Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Phillies Phans: Stitch N Pitch is in two weeks!

Just two weeks left 'til the Phillies Stitch-N-Pitch. Details are here. A Phillies Phanatic bobblehead knitting?! You bet I'll be there.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A special day

Let's all wish a very happy birthday to Sallykins....

birthday gal

If you happen to be in the mood for yarnz, please be advised that I have added a nice assortment of lovely Plump (80 percent superwash merino, 20 percent nylon) to the BBF shop, with 2 skeins of each color in stock, including Bluestar:




and Aruba:


Free shipping on orders over $25 with the code "SPRING"!

Have a terrific weekend -- an extra-long one for Memorial Day if you're in the US....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giveaway Winner!!!

Chrissy of Stitched Together is the Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat winner! I have emailed you, Chrissy, via Ravelry.

I can't believe the number of folks, new and old, who commented. It was so fun to see you all! Sometimes blogging is like shouting into the wind. You aren't sure anyone is listening -- so it's amazing to see that (tap, tap) this thing is on.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your kind words and for being here. I will definitely do this again next time! And a huge thank-you to Sew Mama Sew for hosting this.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Giveaway Day!

UPDATE: Comments are closed for this post as the deadline for contest entries has passed. Thanks to all who participated!

For the first time, I am participating in the Sew Mama Sew May Giveaway Day. I mean, what could possibly be more fun than free stuff, right?

So as part of the Giveaway Day, I am going to select a random person who comments on this post, using the dreaded Random Number Generator, and award them the following:

one skein of Black Bunny Fibers handpainted sock yarn: my Superwash Merino Classic (Delft, a semisolid in rich cobalt blue; 400 yards of fingering weight superwash 100% merino wool ) & one copy of the Emmett sock knitting pattern (PDF or hard copy, your choice).

Emmett Socks

All you have to do is leave a comment to this post. Remember, there has to be an email addy either in the comment or via your profile. Comments must be received by midnight, May 25th, and I will pick the winning name the next day. I will be happy to ship the item within the USA or to any other country that the US Post Office can deliver first-class mail to.

If you're new here, please poke around my blog for knitting talk and more recently, some sewing and quilting talk. And there's lots of other lovely handpainted yarns at my shop, Black Bunny Fibers. You can sign up for my e-newsletter by using this link. (I won't sell or give your info away & I will keep the number of emails to a minimum. I also often include free shipping codes and other discount coupons!)

Good luck to all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No-Bull Book Review: Knits that Fit, by the PotterCraft

At the top of my review pile is Knits that Fit: Instructions, Patterns, and Tips for Getting the Right Fit (PotterCraft 2010; MSRP $22.99, available as of the time of this writing for $15.63), from our friends at PotterCraft.

The premise of the book is terrific; as the preface states:
A handknit sweater shouldn't fit like something that came from a department store. When you lovingly labor over a garment stitch-by-stitch, you want it to fit to your actual measurements, not just a general size. This volume offers you the chance to break free from following a pattern word-for-word and learn how to tailor your knitwear perfectly.
The book immediately jumps into a 17-page discussion of fit, beginning with the premise that a knitter should never follow a pattern blindly, but should examine it closely and figure out what modifications are necessary to make the pattern fit the exact shape and size of the knitter. Excellent advice. The book goes on to present lots of good basic information for the knitter unsure about fit.

Sally Melville's Sophisticated Hoodie

First up is the importance of figuring out your body size right now (not as it used to be, or as you wish it to be) and taking measurements. The book walks through sweater length (short, mid-length and long); back waist length for sweaters with waist shaping; sleeve length & cuff width; and bust, waist, hip & shoulder widths. The book then discusses body shaping, showing the difference by using drawings between an unshaped sweater and one with waist shaping. The discussion addresses short, mid-length and long sweater shaping, finishing up with a discussion of layering; and two other silhouettes (slim rectangle and A-line).*

Classic Shirt (S. Melville)

The next topic covered is yarn: the thickness of yarn (the book suggests fine yarns for a more flattering (read slimmer) fit); color, with a very brief discussion of some general color principles; transitions between colors; texture; ribbing; cables; and lace. The last four pages give tips and tricks for plus-size knitters, in a section that is reprinted from the Jillian Moreno/Amy Singer Big Girl Knits series.

