violet

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in lace/shawls, patterns, projects

when we originally scheduled the release of this pretty eyelet cardigan—violet—we were thinking that march is the month when we begin seeing the tiny spring flowers. and while a crocus or two has turned its face to the sun and some buds were beginning to appear, march has mostly been the scene of this

not very springy outside, but we knitters know how to change our weather at will—start a new project or cast on a new yarn to make it any season we please!

and this design is so flexible—we’ve knit it in four of our favorite bare naked wools yarns and the possibilities don’t end there. today i’m going to talk about two cool-weather versions that we’ve created and in a few weeks, i’ll refresh your vision by showing you two more samples in our spring/summer yarns.

when i conceived the idea for this simple, but very versatile little sweater, i was anxious to knit with and show off our chebris lace yarn in the latest colorway, frappé, a complex, minky taupe shade that has beautiful depth. it looks great with the leaf and fagot scarf knit in soft ginny sport yarn from my lace lessons eBook (twelve lace scarves and variations).

the luxurious mohair fiber catches every glimmer of light that passes through the holes in the fabric, bringing the whole piece to life. soft against the skin and light as a feather, this option can be worn with confidence to the office over beautifully tailored skirt or slacks and later, to a fancy dress party when paired with a long skirt (especially when adorned with tiny glass buttons from moving mud). and don’t even get me started on the mayhem that’ll ensue when you wear it with black leather . . .

once i’d knit that first sample, i wasn’t done—all along i had also pictured it as a prim tweed vest and knew that our stone soup fingering yarn was the best bet for creating this look. and the first sample knit up so fast that i barely had time to get to know it well; i was totally up for a second one. i pulled a couple of skeins in our darkest shade, river rock, and cast on right away. it was a wonderful traveling companion during the fall teaching season.

whether your preference is fuzzy and soft, silky and shiny, simple and cottony, or warm and tweedy, we’ve got a yarn choice that will turn out beautifully for you.

shown above, violet cardigan in size small, knit in bare naked wools chebris lace, color frappé; buttons from moving mud.  the incredible yardage in this particular yarn means that you can make most sizes cardigan or vest with just two or three skeins.

shown below, violet vest in size small, knit in bare naked wools stone soup fingering yarn, color river rock and finished with brown agoya shell buttons from our online shop.

click here to view and purchase a kit for one of these great versions, or explore our shop for other yarn options.
click here to view pattern details in the knitspot yarn and pattern shop OR purchase on ravelry by clicking here (please purchase on ravelry if you’d like the pattern in your rav library).

pattern details are included on each product page.

i love the body shaping in this piece—just enough to give you a waist if you don’t quite have one, but not so much that it feels constrained or won’t button. its placement is set in from the side seams to smooth the torso and accent the bust area nicely.

even when you wear it loose and open, it has a lovely shape that falls toward the body and doesn’t sag unattractively. and if you really, really don’t like shaping, you can simply eliminate it and skip to the next step, easy-peasy.

it’s the perfect little spring sweater and one that will move gracefully throughout the seasons with your changing wardrobe. one easy-to-knit piece that barely looks the part, but is a workhorse for your wardrobe. add a small arsenal of equally easy-to-knit lace scarves—you can wear the cardigan more often and switch the look completely. and we have a fresh new crop of those, too.

i can’t wait to show you more samples of this design in our summer yarns! today it’s a bit chilly and snowy for that, but very soon, we’ll be panting for them and i’ll have your back.

winter again . . . and again

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden

happy st. patrick’s day everyone! because we’re all irish on march 17th, right? i hope you’ll enjoy the day in all the best tradition; it’s a bonus that it’s friday, too—party down.

thank you all for participating in the giveaway of in search of the world’s finest wools book the other day; i found the comments fascinating and have plenty of food for thought regarding future posts and club yarn choices (of course that last always depends on what we can actually obtain, so i can’t promise . . .). again this is a book that i highly recommend for those who enjoy a good fiber read or those who are educators in our field—how i wish i could go on a fiber trek like this.

