Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sock Fiber Club and Yarn Club spots open

If you are interested in joining a new go-around of the Black Bunny Fibers Club, shoot me an email using the contact link in the sidebar at the right. I'm going to be doing a four-month Sock Club -- four consecutive months of sock yarns, hand-dyed by me -- and a four-month Yarn Club -- four consecutive months of yarns of different weights, also hand-dyed by me. I've discovered that I need to keep the clubs small, around ten or twelve at most, so there are only a few slots available. (You can't be in both, either, to try to spread the love around.) The cost per month will range from around $22 to 26, plus shipping, depending on the yarn. You will pay the first month in advance to hold your space, then I will invoice you each of the remaining months before shipping. We've been having a lot of fun with the existing Sock Club and two teams of Fiber Clubs -- and in fact, most of the original Sock Club and first team of Fiber Club members decided to stay in for a second four-month tour, which has made things even more fun. I will take people in the order that they respond until all the slots are filled. I'll update this post if/when I fill the slots. The Clubs are a great way for me to try some new things on a smaller scale and to use some yarns and fibers that I may not be able to source in quantity... so if you're interested, don't delay!

UPDATE AS OF WEDNESDAY JULY 30th 9:15 a.m.: Sock Club is full. There are still a few Yarn Club spots, and due to several requests, I'm going to add a third Fiber Club, so there's a few spots left for that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Home again

We are back home, buried in piles of laundry and messiness, but it does feel good to sleep in my own bed again. The kids caught some kind of sore throat thing toward the end of the week, and I think even they were ready to be home once more.

I've got a zillion things to catch up on, but one thing I did actually make some progress on was a sweater that's been accepted for KnitScene. I'm very excited about it, because this is a design I've been playing around with for a while and I think it's going to be a fun, fairly quick knit -- and one that newbie knitters will enjoy because it produces a professional-looking result yet is easy to knit.

I've got lots and lots of dyeing to do, too, and I've got some roving soaking so I can do a spinner's update later this week.

So for now, I will leave you with the last batch of vacation photos:

Goat (for Mindy) from the Cape May Zoo.

Some kind of cavy (relative of the guinea pig), maybe a mara?

Cleome from the zoo.

Little Miss poses.

The Slowskys.

Alpaca cushing.

N. waits for lunch.

The now-traditional kite-flying.

Father -n- son.

Ravelry on the beach.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More beach photo ops

Terror on the beach!!!

Twins say "cheese."

Note the dolphin fin -- there were a whole bunch of them just off the beach, frolicking about:



Sailboat from the other day:

Monday's cumulus:


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Off the beaten beach

While we are seeing lovely vistas like this:

we are also seeing odder vistas, like this:

(alpaca relieving himself).

Today I present some of the less typically-beachy things I've photographed:

Birdy condo.

Top of the lighthouse.

Tom reports that there are no South Korean comfort ladies inside, thankfully.

Chocolate: my favorite.

Is it a taxi? or a police car?

Note the boo-boo face.

Disembodied head wearing sunhat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kiva update: help a Bolivian knitter's coop

Remember a while back, when I did a blog post about Kiva? Kiva is an organization that facilitates microloans: you use your Paypal account to lend money to a small business in the developing world. Kiva vets the entrepreneurs, then through their website, they connect entrepreneurs with lenders. You can pick the amount you donate, and it can be a small or large amount, depending on your resources.

When I first heard about Kiva, I searched their pool of entrepreneurs looking for knitting or fiber-related business. At the time, an influx of publicity had resulted in Kiva not having any entrepreneurs to fund -- they'd all been funded. But someone on Ravelry drew my attention to this group, a Bolivian collective that creates knitted sweaters, scarves and other garments to sell. The group still needs lenders, so if you're so inclined, check it out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Change can be good.

Yes, it's me -- Ms. Spontaneity-Has-Its-Time-and-Place -- beginning this post with a tribute to change. It is one of our beach weeks, but this year we are renting a different house in a different part of Cape May County. I'm very happy we made the change.

I had many fond memories of the house we used to rent, but last year was the tipping point for a bunch of irritations that had coalesced into major irritation. (And yes, I do realize how spoiled I am...) One was air conditioning, or more specifically, the lack thereof: the prior house had only 2 window units, one of which died last year midweek. It was miserable, especially for the bunny. Another was the bed situation. The master bedroom had a bed hammock instrument of torture that resulted in Tom and I being chronically tired and sleep-deprived. It got so bad last year that we brought down an air mattress the second week. After a night of the horrible bed, the air mattress seemed luxurious and we had a day or two where we each competed for the honor of sleeping on it, while the other one made do in the regular "bed" (which was slightly less uncomfortable with only one person sleeping in it). But even that wore off as we realized we were merely exchanging one kind of discomfort for another.