The rest of the book is devoted to patterns -- all women's patterns, divided into three sections.

The "Pullovers" section contains eight sweaters of various styles, from Berta Karapteyan's Marbled Top, with horizontal pleats and a turtleneck wih picot edging,

Marbled Top (Berta Karapetyan)

to a basket-weave turtleneck; a yoke sweater;

Dark Victory Sweater (A. Modesitt)

a boat-neck with vertical cable detailing; a faux button-front tunic with collar by Lily Chin; Sally Melville's flirty top with ruffled sleeves and bottom; another turtleneck with corded detailing; and a simple cropped v-neck mohair sweater.

"Cardigans and Cover-Ups" contains eight more patterns: the striking Seashell Cardi (shown further below); the attractive Mrs. Darcy Cardigan by Mary Weaver (is that being modeled by Stitchy McYarnpants?);

Mrs. Darcy's Cardigan (M. Weaver)

a shrug knit in bulky textured yarn; a second shrug knit in smooth, lighter-weight yarn; Sally Melville's Classic Shirt, a knit version of the classic buttondown shirt (I like the way that one version is knit loosely in a mohair blend while the other is knit in a linen blend); another shrug in chunky yarn (which leads me to wonder why so many shrugs, garments with little front or back, some of which don't even have sleeves, in a book devoted to fit?) ; a hooded cardigan; and a ruffled cardigan.

Cozy Moss Shrug (B. Karapetyan)

The last section is "Sleeveless and Short-Sleeved Tops," with seven selections from the ruffled-necked Sea Foam top, a spaghetti-strap tank, a bustier-style tank; a cap-sleeve top with daring neckline; Melissa Mathay's charming Rebecca's Top, a cotton tank with empire waist and lace bottom; a mini dress on the cover (would also be cute worn over leggings); and a simple yoke-shaped stockinette top.

Vintage Sweater Girl Cropped Sweater (L. Chin)

All of the usual accoutrements that one finds in a PotterCraft book are there: color photos that are well-lit; multiple photos of the same garment, including close-ups of details; nice quality pages; clear type; schematics. Sizing generally runs S/M/L/XL, with some patterns going into 1X and 2X, and size ranges going from around 34 inches for small, through around 42-44 inches finished bust for large, and the plus sizes going as high as the 47- to 52-inch range (one choice even goes to 57 inches). Not all the patterns are sized for plus-size, however, and some of the pieces, like the shrugs, are written in fewer sizes given their cropped nature. Yarn gauges are all over the map, from chunky to fine.

Two-way Shrug (Caddie Melville Ledbetter)

The last things you should know before buying the book is that all or nearly all of the material in the book has been reprinted. In particular, the sweater patterns have appeared in various PotterCraft books (e.g., Berta Karaptyan's designs are all from 2007's Runway Knits; Melissa Mathay's are from Knits Three Ways), even the two Mary Weaver designs were originally published on her blog). I think this is an important thing to know so that you can check to see if you already have the patterns (or the ones you especially like) before investing in the book.

The only quibble I have is that I'm not exactly sure whether this particular mix of patterns suits someone seeking to create individualized fit. Some of the patterns, like the gorgeous Seashell Cardi,

Seashell Cardi (B. Karapetyan)

feature unique shaping and construction methods that would make significant alterations difficult. Other garments that are more traditionally constructed, like the empire tank, use complex stitch patterns in the body -- not the most conducive to waist shaping without messing up the pattern and a possible stumbling block for an inexperienced knitter. Even the gorgeous cover pattern, with its vertical colorblock stripes, would look very different depending on where stitches might be increased or decreased to individualize the waist shaping. I fear that the attempt to alter these patterns to fit could lead unsuspecting novices into disaster, especially given the lack of text boxes or other notes to assist in tailoring specific garments.

Roman Candle Pullover (B. Karapetyan)

However, I don't want to suggest that this is a bad book. The technical section on fit covers and lot of good material, and if you are a knitter who doesn't know a lot of about fit or sweater shaping, the book is a good introduction to some of these principles. And there are a number of really great-looking women's sweaters contained in the book. If you are looking for a lovely selection of women's sweater patterns and don't already have the original books, this is also a nice addition to your collection, a kind of "best of the best" from PotterCraft's archives.

