from turtlenecks to tanks.  It goes to the office, to a cookout, or wraps around pajamas on Sunday morning.  After you make one for your loved one, make one for yourself. 

As regular readers kno I'm in love with some good colorwork, and if you are, too, this may be the project for you.  In the late 90's and early 2000's, the poncho made a big comeback.  Now the poncho had evolved a bit, into capelets.  Capelets give the wearer the warmth you want without the draping fabric that can sometimes be in the way of reaching, shopping, and driving.  With the shorter length, it also has a sportier, more professional look. And we all know, of all the colorwork techniques out there, none are more classic or faster to knit than stripes. Try this Shoulder Cozy for Mom from Red Heart North America.  The recommended fiber is acrylic, but you know by now you can switch to any fiber you like as long as you maintain gauge. 

I hope this group gives you some ideas.  Now get knitting!  Time is running out!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What to Knit Holiday 2013 2 - Baby Sweaters

It's time to select the patterns and yarns for the holiday sweaters you'll be wearing and giving this season, so here's a little help.  These are some terrific options for the little ones on your list!

For babies and toddlers, these sweaters are stylish and quick.  Remember, you can change colors or fibers as needed to match your local climate or recipient's taste. 

Le Chat Noir
This adorable black cat sweater can be made in any color to match your cat or the baby's personality.  I love this!  Le Chat Noir is a piece by Stephanie Mason of 100 Baby Sweater Patterns.  A yarn with a little halo to it would be adorable, but be mindful of the challenges to laundering some yarns.  Babies tend to make a lot of laundry!  This is a quick knit in simple stockinette with basic shaping.  (Sew down all felt/cloth pieces to keep baby from sucking or chewing them off.)  The sleeves are shown closed, but if you are not making a newborn/infant size, you can knit them as regular sleeves.

Raglan Cotton Baby Sweater w/Stripes
From the great folks at abc knitting patterns comes this cute striped sweater, Raglan Cotton Baby Sweater with Stripes.  Any combination of colors and buttons can make this sweater personalized to whatever style you choose.  Consider adding contrasting cuffs and collar, or making the stripes out of multiple colors to put a personal spin on this terrific pattern.  The long cuffs on the sleeves allow baby lots of growing room, ensuring lots of wear!  Organic or recycled cotton would make a very soft and cozy, breathable garment. 

Our last offering in the baby department is this adorable Garter Stitch Kimono by Joji Locatelli.  It's a very easy, quick knit, with plenty of styling options.  Add contrasting sleeves, contrasting piping as shown here, or even make each panel in a completely different color!  Add stripes.  Choose some fun novelty buttons.  Run wild!  This pattern is available in Spanish, French, Italian, and English.  The link will take you to the Ravelry page for the pattern where all the versions are available. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Knitwear Trends

Jury Duty at the Federal District Court has been an interesting exercise.  We're not allowed electronics of any kind, so no internet surfing.  And they've been very clear - no knitting needles.  (Apparently juries have been known to resort to violence!)

When I'm not in court, I'm at the new house getting work done.  There's no end of yard work.  The previous owners neglected the exterior for years.  Working in the yard for hours each day trying to make the property safe and ready for when the snow flies is making slow progress.

When all of that is finished, I come home to my daughter and manage regular life.  Dinner, laundry, housework, groceries, and managing her Asperger's Syndrome take up all remaining energy.  I've been sleeping like a baby!  But I usually go to bed around 9:00 these days, due to plain exhaustion. 

During my hiatus from knitting, I constantly notice knitwear as I move around Buffalo.  It's like when you get a new car, and suddenly notice those cars everywhere!  Right now I'm seeing many pastel sweaters warn over clothes in fall colors.  The mornings are very chilly (in the 40's) and I'm seeing a wide variety of caps and tams that seem to come in only two categories - lacy and sporty.  What happened to funky, or chunky, or novelty?  Lastly, scarves are in major evidence, on men and on women.  All are light weight, and simple color patterns or intricate stitch patterns are the order of the day.  I know some of this is the season, but there does seem to be a definite emphasis towards lighter knits in fall fashion in Buffalo.  What are you seeing?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Knitting for the Greater Good