the winner of the giveaway copy is chris H, who was emailed about the win the other day; congratulations chris!

well, after a record breakingly warm february, march has proven less than appealing; we’ve been sharing the snowy, windy weather that the northeast states have experienced and it’s driven us all back indoors.

bad for running and biking, but maybe good for knitting and eating. i worked on the lower body section of my mega cable pullover, which i’m knitting in our better breakfast fingering yarn (poppyseed shade; darker IRL than it looks here).

this is knitting up much, much faster than i expected, especially considering that i didn’t spend a ton of time; it just moves along very quickly, being mostly knits and purls with just a cable cross every 28 rounds. suddenly i’m ready to begin the neck detail, which i’ll tell you about in a minute.

most of my knitting time last weekend was grabbed in between chopping chores—it had been a while since i spent any quality time in my kitchen and i was jonesing for some of that. and sitting too much in cold weather just makes me colder; i needed to get moving somehow.

so i kept warm by making soups to restock our freezer—we were suddenly very low. i cooked four kinds in all, including this curried butternut and red pepper soup (a mashup of  few different recipes), made creamy with coconut milk—so completely vegan. the flavors are both bright and summery, but warm and embracing for the cold weather; just what the doctor ordered.

in fact, this whole soup making rampage started because i noticed our standing army of butternut squash were beginning to suffer a few casualties, maybe because the basement was not as cold as usual this winter. every week i would find another small one collapsing. i knew i had to do something with the remaining ones soon. i just got a little carried away, once i started thinking about soups i like.

one new thing i tried was making these oven baked butternut squash chips. you peel the squash and take to the seeds, then shave or thinly slice the flesh. boil for two minutes in a big pot of heavily salted water (this supposedly helps them crisp up later), then spray or brush with oil and seasoning and bake. super simple and YUMMY delicious. squashes with long thin necks work really well for making round chips, but you can make them any shape. you can also cut them thicker to make squash fries, which i highly recommend as well.

since i was already chopping stuff, i decided to keep going and cleaned up ingredients for our favorite potato and vegetable soups as well (thirteen or fourteen vegetables simmered in broth? you cannot find a better tonic for what ails you).

and then, to complete the picture, i pulled some of our summer tomatoes out of the freezer and cooked a batch of tomato soup. i am always on a quest for just the right flavor—like campbell’s but better; not like tomato sauce, which is all wrong for soup. but i never get it; what am i doing wrong? this time i tried mushroom stock and a touch of vinegar at the end, but it’s still not what i’m looking for.

anyway, by the end of the weekend i had something like thirty quarts of soup in multi-sized containers to freeze, ready for quick suppers and lunches of leftovers.

when i had a break between batches or while one of them was simmering, i swatched for the pullover’s cablework detail. i think i showed you this first version last week; i learned a lot about what i need to do and it’s almost what i was looking for, but i feel it lacks depth and dimension at the very center front.

i cast on first thing last friday morning, aiming to inject more stitches faster so i could cable sooner and create that depth i was lusting for.

this kind of task takes lots of knitting, ripping, and reknitting, but i enjoy the challenge; i rarely tire of starting over. ok yeah, i guess i’m just a terrier when i get close to obtaining the results i want. grrr.

by noon it was looking good, but the more complex part was still ahead.

it was late afternoon before i could really see what i had and even then, it was scarily contracted and rumply looking. i was nervous that A) no matter how many extra stitches i inserted, it would always pinch and B) that even if i got it to block out, it would always want to shrink back. these are both valid concerns!

i soaked it well and pinned it out, stretching pretty vigorously to get the cable shape i wanted. i did not steam it, but that would certainly help. for now i just wanted to know if i was on the right track.

and it looked good; i pinned it up on the dress form to check the way it hangs and while it’s hard to tell with no seams securing it, it seems to work. there is inset body shaping that would eliminate those folds under the bust and help support the neckline. maybe a few small tweaks, but i was ready to start charting.