*One omission is any in-depth discussion of sleeve styles, which can have a profound affect on the fit of a sweater; another is a detailed discussion of bust fit and shaping, which again can dramatically alter a sweater's fit for women with substantially less or more in the bewb department.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Midwesterners: this one's for you!

I am very excited to be teaching at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fair this June, in Grayslake, Illinois. I have a very warm spot in my heart for Illinois because so many dear friends (s.g. Franklin Habit) of mine live there. It's also a special thrill for me to be teaching at a location that's accessible to folks who live more than a few hours from me.

I haven't been teaching that long, and I don't want that to deter you from taking my classes. We cover lots of material, and my classes sound a lot like my blog posts -- conversational, lots of humor, concrete examples, and plenty of time for questions. My aim is for you to really understand the way things work-- not just to learn how to do something in a rote way, but to get why it works that way. Here's what I'm teaching in June:

Yarn Substitution Made Easy: I love teaching this class because this is an issue that I didn't understand when I first when back to knitting. I would go in to a knitting shop with a pattern and say "I want to make this; can you show me which yarns will work?" and then the clerk would point out all the yarns in the same category, like DK or worsted weights. I soon got impatient with having to ask for help all the time and with not really getting why one yarn would work and not another, so I spent a lot of time reading and playing with yarns to figure out how yarns are classified, how gauge works and how it is connected with yarn classification, and things to consider when switching out a yarn for the one listed in the pattern. I will cover all of this in the class so you understand it, too. We finish up the class by taking some actual patterns and coming up with some substitutes for them, so that you can see exactly how it all fits together in a real-world pattern.

Making Friends with your Handpaints: This is another class that is very near and dear to my heart, and you will leave with an incredible amount of information about handpainted yarns and why they work they way they do. If you love yarns like Koigu, Madeline Tosh, Lorna's Laces, Shibui, or any of the gazillion indie dyers out there, this is the class for you. We talk about how handpaints are made, why they look the way they do, how to sort them into categories by the way they will look knitted up, and how to choose patterns that will use the yarn to its best advantage. Most people take this class because of the section on pooling -- why handpaint yarns can produce strange patterns of color, like this:


and how to avoid that, if you don't like the effect you're getting.

Creativity with Color: This is a more hands-on workshop. If you are one of those people who shies away from color in your knitting, whether simple stripes or fair isle patterns, or who sticks with solids all the time, then this is the class for you. I will gently, gently walk you through some very user-friendly principles of color theory and ways for you to look at color in your life. We'll talk about some of the blocks to creativity that knitters experience, and then we'll play with color. We'll do some swatch knitting and some playing around with creating color patterns using graph paper and colored pencils. I will keep you entertained throughout with my sparkling personality and anecdotes from the dog-eat-dog world of yarn.

Self-Stripers: How They Work & How To Use Them: If you love Noro, Wisdom Poems, Regia, Trekking, Kaffe Fassett's Colourscape and similar yarns that stripe on their own, from one color to the next, then this class will help you understand them better and use them more effectively. We'll discuss how these yarns are made, the concept of the repeat and why it makes stripes, and what things affect the way the stripes look -- wide, skinny, zigzaggy or gentle shades of color like this:


I think you'll really benefit from the tips and tricks section. We'll go over some ways that you can work with stripers to get the results you want. (NOT "strippers," mind you, STRIPERS. For tips on working with strippers, you're on your own. Although I'd advise against Googling it unless your virus protection is up-to-date.)

You can see the specifics of dates and times by going to the Teacher Bio page here. Scroll down to my name. (You'll also see the other amazing teachers -- Franklin, Abby Franquemont, Merike Saarniit, to name just a few).

And there will be lots and lots of other fun at the Fair -- a fleece competition, marketplace, juried art exhibition, nonjuried vintage handbag showing, fashion show, music, food and more!

So pretty please, consider signing up for one of my classes. We'll have a great time, you'll learn a lot, and then we can all go eat funnel-cakes and ice cream together.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More impressions from Maryland Sheep & Wool

It's a Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat tradition to collect snapshots from Maryland Sheep & Wool and to present them in a kind of montage. So here are some photos from this year's festival.

I love the ice cream cone on top of one of the vendor stands in the midway. What could be better than a giant fake cone beckoning you to eat ice cream?