This news story caught my attention. Students Knit for a Cause  Knitting is a great community activity, and these students have taken that concept to a higher level.  Are you looking for ways to knit for your community?  Talk to your local knit shops for charities that work in your community.  Hospitals, churches, and homeless shelters are also good, and if they don't take donations directly, they will tell you who accepts on their behalf. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jury Duty

Dear Friends:

I was empanelled on a Federal jury on Friday.  The judge indicates that the trial will last around three weeks.  This will slow down the blog posts, and for that I am very sorry.  I'll do my best to bring you good content in the meantime!  Thanks for understanding.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What to Knit Holiday 2013 1 - Blankets

Dishcloths Make Great Blanket Squares
 Up Up and Away cloth as knit/photographed
 by neothecat on Ravelry

If you're afraid you won't finish a blanket in time for the holidays but you really want to try, you're in luck!  Dishcloths make great blanket squares. If you finish enough to sew together for a blanket, huzzah!  If not, wrap those handmade, 100% cotton cloths around some fancy soap and give the cloths themselves as a gift.  Pick one or two cloths with a theme your recipient will love, and make several of them.  Then make some plain squares (much faster to knit!) for the rest of the blanket.  The pattern squares make a fun accent!  Check (you'll have to join) and Knitting on the Net for hundreds of dishcloths and blanket squares to get you started.

Baby Blanket in a Snap
Bunny Hop Moon and Stars
Crystal Palace Yarns offers the Bunny Hop Moon and Stars blanket.  It's a simple knit, and can be made in any solid color.  Pick a color in coordination with the rest of the baby's bedding, or any color that you love.  This particular pattern doesn't have open work for tiny fingers and toes to get tangled in!  It's a quick knit in knit and purl only.  Most of the major yarn manufacturers offer dozens to hundreds of free patterns featuring their yarns, so if you're in need of ideas, visit the website of your favorite yarn company, and browse through their patterns. 
Afghans and Lap Robes

Lacy Waves Afghan
Most of us saw handmade afghans and lap robes growing up, over the back of the couch, on Grandma's favorite chair, or across the end of the bed in the guest room.  They saw a lot of action, too.  Drafty nights, bouts of the flu, and games of "tent" with the cousins at holidays were just a few of the things making these blankets a family essential.  If you're looking to add one to your family, consider some of the classic designs.  The Lacy Waves Afghan comes from Bernat Yarn Studios.  It's a lovely variation on the classic striped feather and fan lace afghan.  It's a quick and simple knit in big yarn with big needles. 

You don't have to match the yarn type, brand, or fiber in these blankets.  Make what works for you.  If you need it to be washable, try superwash wool or acrylic.  If you want it to be hypo-allergenic, baby alpaca, cotton, and most synthetics will work.  Just match the yarn weight and needle size and you'll be fine.  Slight variations in gauge aren't so important here, as fit isn't a concern.

More of a Challenge

Argyle Cable Knit Afghan
Ready to show off your best needlework?  Then try Spinrite's Argyle Cable Knit Afghan.  Intarsia, cables, duplicate stitch and finishing skills are all on display on this beautiful blanket.  Varying the colors will make it perfect for any man, woman, or children on your list.  Make it as vibrant or subtle as you like. 

The Over the Rainbow Blanket from Drops Design will also present a challenge, and though it looks harder than it is, it will definitely impress.  It's made with color-pooling variegated yarns like Classic Elite's Liberty Wool, Universal Poems, or the various Noro offerings.  Check with the staff at your Local Yarn Shop to confirm if your yarn choice will work for the rainbow effect.

What are you making this year?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Yarn Bombing

Moscow Yarn Bomb
Yarn bombing is becoming more and more popular.  What is it?  Why is it gaining popularity?  Who organizes these things?  How does it fit into the definition of "art"?

Copenhagen, Denmark

Outside Cleveland, OH City Hall, 2008
A yarn bombing is an installation of knit or crochet work in a public place.  Some yarn bombings are done with permission, others without.  It is done for a variety of reasons.  In the Moscow bombing, it's done to advertise a knit and crochet shop.  (Follow link to article.)  In the photo of the tank, a more political motive is involved, to contrast the inhumanity of war against the humanity and comfort of handcrafts.  It was installed as a protest against international participation in the recent/current Iraq war.  The project was organized by Marianne Jorgensen, and knit and crocheted by crafters around the world.  Still others are done to promote a charity, or as art for the sake of art.

