Archive for the ‘yarn and dyeing’ Category

i’m being followed

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015


all winter long, my friends out west have been crowing about the fine weather they are having; temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and even 70s, clear skies, and a complete lack of snow.

until, of course, it was time for me to head to denver—then it snowed.


i booked a flight for a day early, just in case winter weather encroached on my travel—a production schedule waits for  no storms or planes. since the weather was clear by then, i ended up with a whole day to get some work done and explore the city.


i headed out first thing for a morning run; i have been much too cooped up inside at home. it was wonderful to run alongside the river as the sun got warmer and warmer.


before i knew it, i was actually out near TAXI, the studios where craftsy shoots our classes; traveling by car on previous trips, i had no idea it was within running distance.

is that blue sky amazing or what?


even with the altitude change, i felt really good, though my pace was a little slow. all fine with me, hehe. afterward i did a little work for a few hours, so i could take off in the late afternoon.


my friends luci and scott drove down from ft. collins to visit and took me out to the arsenal nature preserve, a wildlife area just outside the city.


we spent a couple of hours wandering paths and roadways through the preserve, watching for wildlife and appreciating the stunning spaces just a stone’s throw from the heart of denver.


the first thing we saw when we drove in actually was this herd of bison, just off the side of the road; they were actually a lot closer than they look. my first thought was, “i wonder if anyone collects their fiber??” once yarn ho yarnie, always a yarn ho yarnie.

deer, prairie dogs, and bunnies abounded; we also saw a few cool looking hawks.


mostly it was just wonderful to hold my face to the sun and feel the balmy air (50 degrees!!); feels like it’s been years since i did that! eventually though, the air did begin to chill as the sun sank toward the mountain tops and we reluctantly headed back to the car. we spent the rest of the evening over a really nice dinner at work & class; the perfect end to a fine and refreshing one-day vacation.


this morning it was back to reality, as i had my first day of production for my next craftsy class. up at the crack of dawn and to the gym (too dark at that hour to run outdoors, though the weather was still warm enough).


knowing it might be a long day though, i did manage after breakfast to take photos of my current knitting projects in the morning sunshine. on the plane i started the back of my natty sweater, which i am knitting in our better breakfast DK in the muesli shade (oops, looks like we are out at the moment, but we should be getting more soon).


i left my two finished sleeves at home; they need to be blocked, but you can see how strongly the texture stands out, even in such a soft fabric. i think the overall effect is going to be cute.

i will admit that by the time i got on the plane, i was so wound up that i suffered a bit from both project ADD and eventually, sleepiness from lack of rest over the previous few days. even though i had a nice chunk of knitting time ahead, i didn’t get a whole lot done on any one thing.


i did manage to begin a sleeve with that gorgeous tayet fingering yarn from spirit trail that i gave you a peek of last week. this midnight blue is so up my alley and a color i don’t have in my sweater wardrobe yet. i think you’ll be happy when you see the design i’m  knitting with it.


i’m kind of crawling along on my reversible little shawl, but i’m allowing myself t take my time—right now i’m much more focused on producing some sweaters patterns while the weather is cold enough to really enjoy knitting them. there will be plenty of time for lacy bits in a couple of months. that said, i do plan to add a row or two whenever the urge hits; the yarn is so soft and delicious, sometimes i just want to feel it run though my fingers for a little while.


soon after organizing all my photos for this post, it was time to head into the studio for the afternoon. this will be my home for the next couple of days as we put together a class about sweater making essentials. this one will be full of advice, tips and tricks, and useful techniques for making a successful sweater.


the day started out well, we were on a roll and getting everything up and running for a full afternoon of shooting. but right after lunch, what should appear?


i am NOT kidding. it’s following me everywhere i go. i mean, talk about luck, right??

and it didn’t get any better as the day progressed either—by 4 pm we were all sent home; hopefully this won’t put us behind much tomorrow.


it took almost an hour to get back to my hotel (remember, it’s within running distance) and i was really glad to get into warm, dry comfy pants to settle in for the evening.

i plan to knit on my sweater some more while watching the premier of kosher soul, starring the children of our dear friend nancy. it looks like a lot of fun—you should watch!


back home, david is working hard on the start for his blanket statement club knit—he’s knitting the love squared version. someone has created a thread in our BNK ravelry group devoted to his progress and all of us are following and cheering him on. me most of all—david doesn’t share much with me about his knitting; i have to read about it online!


barb—a stripper with a plan—is sailing along on hers as well; she makes sure david keeps working away on his.

well, speaking of knitting, i think i’m ready for some myself—time to get comfortable and get my needles out. i’ll be back as soon as i can with more; it will be a busy few days, but i’ll be back as soon as i get a chance.

