Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Showcase - November 2014

The online crafting community is often a magical place. Sure, there are sometimes heated debates, but, for the most part, it is a generous and uplifting group of folks among whom mingling is a pleasure. After all, this is DIY, not GOP vs. DNC. Independent spirits and thinking outside the box are almost de rigueur. May your creativity sprout wings, roots, or auras!

That being said, there are people and places that act as creative nodes: designers that not only create patterns to follow, but offer new ways of looking at craft; podcasters and bloggers that unite individuals to help maintain the community; small business owners that take huge personal risks to bring their creations to market; and, simply put, some geniuses that humble us all and then raise us up by sharing their discoveries like sunshine.

So far, I've mentioned some of these folks in passing, as links and asides in larger posts. I'd like to dedicate this full post to featuring more individuals and resources that I have found useful or magical or both. Hopefully, even as a die-hard knitter or other yarn crafter (crocheter, spinner, dyer) you may find something here that is new and exciting to you.

I imagine this will be the first of many similar showcases. Although I've been knitting for about ten years now, and finding related online resources for most of that time, I am still new to many things. Such as podcasts. I've only begun delving into crafting podcasts this year. So much to discover!

(Before I begin, I wish to plug If you knit, crochet, loom knit, or machine knit, get yourself over to Ravelry and create a free account for yourself. Once you have a log in, you see so much more information via Ravelry (or "Rav") links. There is a whole, huge, gigantic crafting community that uses Ravelry as their communication hub via groups, forums, patterns, personal messaging, and more. Just do it. You'll be so glad you did. Free membership and so many free patterns, plus a secure way to purchase many more patterns. Plus you'll discover more designers and patterns than any one blogger could ever mention. FYI: As I write this there are 3797 crafters on the Ravelry web site, out of 4.7 million registered users from all over the globe. Join us. We have needles and hooks. We will take over the world! In a nice way.)