here it is pinned more at the height that i actually want it to land—i’m aiming for something a bit more sexy and not so sporty, so i want the neck a little lower. not plunging, but low enough to be dressy. low enough for a bit of cami lace to show out the top. low enough to maybe even drop off the shoulder a bit if one so desired.

later today i plan to steam this swatch well, then re-soak to see how that blocked shape holds up; it should be pretty malleable with some steam, which also serves to reshape in a semi-permanent way.

the pink rubber rings at the center of my actual sweater front are placed to mark the start of the cable feature, once my chart is ready—i better get back to it now!

it’s a little chilly at my desk, which faces out a west window, but i’m raring to go. and look, it’s begun to snow yet again; a good day to have indoor activities planned. feel free to substitute indoor beer lifts, of course.

our little pal cardigan continues to make progress in our quest for bonding. last week on a fine weather day, he played in the yard several times at catching the hotdogs bits i tossed from the window.

it is so entertaining to watch him come forward when he thinks i’m going to toss one and then retreat with lightening speed to eat it and watch for more at a distance. still, it was an interaction.

while still not allowing anyone to come very near in person, i feel like we are getting close to taking him indoors. and he definitely knows me by sight, smell—i’m the hotdog person (i just need a hat).

i know—i’m becoming one of those dog people, haha. eh, sue me.

wool seekers

Posted on 89 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, spinning and fiber

a few weeks ago, i received a copy of this beautiful book—in search of the world’s finest wools, written and photographed by dominic dormeuil, current chairman of house of dormeuil  and jean-baptiste rabouan, whose photojournalistic work has focused on the cultures of nomadic people.

sensing  the profound impact of social, economic, and environmental change on the global wool industry and wishing to acknowledge the “growers and artisans of wool”, the authors set out to meet and photograph the animals, people, and places around the globe that produce our most precious fibers.

for the reader, the journey begins on the tundra in greenland to study the ancient musk ox, producer of rare, fine qiviut wool.

what i love about this book is the knowledge that is shared throughout its pages—it’s not only a stunning photographic encyclopedia, but also the well researched product of a passionate wool advocate.

dormeuil, whose family textile firm has operated for five generations within the global fiber market, writes with great sensitivity, depth, and concern for the relationship between man, animal, and environment.

from greenland, we travel across the book’s pages to mongolia, where the best cashmere fiber is grown and harvested.

one fact that is driven home time and again throughout this story is that much of the world’s most precious fibers are produced in the harshest climates. and while maybe not places where the majority of the world wishes—or has the temerity—to live, these environments hang in a delicate balance on which we all have an impact.

directly related to that fact is the realization that we would know nothing of these fiber rarities if it weren’t for the fierce preservation of ancestral traditions by highly skilled farmers and herdsman.

from the ability to understand climate, terrain, and husbandry, to the assessment and marketing of product, deep cultural traditions play an enormous role in whether or not we will knit or weave or sew with cashmere, qiviut, mohair, yak, vicuña, or taewit wools.

on kyrgyztan’s vast grazing lands, the authors teach us about that last one—taewit—gleaned from a unique cashmere-cross goat originating in the region during the period when the soviets used kyrgyzstan as an agricultural breeding laboratory and showcase for communism.

from there we move on to ladakh and the high western plateau of tibet, known as changtang, where pashmina goats are raised.

as with so many other rare fibers, these goats can only be raised by herdsmen willing to practice their husbandry in a wild, inhospitable place. not only is the climate in this area harsh and resources limited due to the extreme altitude, but predators are many. the lifestyle of the herdsmen is seen as almost anachronistic when compared to that of villages in nearby settlements, but for the time being the pursuit of the fine pashmina fiber helps it persist.

from ladakh, we are taken to the shetland islands, where sheep are the focus for the first time in the book.

thanks to its rather isolated location, shetland is home to breeds preserved and maintained from ancient stock of scandinavian sheep, brought to the islands from nearby norway by the vikings. the scandinavians established a sustainable rural society on shetland, which included the processing of wool and manufacture of wool yarn, textiles, and garments—first by hand at home for family use and eventually, for trade.