London Phone Booth
The London Phone Booth was done by Knit the City, a knitting collective that exists for the sole purpose of installing "Knit Graffiti". They have been prolific in their short existence, and their installations are joyful.  Their art encourages viewers to see their world in a humorous way.

Is yarn bombing here to stay?  Sure.  It's street art.  Graffiti, chalk art, Lego art, and yarn bombing are the visual art cousins of street performers who sing, dance, make living statues, and more.  Every way that people find to express themselves makes its way into a public venue.  Graffiti dates back to cave paintings.  Protest songs were documented in medieval times.  It's not going anywhere.

"Lego" Bridge, Germany 2012 by MGEX

This Lego bridge in Germany was painted with permission from city officials, and took almost 4 weeks to complete. 

The city of London has allowed installation of Lego Underground maps at 5 subway stations.

Lego Map, London Underground

So is it art?  Art has always been in the eye of the beholder.  That said, many well known artists began their public careers as "guerrilla" artists.  Keith Haring and Shepard Fairey immediately come to mind. 

Keith Haring - Brooklyn Subway Art
Other artists, like Christo, Picasso, and many more, begin their careers indoors, and move to outdoor installations after they've made a name for themselves.

We are witnessing the birth of a new form of public expression.  Some of these artists are already receiving invitations and commissions to install their art by invitation. 
Mural by Shepard Fairey

If you see some yarn bombing, snap a photo.  Post it on your Facebook page.  Share the experience!  Organize a yarn bombing of your own.  Or scan Twitter and Tumblr for artists who are looking for support for a planned yarn bomb.  Join in!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

After a quick poll of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, I was unable to locate a single person who had not either had breast cancer or had a close friend or relative with it.  It is a pervasive issue that touches lives in ways as unique as the women and men who contract the disease, but it is always painful and disruptive.

I've never done this before, but this year I'm devoting a post to the various wonderful things you can knit and wear to show support for the fight against this disease.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and pink is the color designated by Susan G. Komen for the Cure as supporting research to cure the disease.  You may want to knit ahead to have something ready as a gift.  If so, these patterns may help.

If you have are a survivor, or have a friend, relative or acquaintance who is a survivor, consider knitting one of these patterns.  If your friend is a knitter, you could also consider building a personalized kit for your friend to make their own project.  These are not fund raising patterns; they just show support for the fight.  If you wish to make a donation, please use the link above to contact the SGK Foundation directly. 

First up, the Pink Ribbon Hat from Carissa Knits.  Make it in a variety of fibers to match the needs of the recipient.

Pink Ribbon Mittens, from Nancy's  They're made in colorwork on small needles, and will definitely be a labor of love.  Beautiful, aren't they?

For the sock people, Pink Ribbons, socks from the agile mind of Lisa Lloyd.  Again, I see these in a variety of fibers and heights to meet the needs of the end-user.

Any of these three patterns can be made in any of the support ribbon colors to suit the needs of your family or loved ones.  For color options, please click here.

This last one is a godsend to those who choose not to have reconstructive surgery, and want the option of a comfortable prosthetic.  It's called "Tit Bits", and it has received consistently amazing reviews.  It was designed by Beryl Tsang, and thoughtfully made available in


Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Change in the Weatther

The weather here in Buffalo NY is right on schedule.  Labor Day weekend brought daytime highs in the 60's F/low 20's C and lows in the 40s/single digits.  This tends to make two things happen in my mind: I crave heavier knitting projects and delight in the wools and tweeds that suddenly populate the knit shops, and I am thrilled with the sales!

It's a tough choice.  I tend to go stash diving at this time of year, and pull out some orphan yarn or some un-realized pattern, and then scour the shops looking for the answer to make these things whole.  Maybe my skein of mohair will mesh beautifully with some new silk/merino blend and become decadent gloves.  Maybe the pattern I can't get gauge on is just the thing for the linen yarn that's now on sale.  Maybe not.  The point is, I go in with a purpose or two, and find the process less overwhelming.  Otherwise, I want to take everything home. 