So we looked around and decided to rent a house further away from Cape May proper, in a more residential area. It is within walking distance to the beach but not within walking distance to the town of Cape May. However, I'm feeling very, very happy with the change. Here's the charming outside:

and the owners are clearly passionate about flowers:

This house has lots of excellent mojo, including the bunny-friendly doorway plaque:

and the owner's clear affection for handcrafts:

But, you ask, how does the most important member of the household like it?

No, not Elvis (although he got that nickname by fancying himself The King). He likes it, as you can see, but I was really referring to:

His Nibs.

He is very content, dreaming about all the gorgeous wildflowers in the front yard as he naps in air-conditioned splendor.

This week, life is very, very good.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A visit to Kaffe-topia

Earlier this week, I gave you a peek into the dreamy world of Rowan No. 44. Let us continue our look at what's coming this fall from our friends at Westminster Fibers (US distributor of Rowan) by considering the gorgeous bright hues of a color genius. For that, we must take a quick trip to Kaffe-topia.

Because this blogger bitch fancies herself a crack journalist (hey, if the tools at Fox News can call themselves "fair and balanced", I can call myself a journalist, no?), I have consulted with various and sundry of my yarnie sources and present to you good news: there will be more Kaffe yarns in fall of 2008!

For those of you who enjoyed the lovely colors of Regia's Kaffe Fassett-designed sock yarn colorways (Regia,, like Rowan, is distributed by Westminster Fibers in the US, and both are owned by the same parent company), there are more! There are four new colorways in the Landscape line (these are the ones that make distinct stripes), including earth tones (Landscape Canyon), a more muted blend called Landscape Amazonas and two that defy easy categorization (Landscape Jungle and Landscape Celebration). In the Mirage line, the ones that feature blends of color rather than clear stripes, there are two new colors: Mirage Canyon (again, earth tones) and Mirage Jungle (a mix).

And there is a new line of Kaffe sock yarn called Exotic, featuring bright mixes of color that seem to fall halfway between clear horizontal stripes and more fluid effects.

Through exhaustive research and an insatiable greed for sock yarn, as well as the beauty of teh internets, I have managed to get my hands on these:

two of the new Exotic colors. Really lovely stuff!

You might think that this would be enough to satisfy my Kaffe-lust. But wait: there's more. Our friends at Rowan have brought us this:

a new yarn called Colourscape Chunky,

with colorways designed by His Kaffe-ly Highness himself. This is a 100% lambswool yarn, knitting at around 3.5 stitches per inch (soft!). You get nice big hanks of 100g which run around 175 yds a hank. The yarn looks pretty evenly spun to me, without going back and forth between thick and thin. There are eight colourways -- Carnival, Cherry, Heath, Frosty (I believe the photos I'm showing are of Frosty), Candy Pink, Ghost, Northern Lights and Camouflage -- each colorway designed by Kaffe Fassett. That sound you hear is me sighing with delight. Rowan will also be publishing a design book devoted solely to this yarn; the book is called "The Colourscape Chunky Collection" and includes 12 designs for women by Sarah Hatton. Some of these sweaters were on display at TNNA and I can tell you that they are gorgeous.

So if the summer heat and humidity are getting you down (assuming you live in the same climatic region as me; g'day, Aussies & Kiwis! I know it's winter where you are! isn't it?), if you can't wait for the kids to go back to school and quit saying they're bored, if it's a lo-o-ng time until your next vacation, then cheer up. Think about how nice it is to live in a world where there will be more Kaffe Fassett-designed yarns than ever before.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rowan No. 44 Preview

Because I have friends in high (or do I mean "low"?) places, I am extremely fortunate to be able to bring you this extra-special, extra-well-informed preview of the brand-new Rowan Magazine, No. 44. This year the Magazine is being released a bit earlier than usual in honor of Rowan's 30th Anniversary. Holy crap: three decades of Rowan. I wish when I was thirteen, instead of worrying about making my perfectly-straight hair try to do Farrah Fawcett flips, I'd have been out there buying the first Rowan Magazine. . . but I suppose then I would have been regarded as even more of a nerd than I already was.

In any event, in honor of this anniversary extravaganza, we get Rowan No. 44 in July instead of August, complete with spiffy photo-album-inspired cover:

At 186 pages, this one is a bit thicker than usual, no?

No. 44 begins with a note by Kate Buller, editor-in-chief, who notes that the co-founders of Rowan (Stephen Sheard and Simon Cockin) retired at the end of last year -- but she also assures us that we need not fear, for Rowan will march onward. She also says something which must be a misprint: that Kaffe Fassett, the God of Colour, celebrated his 70th birthday last year. Surely that gorgeous, silver-maned man is not a day over 50... and if he is, I want to know what kind of moisturizer he uses.

But once again, I digress. Let's look first at the designs. This year's Rowan features three "stories," as Rowan calls them, overarching themes around which the patterns are organized and inspired. All of them perfectly suit Rowan's anniversary: Nostalgia (a fond remembrance of the past), Renaissance (a rebirth) and Elegance (because Rowan's stuff is nearly always very stylish and elegant; the only reason I said "nearly" is because of that unfortunate Maori warpaint a few springs ago. But let's not talk about that.).