today, shetland’s wool industry continues to thrive and grow, with investment in eco-friendly milling and processing. while reintroducing us to a perhaps more familiar culture, the author still provides some thoughtful reminders that wool is a product of place, history, and environment toward which humans have a responsibility.

next we leap from nearly the top of the globe to the bottom, landing in new zealand and australia where the world’s largest percentage of merino wool is raised. thanks to the a scottish immigrant named eliza forlonge who gathered the first flock of saxon merino sheep and sent them to australia, almost every knitter is familiar with the squishy, springy, soft merino fiber.

a few of those first imported sheep were purchased by the ranch we visit in this chapter as we get a glimpse of what it takes to run a herd of 12,000 merinos while adhering to the strict oversight of the australian trade organizations. again, so fascinating to absorb and understand exactly what it takes to provide wool for our pleasure.

after australia, we hop over to south africa to look at the herds of  one of my favorite fiber animals—the angora goat, from which mohair fiber is obtained. unlike the double coated cashmere goat, angoras are single coated, producing only long locks of lustre fiber.

the angora goat has thrived in south africa since the mid-1800s, raised mainly in an interior mountain chain. here, a superior mohair product is produced on a third generation family farm. here, the goats can wander in a semi-wild state on the rocky terrain and are brought in twice each year for shearing.

the fleeces are sorted by hand and graded for fineness and color, then milled locally or exported, depending on demand. the author points out here, that while the entire discussion of the book is focused on fibers aimed for a luxury market, economics at the farm level are always precarious. market prices for raw wool remain low; retail prices on finished goods often reflect the high cost of transportation and factory labor, rather than compensation to the farmers and herdsmen.

our world travels with author and photographer wind up with an examination of the almost mythical vicuña, in the high andes mountains of peru. this once plentiful creature was driven almost to extinction by the 1960s, but under extremely close supervision by the peruvian government, a program of protection and breeding is giving new life to its future.

vicuña live and graze on a huge reserve, well-protected from human interference. in addition to preserving and multiplying the breed, the program provides for community based fiber harvesting, so that animal population may be monitored and fiber procured without hunting. while still considered and endangered species, today the vicuña is no longer close to extinction.

i’ve run on and on, just to give you a small chunk of what’s inside this amazing book! if you love the world of fiber, you will want to get yourself a copy. the subject matter is of such interest to me and i know from the popularity of our bare naked knitspot club that i’m not alone—just check out the discussion threads in our club ravelry group and you’ll see we have community that is quite excited about natural fiber).

now if you’ve had the patience and/or interest to read this far, you are in for a treat. firefly books, publishers of this delicious volume, have provided a giveaway copy for one lucky reader.

to be eligible, leave a comment at the end of this post before 9 pm EDST on tuesday, march 14th, telling me which of the above fibers was new and different to you. we will choose a winner at random and announce it in the blog post to follow.

 

amandine takes the cake

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in projects

thank you everyone who participated in the naming game for our new shade of cabécou brillant sport!

amandine took the prize for overall favorite, with crème brûlée and croquembouche tying for second place.

i guess we love our sweets around here, huh? and the winner of a trio of patterns is cynthia E; congratulations cynthia!

while i have knit quite a lot with our cabécou lace yarn, i have not knit a sizable project with the sport weight, which substitutes well for any of our DK weight yarns. because, while it has a slightly smaller diameter, once it blooms its gauge is similar to stone soup DK or better breakfast DK. it can be knit on needles of the size i would use for those yarns—as it is in the volta shawl or that luce stellare scarf i showed you the other day.

and as i was finishing up my birches cardigan, i got to thinking—i sure would love a copy of this sweater in that light and airy cabécou yarn. i can just imagine how soft and minky that shawl collar would feel around my neck and shoulders on a cold day. so as soon as our box of the sel gris shade was counted in and weighed up, i asked lillian to put aside a batch for me. i plan to cast on soon; i know barb is also anxious to knit one for herself in the amandine shade so we’ll have a little test knitting KAL while the pattern is prepared for publication.