Another thing I find myself doing every year at this time is going through all my project bags and passing sentence: knit, purgatory (rarely), or rip.  I like to free up my needles.  Projects are no longer abandoned, but just gone.  Clearing the backlog feels good, no matter what the resolution.

I sort my needles, and make sure they're properly labeled and stored.  I sort my stash, and update and reorganize the labeling.  On rare occasions, I even update my inventories on Ravelry.  They are wonderful tools. 

This change in the weather is inspiring.  All of a sudden I have quite a bit of work to do!  If you need me, I'll be buried under my stash.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

3 Bags Full

The kids are back in school, which means the Lovely and Intrepid Colleen, Assistant Extraordinaire, is available to get back to work on what's important - paying attention to my knitting needs!  We met up at our usual Starbucks location, delighted to have no children in tow, and fewer limits on knitting and design time.

As I was packing up for this meeting, I collected no fewer than three bags full of Mountain Colors Yarn for us to discuss, and swatches for future designs.  Because my head is conclusively up my butt, I did not consider this strange at all.  I just walked into Starbucks, ordered, and then spread yarn across a large table for four.  There were only the two of us, but it was a lot of yarn.

The yarn attracted lots of attention.  People wanted to touch it, look at it, talk about knitting with it, learn where to buy it, learn when the patterns I'm designing will be available and where, etc.  The first woman visited with us for 20 minutes before mentioning that she had left her husband on the other side of the café, waiting for her.  One woman was in the process of conducting a job interview (I am not making this up) and abandoned her job candidate for the better part of ten minutes just to visit the yarn!

I took the yarn home and went on with my day yarn-free.  Sincerely, if I ever decide to run for office, I think I'll bring it with me everywhere I go.  It draws a relaxed and happy crowd.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Holiday Knitting Quickie - Stockings!

Spindleknitter's Stockings by Kristen Hall are my first must knit rave of the 2013 holiday season.  Knit 'em up.  The pattern is free, and it's really good.  I've read it through and these are definitely on my holiday list.  Add 'em to yours!

Friday, August 30, 2013

More Mountain Colors Visit

Welcome to Mountain Colors Yarn
It's been a crazy week since I returned from Montana.  My plane landed in Bflo at 5pm after 12 hrs of travelling, and Sunday I was a zombie.  Monday brought the sprint to be ready for my daughter's first day of college.  Details keep needing my attention about the new house, and of course, in my spare time, I try to get some knitting done, and get some sleep.  Then yesterday we had multiple violent Asperger's Syndrome breakdowns to cope with, and today I write in what I can only describe as suspicious and unlikely calm.

Bins by Colorway
This Mountain Colors Yarn visit started, as have previous visits, with a drive into the Bitterroot Valley to the shop.  The photo above is the sign at the roadside inviting you in, taken on a previous visit.  This trip was marked by smoky skies and air due to the severe wildfire up the canyon.

Future Projects

When you use the "Showroom" entrance, you arrive in a room of all of the yarns sorted by colorway. Find the colorway you love, and you'll immediately see all of your yarn choices.  You'll also find "mill ends" of yarns, priced by the ounce.  These are great for colorwork and swatching.    Then you come to one of my favorites: "Test Skeins".  These are trial runs of future colorways, and are usually done in dye hank sizes (about 4 normal hanks).  These are also sold by the ounce, and I find them addicting.  I bought three.

Diana McKay and Leslie Taylor

I was very fortunate that both owners, Leslie Taylor and Diana McKay, were in.  I had met Diana in the past, and was delighted to see her again, and to meet Leslie for the first time.  We had a lovely chat, and decided to collaborate again on some designs.  We're thinking a shrug or similar top, and a Chanel-inspired jacket.  These are some of the yarns we're considering (see photo above.)

One thing I wish I could share with you is the smell.  It's a strange blend of wool, dye, and vinegar (used as a mordant to set the dye.)  It all comes together as a sort of marvelous yarn salad smell. 

Here's the process as I understand it: undyed yarn comes in, and is skeined for dyeing.  It's sorted into the fiber types to be dyed in a particular color run.  Each run could contain half a dozen different types of yarn.

