Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer travels

I know there is a common perception (i.e. in the mind of, say, various of my family members) that I basically spend my days sitting around knitting and surfing on the computer.  Well, I do some of that, but lately, the days have been so jam-packed and busy that before I knew it, I realized it had been quite a while since my last blog post.

One reason the month of August seemed like a whirlwind for me was traveling. In between shore trips with my family, I flew out to Chicago to teach at Stitches Midwest. Whenever I go on teaching trips, I am lugging so much stuff I don't take my good camera. So you'll have to put up with photos from my cell phone, like this one of the view from my hotel room:

One of the things that freaked me out at first about the room was this:

It's a screen that is somehow built into the mirror of the bathroom. It shows whatever is on the TV, or if you don't have the TV on, it shows the events that are going on at the hotel. (In fact, if you look really hard, you can see that it is advertising a talk by Nicky Epstein.)  Very Big Brother but also kind of cool....unless it comes on while you are using the toilet, in which case, better tip the chambermaid well.

I had a wonderful time: good students, lots of fun knitting friends to catch up with (waves to Shannon Okey), and Brooke Nico (lace designer extraordinaire and co-owner of the Kirkwood Knittery, in St. Louis) was my most charming roommate.

Brooke participated in a designer challenge on the first day of Stitches involving knitted skirts, and you can see her wonderful design next to her, along with some of the others.

As usual with a Stitches event, there is a preview of the vendor's marketplace the night before the marketplace is open to the public  Here is what the line looked like Friday morning:

When I got to the show floor, I wasted no time meeting and greeting some of my favorite people. I promised that I would stop by Lost City Knits to meet the lovely Denise:

This is us at the Lost City booth.  (Wow, I already look tired and this was taken Friday!)

Of course I visited my pals at WEBS, and got to check out the two newest yarns from WEBS.  This is Buckman, a gorgeous chainette wool-silk blend:

I was also tempted by the new sportweight wool, too.....nom nom nom. All too soon, the weekend flew by and I was back at O'Hare:

I love this underground walkway with all sorts of cosmic lighting effects....or maybe it was fatigue and yarn fumes that made the walls look wavy?

Now all the summer travel is done and we are getting ready for the kids to go back to school and for the big fall knitting season. Late summer is a cruel joke for people in the industry because there is so much to get ready for, and at the same time as vacations are planned, weather is nice, and the kids are underfoot. We've already been shopping for school supplies:

while Elvis just started the dreaded Band Camp....

Hmmm. This post sounds a bit more disjointed than usual, so I'll sign off. I do have some more book reviews in the pipeline, and very soon we'll begin the Sock Yarn Studio-a-palooza, with a blog tour, giveaways and all sorts of merriment. Enjoy the last few days of summer, and I'll be back in rare form soon.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spinning and a winner

When I was last at the beach, I toyed with the idea of bringing along my sewing machine. I decided against it, even though I don't get nearly enough time playing with fabric, because I thought it would be too hard to know what to bring with me in terms of fabric and thread. Instead, I opted for my handy-dandy spinning wheel, an Ashford Traveler, which is really designed for portability.  I popped a few extra bobbins and some roving in a bag, and I was good to go.

I haven't been spinning much lately and I really enjoyed getting in the groove of making yarn. One of the rovings I played with happened to be a roving that I dyed a few weeks ago. It was a gray-brown fleece and I played with adding some color to it, while preserving a good bit of the natural color.

I was pleased with the way it came out, and am trying to figure out what it wants to be knit into. I suspect it will knit at around aran-to-chunky gauge, so scarf or hat or mittens, maybe.

handspun close up 2

If you're interested in playing around with some similar rovings, with some of the natural color peeking through the dyed colors, I've got four batches up in my Art Fire Studio.

blue shetland 2

Two are shetland wool; two are coopworth. And for the next four days, use the code "FRIDAY10" for ten percent off your order (one time per customer).


My last post was a review and giveaway of Hunter Hammersen's new book, The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet. The random number generator selected Bonnie C., of Indiana, as the winner.  I've sent you an email, Bonnie, so make sure it doesn't get caught in your spam filter.)  Congrats to Bonnie and thanks to Hunter for making the giveaway possible!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Giveaway & No-Bull Book Review: The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet, by Hunter Hammersen

What do you get when you combine botany, vintage prints from natural history texts and knitting?  You get The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet: 20 Patterns Inspired by Vintage Botanical Illustrations, by Hunter Hammersen (Pantsville Press 2012; MSRP $26.95 through the link above). Hunter contributed a wonderful pattern to my upcoming book, and so, knowing how talented she is, I was delighted to receive a review copy of her brand-new book.

hunter cover - Copy

Having consulted that eminent source, the interwebs (Wikipedia to be precise), I discovered that a curiosity cabinet was
an encyclopedic collection in Renaissance Europe of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were also known by various names such as Cabinet of Wonder, and in German Kunstkammer ("art-room") or Wunderkammer ("wonder-room"). Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities.
It's a fascinating idea, and a perfect theme for a designer who has collected knitterly things--edgings, lace patterns, twisted stitches and cables--and used them to great effect in her patterns.