dueling sweaters

Thursday, February 12th, 2015


we may have moved the main workings of our office out of the house, but on random mornings i still wake up to find evidence of david’s late-night photo shoots.


leaving unprotected yarn about—especially soft, delicious better breakfast, tsk, tsk—is SOOooo dangerous; a rookie mistake. why, anyone could come along and just nab one for any reason! i had started the cast on for my reversible crescent shawl in the muesli shade (which i think of as a mix of whole grain colors), but was feeling just a little ambivalent, since i am now knitting a sweater in that shade (more about that later). the daybreak shade (a true silver gray) has been singing me a siren song for a few days now and what can i say?

it was laying about unattended . . . and now it’s MINE.

when we last left off i had finished blocking my sweater pieces and was about to put everything together.


i began with the raglan seams because A) they all need to be joined before the neck finish can go on and B) once they are joined, it’s very easy to steam those seams and give that part of the sweater its final finish.


once they were stitched together i threw it up on the mannequin to see how things were looking; this is actually my first chance to asses the garment in three-dimensional form, so i’m pretty excited.

doesn’t that kent DK yarn look beautiful in the daylight? so much better than in my studio under electric lights.


everything looks good—the neck opening is the size i intended, both in actual measurements and in the way it fits—high enough to make the funnel neck stand up , but not so much that it will choke me.


the top of the sleeve sits exactly where it should on the center of the shoulder to balance the way the sweater hangs. i love how the cable ended up in that spot. though i did nothing to influence that outcome, if you wanted it to hit on  a certain row, you could figure it out for your size using the row gauge, the sleeve measurement, and some simple math. then of course, you would have to knit exactly to gauge throughout both sleeves and you know what that means? yes, the S word. do you see now why i like to embrace a certain level of randomness about these things? but i digress.


after the raglan seams were done i picked up stitches all around the neck opening, including the ones from the yarn holders. i continued the cable detail back and front, while along the sides i filled in with alternating six by four ribs. i got most of this done in class on monday afternoon.

after binding off, i did pull it on over my head to be sure it would work. adding a band or collar will always tighten up the neck a bit because it adds stability. in this case, it fits me fine and i like it, but i have a really small head and neck. i’m thinking that for most knitters, a larger neck opening—both lower and wider—is going to be desirable so this is one thing i will be tweaking in the pattern (which is why we need a prototype AND some test knits).


next—and the last thing to be finished—are those long underarm and side seams. i worked on those late on monday night and early tuesday morning. this picture is kind of crappy because i was working on it so early that it wasn’t light out yet.


once those last seams were done i gave them a nice steam pressing. ok, when i say that, i don’t mean that i am putting weight on them with the iron. what i do is to get them good and steamy by touching the wet towel with the hot iron. then i remove the towel and “encourage” them to lie flat by pressing down down and holding with the palm of my hand. if i had a wooden clapper, i would use it for this job, but i keep forgetting to look for one—i like to purchase these kinds of tools second hand, where someone has already used it for years. but i’m so busy and have so many projects crowding my mind, that i lose track of things i mean to do . . .

the use of steam is an old—maybe even ancient—tailor’s tool that can be employed whenever wool needs to be molded into an irregular, dimensional shape—like a collar stand, a rolled lapel, a slightly bowed seam. it can also be used more aggressively to shape heavier objects like felted hats. it’s one of those skills that you learn to do with a certain measure of intuition—knowing exactly what’s needed, how much, and what level of pressure, is kind of indescribable; it’s just something i know. i love steam for this reason and at the same time, i wonder how many people make use of these methods any more; is it going by the wayside? i don’t know . . .

enough of my blathering—let’s try the dang sweater on already, shall we??


YAY, it fits!! it’s still a little scrunchier than it should be at its final size so the next thing i did was to sink it into a hot, soapy bath to allow the garment to relax to its final shape and size.


after a good soak for an hour or more, i squeezed the water out and laid it to dry. one nice thing about the kent DK is how airy and light it is when knit up. after a bath that removes those final vestiges of spinning oil and dirt, the fiber blooms readily and becomes a wicking machine. which means that it dries in practically no time.


the blooming fibers draws all of those stitches into straighter rows and columns, making the fabric surface a dream of sleek, vertical lines. the sheen of the lustrous romney fiber enhances the textured patterns in the fabric. the gold tones in the kelp shade that i chose to work with are especially sparkly in the sunshine.


a final try on wednesday after it was dry—it turned out exactly the way i wanted it to look and i love it.


meanwhile, barb has been speedily working through her bel air pullover in the daybreak shade of better breakfast fingering with custom moving mud buttons—and we both wore new sweaters to knit night last night.