meanwhile, i’ve got other projects brewing (always something new!). i had me a little swatching jam session to reset my brain after the ensemble rollout, in search of themes for summer and fall designs. this is the pile of unwashed swatches i ended up with, mostly revolving around two cable patterns.

absolutely loving this one in a variety of our fingering weight yarns. one of the things we strive to do with our yarn lines is to make them interchangeable in gauge so that several of the fingering weights can work in a single pattern; ditto for the sport, DK, and worsted weight choices. this allows our customer more latitude for expression and for using favorites in a variety of garments. it also makes our designs more versatile.

i’m not sure yet what kind of garment or series of pieces i’ll be designing with this cable, but over the next few months i’ll figure it out.

now i’ve been hankering to work with this cable ever since i spotted it in norah gaughan’s knitted cable sourcebook. such depth! such scale! so lush! i actually started out this whole effort in search of the perfect cable to knit a special fingering weight batch of our precious yarn blend (unfortunately, too small to even offer in our shop), but i could not resist trying it out in several fibers.

from left to right: the precious, then better breakfast fingering in the muesli shade (middle), and stone soup fingering in slate (right). i was hoping they would all knit to the same gauge but that precious blooms SO much, it’s more like a sport yarn. i just adore the cable in all three yarns, but i’m going to have to design with the two regular fingering yarns and then knit my precious version after the pattern is written, probably from a different size to compensate for the weight.

but wow, do i love them all—that stone soup version is killer, light, airy, and crisply defined, despite its tweediness.

and man oh man, do i love the drape and sheen of the better breakfast version too. it actually knits to the same gauge as the stone soup fingering, though the fabric is very different; silkier and more relaxed, very stretchy.

you know i love my stone soup fingering sweaters and i talk about it all the time. that said, i have to confess that lately, i’ve been wearing a better breakfast sample sweater (which i can’t show you right now, but trust me it’s just the bees knees) almost constantly. as in, even david is looking at it slightly askance when it appears my shoulders day after day. i can’t help it; i’m in love.

so i decided to start this mega cable design project with the better breakfast fingering and secured a SQ from the shop in the poppyseed shade (the swatch above was knit on a much larger needle; i was experimenting with pushing the gauge as far as i dared).

of course, i decided all of this sometime after midnight on the night before we left to visit my mom, haha. but i just HAD to wind my yarn, print out my working pattern, and pack my needles because i needed to have this sweater as soon as possible. i even started on the cuff that very night while watching TV before bed.

i got almost to the underarm on the first sleeve while david drove for his half of the trip; it knit up so fast.

i cast on right away for the second sleeve while at my mom’s and knit that one too during the trip. it was really nivce to arrive home with sleeves complete.

i cast on for the body the other night; i am knitting it all in one piece to the underarm because the big cables sit squarely on the side seams—in fact, they take the place of the side seams, providing some structure and support to an otherwise very soft frame.

working the body in the round makes for some longer rows, but once the ribbing is done, it begins to fly along faster with the body mostly in stockinette. i am just loving this—the large cables relax out a lot after soaking and washing so they take on the fluidity of the rest of the garment.

and who doesn’t love a good charcoal gray?

while i work away on the more or less mindless portion of the sweater, i’m swatching on the side to configure the neckline detail—i’m aiming for a v-neck that is framed in the mega cable, but still working out how it will grow from the body of the sweater.

there are some challenges. obviously, one of them is gauge—the cable squeezes a lot at the crossing row but not so much in between. this is one of my working swatches, where i was testing out and increase pattern and also which direction the cables should cross. i would like this just fine except that there is a lack of dimension right at the center front as it takes so many rows for the pattern to grow to a “crossable” size. the mega cable has such a long row repeat that there will be just a few twists alongside the neck—i think it will end up looking funny if there is no action at the center front. back to the drawing board; i know there is a solution.

it always amazes me how much thought and work go into designs that look carelessly simple.

but if this idiot squirrel can come back and try day after day to work on cracking the case of the ‘squirrel buster’ bird feeder, i can figure out a cabled neckline.