  • I think I'll begin with Anna Zilboorg. You won't find an abundance of online information about Ms. Zilboorg because she mostly knits and designs and meditates off the grid. Her Ravelry info is here: I had the honor to speak with Zilboorg and hear her speak at the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild a couple of months ago. She is the author of several pattern books, especially for mitts and socks, but a new sweater book should be announced soon. The book that is important to me, though, is a small, black paperback called Knitting for Anarchists. If your first reaction to the "A" word is to register the book with your nearest book-burning cult, please pretend you never saw this. In reality, knitting anarchy, as Zilboorg explains it, is teaching oneself the principles of how knitting works from the ground up (or, rather, from the loop up) for the purpose of freeing the knitter to think critically and independently about their own creations. This books is not a pattern book, although it does include pattern information. It is also not a how-to book for neophytes. Think about Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting without Tears. Zilboorg's little black book falls into that category of knitting book. Chapter one of Zimmermann's Knitting without Tears is entitled "The Opinionated Knitter". If you can handle that, you can probably handle Knitting for Anarchists
  • I am in love. I came across Kate Davies, a designer at home in the Scottish Highlands, well after the rest of the knitting world's lust for her "Owls" design began to cool. How hot was that design? Almost 7700 Ravelry knitters made it or began it and I know that many more also made it without updating their Ravelry project boards. Here is her Ravelry designer page. She has a brand new book called Yokes: Eleven Signature Designs, with Stories of the Sweater that Changed the Shape of Modern Knitting. It is so fresh that books probably haven't even begun to ship. On her wonderful blog, she traced its progress, each step of research, each new wonderful introduction to a like-minded knitter and preserver of the northern European yoke tradition, each meticulously researched tangent...all the while, pulling from musical and visual inspiration, reaching into her bag of carefully collected history, to create new sweater designs. Then, keeping in mind that her readers had faithfully followed her journey online, she actually shared each design on the blog prior to publication. Not just teaser pictures, but gorgeous photographs taken of all angles, mostly of herself walking fields and beaches with flowing skirts and the new, warm woolen creations. You can see all of the patterns included in the book here: or begin with the first pattern unveiled on her blog and read her discussions of how they developed beginning here: From there, travel forward to see each design revealed. I also highly recommend reading her earlier posts. She is both a talented designer and writer. 
  • Of course you may be familiar with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She recently featured a genius yarn--pure genius! When I purchased my Polydactyl set from Miss Babs I was determined to find some way to put them together in a shawl. I ended up creating a very basic triangle with narrow top angles so that it would be a bit longer than an equilateral triangle would normally be. My aim was to attempt to create even stripes. No way. I would have had to know exactly how much my longest stripe would need in yardage to be a certain width...well, math began to boggle my mind, so I just knit and changed colors as I pleased. Lo and behold, somebody already tackled the problem and created self-striping shawl yarn. Yo, what!? I had no more than bound off when I read the Yarn Harlot post: Are These Weeds? The folks at Caterpillargreen Yarns are GENIUSES. In case you're not familiar with self-striping yarn, let me tell you a little about it. To create stripes that match one another from one sock to another and from one color change to another, a dyer must unwind the yarn they are dying into sections for each color, but in a way that gives them control to rewind without creating knots. All sorts of mathematics may be used to create the exact combination of color stripes desired. But there is a pretty standard measurement for a sock. The vast majority of ankles and cuffs are around about the same circumference, making the work a bit easier. On the other hand, when creating self-striping shawl yarn, you must take into consideration that each stripe will require differing yardage just to appear the same width. And that's just assuming your knitter is only going to use the yarn on a triangular pattern. I am impressed. To say the least. 
  • Tin Can Knits is the collaborative design team of Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel. They offer patterns for free and for purchase. They even encourage others to use their designs for teaching knitting! Besides their own teaching engagements, they also provide online tutorials, usually tucked into their blog posts, like this one on steeking. They even have what they call "The Simple Collection: Learn to Knit with Alexa and Emily,"which is completely free and contains patterns for 1 hat, 1 baby blanket, 1 unisex sweater (adult and child sizes), 1 unisex cardigan (adult and child sizes), mitts, socks, 1 cowl, and 1 scarf. They are all designed to teach the beginning knitter all of the techniques needed to complete each project with linked tutorials (all on that link I provided above). Tin Can Knits rocks!! 
  • In other designer / tutorial news, you may be aware of Ysolda Teague's great designs...but did you know that her Scotland-based studio posts regular technique tutorials and tips? Check it out: Ysolda's Technique Thursdays. I also highly recommend reading her blog. That's how I found out about the next gem.
  • Knitsonik: Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook: A Knitting Book that Shows You How to Turn Everyday Inspirations into Gorgeous Stranded Colourwork by Felicity Ford. This is a truly beautiful book. I want it. If you like stranded colorwork, especially if you want to design some of your own or select your own palette of colors for an existing design, this treasure is for you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inspiration from the mall?

This lovely number can be purchased from Banana Republic, but doesn't it just scream to be made? You can purchase it online here. It is officially named the "Popcorn Stitch Turtleneck Pullover", but the giant chevron screams to me louder than the independent stitch within it. I especially love the traveling ribs over the hip bone area! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yarnish News

I realize I totally skipped posting my SAFF haul. Mom and I went with two other wonderful ladies from the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild and spent a wonderful Friday morning jostling from one woolly vendor to another. I had one main goal. Get one of these guys:

That's one handsome wee Peruvian alpaca. Unfortunately, I paid cash for him and can't remember the name of the vendor. 

These skeins are 100% alpaca from Morning Moon Alpacas. The brown pile are small skeins of yarn made from hair on the alpaca's neck and legs, which is coarser than what you normally find in a skein of alpaca. Nevertheless, they are pretty soft. They were only $2 a piece, so we couldn't help but scoop up some. The larger, white skein is 100% baby alpaca. Super soft. 

I also discovered Miss Babs. Apparently Miss Babs is a non-secret in a loop from which I'd been excluded. I've been living under a rock. She is located not far away; her dying studio is in Mountain City, TN, on the NC/TN state line (north of here). Her mystique comes from her wonderful sense of color and a bit of exclusivity that comes from the fact that she does not work wholesale with LYSs. You can only get her dyed yarn online or at shows. She puts on a grand vendor display indeed. I was totally bowled over by the sheer quantity of color and variety of bases!  And the line to check out was huge! She also designs special dye lots for events in limited quantities. The SAFF colorway was sold out in hours before we even got to the Miss Babs booth. I still don't know what it looked like. 

I have a small issue with overstimulation, though. I simply couldn't pick out a single skein. So many many bases! But I had to get something from my new-found fav dyer. 