well, i have lots more news about my next sweater project and a few other things, but i have to run to a meeting right now—catch you tomorrow, ok?

while we wait

Monday, February 9th, 2015


it’s kind of like the night before christmas around here—the air is filled with that exciting, pre-event buzz.

david is putting the last touches on some graphics and photos, i’ve been swatching so i can start my next sweater adventure (more about that in a minute),


anastasia and lillian have been counting, labeling and organizing their little hearts out


and laura has her finger poised over the go buttons on a wave of posts and pins to get the party started.


we’re excited to finally serve you up a better breakfast in a buffet of yummy flavors, starting first thing monday morning. david and anastasia will open up and refill the listings throughout the day as she and lillian get more yarn counted, labeled, and up on the website.

we received about thirty to forty skeins in each shade (eight in all, this go-round: daybreak, milk and honeyporridgemueslibiscotti, mocha, warm coalsand americano) and each weight (DK and fingering) and all of them should be in the store by the end of the day.


i exerted executive privileges and secured a SQ of the muesli DK before the big grab begins, so that i could get a head start on my next sweater project. that’s right; i’m ready for a new one now (more on THAT in just a minute; SO many exciting things happening at once!).

before i launch into today’s knitting news, i promised laura and erica B that i would mention the sock knitting class that we have scheduled to begin on thursday, february 12 (scroll down to view the sock class information). this will be a fun and easy way to learn how to knit socks, beginning with a worsted weight baby sample sock (materials for this project are included). after the sample sock session, students will spend two more sessions working through a sock to fit themselves. this class would be a great way to try out one of our hardwearing, natural sock yarns!

ok now, which do you want to see first, my cam cable sweater progress or my swatches for the next sweater? oh well, i guess i’ll have to decide for you . . . hmmm. let’s go with the cam cable and finish up at the end with the new swatches.


that back piece i showed you a couple of days ago, when i was an inch or so in?? it’s done. i mean wow, did that knit up fast; i think the bulk of it was knit in three sessions, the last being this morning.


it was off the needles around noon and much as i wanted to block it right then, i also wanted to take advantage of the unusually warm weather to get out and run, so i left my pieces piled up on the pressing bench and tied on my running shoes before the sweater could get the best of me.


i have quite a bit of yarn (kent DK, color kelp) left from the four skeins i opened to knit this project—if i wasn’t working from scratch and knitting a bunch of swatches, i probably could have gotten away with three skeins (with my luck, i’d more likely still need to open a fourth for the last few yards).

having a sweater’s worth of finished pieces just at this time is rather fortuitous, since i’m in the midst of preparing for another craftsy class, which is all about the essentials of sweater knitting. in addition to asking for input from lots of newer knitters as well as experienced pals, i’ve taken notes at every stage of knitting this sweater to add to my curriculum.


i also promised the producer that i’d take photos wherever they would illustrate a concept well, such as how the pieces go together


or what we mean by opposing decreases.


and the concept of “keeping to the pattern” while shaping pieces (as luck would have it, this is a particularly good example because the cable is not symmetrical). they won’t necessarily use my photos, but they will be helpful for reference in creating illustrations and more professional photography.

anyway . . . enough of that chatter—i know what you’re lusting for right now. and i got your back; on with the blocking prøn!


no one—including me—ever thinks their finished sweater pieces look crappy. how could they after all the work you’ve done? many a knitter will swear that they love the depth and texture of the pieces just the way they are and are loathe to block out of fear that this gorgeous texture will flatten and disappear.


first of all, that’s just not true—they won’t. and secondly, that “texture” will be lumpy-bumpy and entirely lacking in drape on the body; to display it so actually does your work a great disservice.

and thirdly, as soon as the garment is washed for the first time, it will be blocked anyway; you may as well do it while you have some control over the process and the ability to make adjustments if you wish (but i know you won’t need to, because you did your due diligence in swatching before you got started and throughout your knitting, didn’t you?).

anyway, back to my cam cable sweater . . . after my run and a shower,  i beat a path up to my workroom and started pinning, schematic at hand to check measurements.


i started with that back piece, which pinned out beautifully to the expected size, yay. i didn’t have to overstretch or live with extra length or width i didn’t want. phew! always glad when that happens.