One barn was set up with a "Parade of Breeds," over 30 breeds of sheep in one place

Can't have a sheep show without a shearing demonstration

Jersey Wooly bunneh babies -- so cute you could die

Spinning demonstration

Several vendors had wonderful baskets like these

Wool for applique

Antique wheels & other spinning equipment at this booth

Love the "Hooked on Ewe" rugs

From the winner's tent, this was a life-sized sheep

Tiny sweater from the winner's tent

Lots of cool weaving projects were on display

Some gorgeous examples of stranded knitting

I love the woman d'un certain age who was rocking this skirt

See you next year!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Maryland Sheep & Wool Report: 2011

Hard to believe that I've been going to Maryland Sheep & Wool for nearly a decade now. This year, for the first time I can remember, the show shared the weekend with Mother's Day. I don't know if this was a factor, but it seemed as though the crowds were a bit lighter than in the past, although there were still lots and lots of folks by midday.

My ragtag band of yarn hooligans left Philadelphia around 7:00 a.m. I realized how obsessed I had gotten with quilting when I found myself taking a photo of the wall of a Maryland rest stop because I thought it would make a great quilt design:

Our trip down was fast and uneventful, and we arrived at the fairgrounds before 10:00 a.m.

Handsome Jim at the front gate

The weather was glorious: sunny, blue skies, warm enough to be comfortable without a jacket but not hot. One of the things that's been especially fun about going to Maryland has been adding traveling companion and fantabulous designer (and awesome friend) Laura's sister to our band of knitting fugitives. Laura's sister lives in Maryland and meets us at the fairground each year. I've gotten to know her over the years and she's lovely. Even though she doesn't knit, she is an enthusiastic companion. It was great to spend a couple hours joking with her.

When we arrived, it was relatively uncrowded. (Here's a shot of the back end of the midway early in the day.)

I made my way to the big building at the back, but not before running into Ms. Maleficent Knits herself (Hi, Regina!!) and some of her knitting homies from Maryland:

The big barn was loads of fun, and I made my first and only yarn purchase of the day at Woolstock: a full bag of Cash Iroho for halfprice. (Cash Iroha is like that good-looking frat boy you meet at a party: you suspect you won't be 100% crazy about his performance but he's just so pretty you can't help yourself. )* I also had the great good fortune to run into PoorLuci

Wait -- that's not PoorLuci! Here she is:

PoorLuci & me

as well as Philly knitting icons Knitty D & the City, not to mention Knity D's mom, a.k.a. the Barb-inator.

Wendy & Barb; Knitty D wasn't feeling well so we excused her from photo duty

I really didn't have much cash for shopping, so we spent most of the day wandering around looking at the pretty yarnz and snapping photos of cute animalz. It seemed to me that the organizers have been making various changes over the years in response to constructive criticism of the vendors and attendees. For example, in the last two or three years, the number of portapotties has increased exponentially, so if you don't mind using them instead of a regular bathroom, you hardly ever have to wait in a long line to answer nature's call. I saw a noticeable increase in the number of portable ATMs in various spots. There were also new areas where tents for vendors were added, either increasing the overall number or at least spreading them out more to avoid the crowding. All good.

We ran into Rhichard of Koigu fame while exploring one of the expanded sections of vendor space:

Laura's sister on the left, Dickie, and Lovely Laura

Rhichard is always a hoot and was in rare form that day. I hope he didn't get into trouble in the Auction Tent....(Note to Rhichard: when it said "Shepherd Auction" it means they are auctioning off items FOR shepherds, not the shepherds themselves!)

By about 1 p.m., the crowds were at their height. Here's a midday shot of the crowds:

One exciting moment for me was stumbling across some preview copies of the upcoming Noro book by Sixth & Spring -- it will be out soon and features patterns knit in Noro yarns. I got to see my fair isle earflap hat

in print for the first time -- yay!

I was very very pleased to run into B.J. (a.k.a. the M&M Lady)

who is always a pleasure to see, and the most faithful blog-reader. BJ and I have been at the same events but not running into each other for a while, so we were both happy that our paths finally crossed.


For now, I will leave you with this bumper sticker:

Next post will include a photo montage of some of the pretty things we saw.

* Yarn freaks, I am referring to the likelihood of pilling, given how soft and loosely spun the yarn is. I still love this yarn, though.