Nostalgia was inspired by 1930s and 1940s glamour (in honor of the Brits, I shall use the "u" spelling throughout). Each design is named after a film icon of the era -- hence the Hepburn Vest, Lamarr Gloves, and Lamour Sweater, shown from left to right below.

Photography and styling, impeccable and inspired as usual, evoke that vintage era.

You'll find rich shades of forest, browns, and purple, along with some muted shades of sage, cloud blue, rose and taupe, and there are lots of stitch patterns and other clever design details. This is the Hayworth Sweater, with a cowl neck and textured pattern:

Many of the garments have that characteristic sweater girl shape, although some are loose-fitting, too.

Designs are by Marie Wallin, Marion Foale, Sarah Dallas, Erika Knight, Jennie Atkinson and Sarah Hatton. The Fontaine fitted jacket, with an all-over basketweave, has great lines:

The second story, Renaissance, features an auburn-haired model who fits my mind's-eye view of what Queen Elizabeth (the first) must have looked like, which I am sure was not a coincidence. Renaissance focuses on pattern and color, both of which have been and continue to be hallmarks of Rowan design through the years. So if you love stranded knitting, you're gonna be in heaven. For example, take a look at the Bellini belted vest, by Sarah Hatton (all of these designs are named after Renaissance artists):

In addition to lots of stranded knitting, you'll find clever and creative embellishment. Take a look at Titian, by Marie Wallin, on the right below:

embellishment is done over the hazy colour-striping of Tapestry yarn, and gives an interesting and unusual effect. Wallin also designed the purple sweater next to it, called Raphael. The crewelwork is extraordinary (and if you didn't want the extra roominess in the bottom half of the sweater that comes with an empire waist, I expect it would be very easy to knit the bottom straight so that you get a more traditional fit. I know that you young-uns like your body-shaping sweaters, what with your lissome, unspoiled-by-childbearing figures 'n all.).

One of my favorites in this story is this Jewel Square Wrap, designed by Mr. I-Can't-Possibly-Be-Eligible-For-AARP Kaffe Fassett:

Very nice. I might have to make one to compensate for the fact that our thermostat will be set at 50 degrees F all winter...

Another feature I particularly like is the way the garments in this story mix different yarns -- including different gauges and different fibers. For example, the Jewel Square wrap mixes Wool Cotton, and Kidsilk Aura with Felted Tweed, while Titian uses Tapestry, Kid Classic and Wool Cotton. The different qualities of the various fibers (a tweed fleck here, a mohair halo there) give the colorwork added dimension.

Designs in this story are by Wallin, Martin Storey, Hatton and Fassett. Most of these garments feature flowing lines and looser fit, in part because of the Renaissance theme and perhaps in part because of the design challenges presented by colourwork patterns (it's hard to combine the repeats with the necessary increases and decreases that more fitted garments require, and stranded colourwork tends to create stiffer, heavier fabric). Appropriately, the emphasis is on jewel tones like gold, regal purple and emerald green.

The last story is Elegance, in which designs from the previous two stories are reworked and re-imagined, for example omitting embellishment, or changing necklines or sleeve length. So you'll see a version of Raphael (the purple one with the embroidery above) reworked plain. The short-sleeved Grable Sweater (shown above) becomes a tunic. The Lamour Sweater is revised as a vest. Below are the revised version of the Bellini vest, now turned into a cardigan (below left; compare with the one above, worn by the red-headed model) and the scoop-necked version of the Hayworth sweater (below right; compare with cowl-neck version in dark blue, shown above in Nostalgia):

For those who have trouble imagining what designs look like when they've been tweaked a bit, this will be a great exercise in the creative process. I hope it gives knitters the confidence to tailor designs to suit their own preferences even without being provided with the instructions.

As usual, the pattern section in the back of the magazine contains schematics; charts; and color insets of each pattern, along with page references to direct you to the full-size shots. Note that the charts are all in black-and-white, however. Most garments are sized from size 32 bust through 46 bust (those are body measurements, rather than garment measurements). Each garment is photographed at least two, sometimes more times, to give you additional insight into construction and design details. This issue seems to focus much more on knitting than crochet with few crocheted garments (now don't get all huffy on me, militant crocheters; just an observation, not a value judgment).

What else will you find in the fall magazine?
  • Seven favourite Rowan designers are interviewed to give their impressions of Rowan style (Fassett, Jean Moss, Martin Storey, Knight, Dallas, Kim Hargreaves and Sasha Kagan);
  • an article about the new RYC line of single-breed wools (woo-hoo! more about this in a future post);
  • "Clever Ideas," a collection of easy-to-make gifts, like crocheted placemats, a sewn apron and a felted wreath;
  • a short article on a new book by Sharon Brant, aimed at providing Rowan-style garments in plus-sizes.
Rowan 44 reminds me that autumn is just around the corner, with all the promise of exciting new yarns, patterns to ogle, and an end to the lassitude of summer. Happy days are here again.