It all heads off to the dye kitchen, where it is washed.  This removes any machine oils from the yarn, and allows it to take dye evenly.

The team mixes up all the colors to be used in today's batch on the hotplates and in the dye bottles.  And then it gets messy!

Skein after skein is hand dyed with squirt bottles of dye.  Each color is added individually in a prescribed order and pattern to create the exact desired effect on each skein.  These dye hanks are then treated with mordant to set the color, rinsed and dried.  Then they are broken down into the familiar retail hanks you and I purchase at the store.
The only hard part about going to MCY is not having the cash to buy out the entire place.  I'm often content with my stash, but never when I go there!  It's all so easy to knit, wears like iron, and those colors are so seductive!

I found my Kryptonite on this visit, too.  Cashmere Louisa yarn in my favorite colorway ever, Harmony Honey.  At $84 a skein, it's something I'd indulge in if I had been very, very good.  I decided I had been very, very good.  WooHoo!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mountain Colors Yarn Visit

Under the Bigtop Hat
My affection for Mountain Colors Yarn is well publicized.  (see the first 4 pics for original patterns with their yarns)  I was lucky enough to have another visit to their studios and showroom last week during my Montana vacation.  What makes me love a small yarn dyer in a place that's tough to reach?  A company who exclusively dyes variegated yarns, which I am reported to have a very fickle relationship with?

Elk Mittens

Well, it's not complicated.  I don't know who their yarn suppliers are, but Mountain Colors is very particular about only dying extremely high quality yarns which are a pleasure to use.  I've used them for a number of projects, and used them as featured yarn for classes.  And the colors are outstanding, each painstakingly composed by the two owners, Leslie Taylor and Diana McKay.  These two women have a remarkable color sense, building each variegation from 9 colors and blends.  They hand-dye in small batches for color and quality control.  And the majority of their colorways are inspired by their surroundings.

Snuggly Socks
Ruffles for Lisa
As it turns out, the surrounding of Western Montana is a particularly beautiful and volatile one.  Wildflowers, wildlife and wildfires, Cascade Mountains and cascading streams, and four seasons of weather to create even more colors and drama.

Lolo Pass Fire 2013
They are located in the Bitterroot Valley, in a little town called Corvallis.  On this visit, the valley was socked in with smoke from a huge wildfire just over the ridge.  At first I was disappointed, worrying about the loss of wilderness and property.  (I'm from the East Coast, and this was my first wildfire!  Yikes!)  But it was painstakingly explained to me that letting the fires burn is better for the environment in the long run, and that the people and livestock were being well protected.  So I spent a little time looking at the contrast of the fire plume over the mountains, against the sky, against the lodge pole pines.  The colors were unique and amazing.

This is already running a little long, so I'll talk about the cool yarn I collected for new designs in the next post.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Home for My Stash 2

The previously described home I am trying to buy is not going any better.

I went on vacation out in Montana, and while there I enjoyed visit to Mountain Colors.  Tons of magnificent yarn came home with me.  I've been sketching and designing, and it will be lovely distraction for the next couple of weeks.  (Post coming soon!)  I thought when I came back that there would be some progress on the house. 

Nope.  Instead, we're more aware of how far behind we are.  It could be months while the seller finishes sorting out her bankruptcy issues, and I can't do anything to advance the process.  A month ago I was hurrying to organize all the paperwork, insurance, contractor dates, etc.  Now that all of it is finished the waiting is maddening!  And all the contractor scheduling will have to be organized again.  The yarn will have to be in its cramped digs a little longer.

The good news is, lots of yarn and knitting time.  I'm in love!  Photos to follow in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Home for My Stash (and Family)

My yarn has been complaining about the cramped conditions it has been living in: plastic bags, plastic bins, segregated from all the knitting tools.  There isn't enough space.  The alpaca has been sharing space with the cottons, and the sock yarns are in with the lace.  It has had enough.  It was time to shop for new digs, and so house shopping commenced. 