Speaking of which, let's take a closer at those patterns. Exactly half (ten) are sock patterns, while the other half are coordinating accessories. It's fun to see the same botanical inspiration used in two slightly different ways. For example,

hunter crocus vernus socks - Copy

the Crocus vernus socks use a gently-arching lace motif that echoes the lines of the crocus flower. The Crocus Vernus mitts use a slightly thicker yarn and a lace motif that reflects the shape of the leaves of the plant:

hunter white mitts

In another example of patterns that coordinate stylistically without appearing matchy-matchy, the Linaria bipartita socks feature a lattice-like petal shape

linaria socks

in a divine handdyed yarn colorway called Chocoberry, while the Linaria shawl is done in petal pink, with long vertical elements and a center motif.

hunter linaria - Copy

Other lovely socks that caught my eye are the Polypodium vulgare:

polyodusm socks

the Rubus suberectus (with "erectus" in the name, how could I not love them?):

rubus socks

the Loasa lateritia:

hunter loasa lateris - Copy

and the Narcissus pseudo-narcissus.

hunter narcisisus - Copy

I also was quite taken with the Polypodum cowl (love that handdye, too, with all those subtle gradations of color)

hunter polypodum - Copy

the Rosa mitts:

hunter rosa mitts - Copy

the Pinus silvestris cap:

hunter pinus hat - Copy

and the floaty Loasa cowl:

hunter loasa scarf - Copy

The book is a softcover, with tons of gorgeous color photos (taken by Brett Yacovella of Making the Moment), and all the amenities one would expect in patterns of this nature -- charts, close-ups of design details, tips, definitions of the stitches/symbols used, and reproductions of the lovely botanical prints that inspired the patterns prefacing them.

It's exciting to see relatively new designers putting out such high quality products, and it's fascinating to see how self-published books like this one are really raising the bar for all of us who publish patterns, regardless of medium.  This is a beautiful book full of appealing patterns, and if you are a knitter interested in:
  • sock knitting
  • accessory knitting
  • small portable projects
  • great uses for handpainted yarn
  • botanical prints and flowers
  • lace and lace motifs
then you will want to check out this book. Note that it is available in printed form, but also in electronic download format (for $18.95) and if you buy the print book via Hunter's website (linky link here), you will get a free Ravelry download of the patterns along with your purchase.

And bless Hunter's heart, she's offering a free copy of the book to a reader of this blog! Please leave a comment and make sure that there is a way for me to reach you (either via your Blogger profile or by leaving an email in the comment -- no way for me to get hold of you and I have to disqualify your entry until my psychic address-finding powers develop more fully). Leave a comment no later than midnight, Sunday, August 12th and I'll pick a winner the next day.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

There's no place like home

I woke up early yesterday, packed some very large bins of yarn and roving into the car

gosh 2

and the kids and I were off. We headed upstate for a combination Nana visit and trunk show.

Until about two years ago, there was no local yarn shop in my hometown or its environs.  Isn't that sad? If you ran out of yarn or needed a needle or tool, you were pretty much stuck. At some point, some big box craft stores opened, so at least there was a way to get a needle or stitch marker if you were in dire need. Then, two years ago, something magical happened:

The skies parted, and Gosh Yarn It was born.

Gosh Yarn It is a beautiful yarn shop full of lovely yarns like Debbie Bliss, Noro, Berroco, Classic Elite, Dream in Color, Madeline Tosh, Lorna's Laces, Cascade, Universal and many more.  There are tons of gorgeous sample garments; lots of patterns and books and booklets; all sorts of tools; and really nice people to help you out.

gosh mochi

When Jill and Ann asked me to come back for a trunk show, I was delighted.

I spent yesterday afternoon there, selling yarn and hanging out with the delightful customers. Since I grew up there, there were all sorts of connections that made me feel right at home. We reminisced, compared projects, and generally had a fabulous time. (This is me, waving to Alison and Bonnie and Cathy and Caroline and Stephanie and everybody!)

I was especially glad to encounter Caroline,

gosh 1

who is a fabulous designer. Her gorgeous cowl was featured in KnitScene's Accessories magazine (you can see it in the lower right-hand corner of the magazine she's holding) and she's also had a great cowl pattern published by Quince and Co.

It was a thrill for me to see the gorgeous Daybreak shawl that Ann made from two Black Bunny skeins:

gosh 3

We decided that we were having too much for this to be only an occasional thing, so we are going to try to have quarterly Black Bunny trunk shows at Gosh Yarn It.  Next one will be in December.

If you are in the Wilkes-Barre/Kingston area, do try to stop by Gosh Yarn It. You will have a lot of fun and probably leave with a lot of yarn!

And while I was creating all that mayhem in Kingston, my kids were having a wonderful visit with Uncle Mike (not shown) and Nana.  Win-win, for sure.

gosh 4