So I did this:

This is Polydactyl yarn set in "Funny Papers". These are sets of 7 mini-skeins (133 yards) in 7 different colorways, named after one of the distinct colorways, on her Yummy 2-Ply Toes. In addition to "Funny Papers" (the multi-color), it contained "Coral", "Coos Bay", "Cloak", "Forever", "Oyster", and one other that I can't remember because Mom threw away the wrapper. I was so in love with the colors that I was compelled to cast on something. I finally decided on a very simple shawl that is longer than a basic triangle, one with ends that are more acute. I'm just finishing up a stretchy bind off today.

I also picked up this giant cone of yarn from Miss Bab's:

That is approximately 3800 yards of undyed ("Ecru") Tarte yarn base (fingering weight in 75% superwash merino / 15% nylon / 10% tencel). It was a deal at only $38.00. Mom and I've been playing with the acid dyes again! This is the cone from which I've been niddy noddying some big skeins. 

I've also been working on a new shawl, Briargate by Jen Lucas, in Berroco Boboli Lace (on the needles in the picture below) and Berroco Folio. 

I'll leave you with some nice pictures showcasing our fickle weather. November has been a trip.

Just before the winter snow tease.

The Japanese maple through the craft room windows after the winter snow tease.
Just don't mind that un-curtained's a WIP.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"update" sounds like such a positive word...

I have been emotionally or physically beat, in some form or another, since SAFF. So I haven't blogged. Now I shall whine.

A neighbor who has three adult cows (one being a bull and another being in heat) and a calf needed help moving said cows to a lower field for their eventual transportation to an auction. She was recently widowed and can't take care of them alone. My brother arranged a trade in which we did this in return for fire wood from her 90+ acres for the winter. Also, he would make sure that her wood shed was filled with split wood before we took any for ourselves.

I participated (on foot) in herding said cattle across said 90+ (mountainous) acres. It was beautiful. It was strenuous.

Only to discover that since no one had been actively keeping up the farm...there were gaps in the fence around the lower field.

My experience with cattle farms goes no further than black and white Westerns.

I will discuss that episode no more.

I slipped and fell in the kitchen. It took two days before my muscles and joints began to ache.

Mom made a nifty niddy noddy from PVC pipe. I can now take yarn from cones and make them into skeins. Skeins are easier to dye. The niddy noddy is 18", so it gives me a loop of yarn that is two yards around total.

I had no idea that using a niddy noddy would take muscle or make them ache.

I also had no idea that soaking and dyeing and squeezing approximately 3000 yards of wet yarn would wear me out.

I am sadly out of shape, in case you hadn't already gathered as much.

Halloween brought a cheap thrill for winter. A total tease of snow. Since then, our mornings have been very cold, but days are in the 70s and higher in direct sun light.

Mom was sick and puked one day. Her sinuses were giving her problems.

My niece, who is only 3, was so sick that she spent almost 24 hours puking. Ugh. In between boughts of vomitting, her nose ran.

I am now sick. I am not a pukey kind of person. I simply generate enough yellow and green mucus to fill a small lake. And I breathe out of my mouth because my nose is clogged. Pleasant.

The dogs were spayed and neutered yesterday. Did you know that a 125 pound dog can slither out of the hands of 2 grown men, 2 grown women, even while one of those women (me) weighs 200 pounds and is actually sitting on the dog's back? We gave up attempting to put Samson in a crate. Instead of letting the local humane society take them to the clinic, we drove them ourselves.

Did you know that dogs can express anal glands when they are extremely afraid and stressed? It smells like poop. It is strong. Like a lot of poop. Samson "expressed" himself immediately upon realizing he was expected to go into someone else's kennel. He's not used to traveling or being around so many strangers. Um. We'll work on that.

I had to change clothes, wash hands three times, and open the Suburban windows for hours because of anal expression. The source may have been back there, but it sure smelled like it was oozing from every part of his skin.

I held onto Samson's leash and was dragged at least the length of my body once. Over gravel. Then we knocked over a volunteer. Oops.

In one more day, I expect to feel sore from that trip at the end of a leash.

I am so proud of Samson. He was scared, but was not aggressive at all. He even wagged his tail when he met new people. He just refused to follow instructions.

Samson weighed 125. Lucy weighed 109.

They are currently each sleeping on a sofa in the living room.

But, what makes me saddest is that my hands have been hurting when I knit. Especially my right index finger. Maybe I should try learning Continental?