We found a great little house, and, drumroll please, it has an enormous walk-in cedar closet!  Most people would look at this as a great place for winter wearables, but as an avid knitter all I saw was a perfect place for my stash!  I downplayed it while talking to my husband about the place, but when we decided it was "the house", there was a definite happy dance done for the cedar closet.  There are is also a huge built in cubby system in the same room, and plenty of room for all my favorite knitting books, knitting chairs, magazines, and swatches and samples.  Organization and workspace in the same room!  I'm walking on air.  I came home and told the yarn, and I could tell it was happy.  Every fiber will be in its place with plenty of room to breathe.  We're scheduled to close on Friday.

And then the phone rang at 8:02 this morning.  There's a delay in the closing, and they have no idea when we can reschedule.  My poor stash will have to remain in its bins and plastic bags a little longer.  The knitting tools will remain tucked in nooks and crannies in multiple cabinets.  How much longer?  It's too early to tell.  I can hear the cedar closet calling to me, telling me not to lose hope.  I'm reluctant to break the news to the yarn. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Working on Workshops for 2014

Now is the time of year I start planning for the next year's Knitting Workshop offerings.  If you've never taken a class from me (or anyone else for that matter) this post is still requesting your help and opinions!  What tempts you?  What do you avoid like the plague?  I'm not sure what to teach next.  Stay with my students' perennial favorites?  Add some new stuff?  Replace the old faves with what I hope will be new faves?  Normally each class is advertised with photos of techniques that will be taught in class.  I haven't done that here for space reasons.

The long-term favorites are:

1. Adjusting Knitting Patterns (for fit and style)

2. Mitten Design (design your own from any yarn!)

3. Colorwork Basics (from stripes to Fair Isle)

4. Colorwork Techniques (intarsia, bi-colored cables, etc)

5. Simple Shaping (how to perform the shaping techniques in average patterns)

6. Advanced Shaping (how to add, enhance, and recognize shaping techniques which look like design elements)

What should I add or replace?

I'm thinking of adding:

Simple Edge Techniques (make those edges on everything look even and wear better)

Intermediate Edge Techniques (vertical and horizontal options to dress up any pattern)

Decorative Cast Ons and Bind Offs (if you only know one or two of each, this is the class for you!  Change wear, looks, and flexibility for COs and BOs on all your knitting projects)

Knitting Tools - what, why, and how the right tool makes your work faster, more beautiful, and more satisfying

Making t-shirt yarn - upcycling t-shirts into knitting yarn

Most of us love taking knitting classes.  And we love learning from books and videos.  I love playing with yarn in pretty much every way I've ever tried!  I'd love your feedback on what classes to keep in the mix, which are past their prime, and which to add.  This is the best way to make sure that I continue to offer the classes you want to take - tell me what you want before I offer them!

If I haven't listed a class on something you'd like to learn, tell me!  I'll be happy to design one.  Things that don't get enough attention to make a class will likely still become articles for the blog, with lessons and technique photos.  And if you want me to teach at your shop or festival, please let me know.  I'll be happy to try to fit it into my schedule!

Thanks in advance for all your feedback!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Illegal Pattern Photocopying

My position on photocopying patterns is well known.  (I'm against it for anything except personal use.  Pay the designer for their work.)  Then I found this at an estate sale today.  I'm in love with it!  I'm not alone!

Anyone know who designed this?  Or where I could buy a copy of the pattern?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Coming Back to Blogging

I'm back!  It will be in baby steps.  Thanks to all who have been encouraging me to return, via Facebook and Twitter.  It's been a strange time in my life, and you've all been incredibly patient. 

Today I want to share one of my newest knitting book acquisitions: Knit Your Own Dog: The Second Litter

I had to have it purely based on the dog on the cover!  You see, this is my dog:

If you haven't looked at these delightful books, take a peek.  Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne have done an amazing job designing patterns that resemble our beloved dogs  (and cats!), and I'm a sucker for a good knitted toy!  Enjoy!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sweaters on Syfy's Defiance

Grunge and Industrial chic are back in a big way.  This new show on Syfy is just dripping with custom knitwear, much of which is made with handspun, hand dyed yarns.  They are all hand knit.  There are shirts, sweaters, coats, wraps of every description...  I see a big fashion trend set to counter the art deco trend coming on the heels of this summer's Great Gatsby movie!  Here's a peek.