BTW, after that last row at the neck, i didn’t break my yarn; i thought i’d keep it attached and just start the neck pickup from that point, once i got the seams stitched.


once it was pinned out, i laid a wet towel over it and, using a hot iron, steamed that piece without pressing at all.


i don’t use ANY weight on the fabric at all; just touch the hot iron to the nap of the wet towel to create steam. this floods the fabric underneath with vapor that works a magical charm to smooth and relax the fiber, make the stitches swell and bloom, and bring a tidy consistency to the surface.


now, isn’t that a texture you want to stroke just a little . . . and aren’t those cables just dreamily swishy once they are opened up a bit?


ok, you tell me—which of these pieces would you rather drape on your beautiful bod and tell people you knit? that crumpled, misshapen thing or that smooth talker lying underneath?

now pinning out springy sweater pieces is kind of time consuming, but the good news is that with symmetrical sweaters, once you do one piece, its partner can be pinned out in less than half the time, right over the top of the first one.


so that’s what i did next, with my front piece.


from bottom to top it took just a few minutes. speaking of the front, you might have noticed that i’ve placed the stitches from both the front and the back necks on scrap yarn holders to be pick dup later for the standing collar—thus breaking my sacred rule of preferring a bound off edge to stabilize the neck.

what’s up with that??


the one time i think it’s ok to break this rule is when we have a cable running up through the collar. cables, by virtue of their very construction, are quite stable and inelastic—i feel pretty comfortable letting them stand in for seams or a bind off. plus, it’s a shame to interrupt the continuity of a handsome cable.


wow, the difference between the blocked body pieces (left) and the sleeves (right) is pretty convincing, isn’t it? imagine if you were here to touch and experience them side by side?


oh, right—you could try this at home and do a hands on comparison yourself. why, you could even invite a friend to share the joy.


the sleeves can be treated the same way—first pin and block one to size


then bring in its partner and pin that one right over the first one.


who would have thought when we started with this . . .

that we’d end up with this?


next i need to seam and add the collar—hopefully i’ll have all of that done by the next time you hear from me. i like seaming and finishing, so this shouldn’t be a problem.


i’ll be getting started as soon as i finish up this post and since i also have a two hour class tomorrow afternoon, i’ll probably get some done then, too. and then, it will be time to wash and wet block the whole sweater. i can’t WAIT for that because that’s when the last of the crispness in this yarn succumbs—the clean fiber plumps, blooms, and softens to become an entirely different fabric.


and while it’s soaking and washing and drying, i’ll already be on to my next project, because by then, i will have swatched and decided on needles and mapped out a basic construction plan for the next design. this time i’m working with the better breakfast DK, color muesli.


i just loved the way my natty cap turned out in the natural gray, so i’ve decided that my first sweater design in better breakfast should be a natty cardigan.

i took a break from my cam cable project last night to make some swatches.

i tried a size 6US (4.0 mm) needle first (above),

then a 5US (3.75 mm) (below)

i hope you can see the difference; it’s kind of subtle. in fact, the stitch and row gauge are nearly identical. however, the two fabrics are quite difference in their weight and substance, as well as the constancy of the surface. and i think the stitch definition benefits form being knit a bit tighter—in fact, i wonder if it should be even more so.

i’m actually going to knit one more swatch on the next size smaller needle, just to see if i like the texture better alpaca can sometimes use a little more built in’s possible that it will end up too dense; while i do want the stitch pattern to stand out, i don’t want a sweater that feels heavy or stiff. but i won’t know for sure until i exhaust all the possibilities. i do this work so that you won’t have to!

speaking of which, i should get on with that . . . we have a big week coming up—i need to gab some precious knitting time while time permits.


faithful and frozen

Friday, February 6th, 2015


i am being SUCH a good knitter, not getting distracted by new upstart projects that pop into my head at 11:37 pm.

it’s taking a hurculean effort, what with all the new yarn arrivals testing me daily, but i’m managing to keep my head; it really helps that to fondly the yarn to the point of weakening, i’d have to get dressed in coat, hat, scarf, and boots, find my keys, and then cross over to the office on a treacherously icy path in frigid wind.

but i’d do it if i were bored enough . . .


that, however, has not been an issue—it’s been such an exciting week of being on the go, in fact, that i haven’t even been at my desk long enough to blog (sorry!).


for some reason, however, i got all this knitting done—i’ve finished the front of my cam cable sweater and have started the back piece. obviously, i am really enjoying the knitting.


(i’ve got even more done now, as i had an hour or so over coffee to add some rows.)

i’m super excited to finally have a garment to wear in our kent DK yarn. while i’ve knit with all of them quite a lot by now, i actually i have surprisingly few things to wear because everything i knit becomes a shop sample.

this one though, is all mine (as well as the next couple; i should have some BNWs to wear out and about!). and  it’s pulling together so nicely.


i even got the front pinned to the form and the fit looks like it will be right for my purpose. with no defined shoulder line, a raglan sweater like this can fit across a couple of sizes—i want it to be a bit loose and casual, so on me it will have about four or five inches of ease, once it’s blocked (sigh, i could only hope to fill it out as prettily as my mannequin does).

my dress form is a size or two larger than i am (industry standard fit size), so the sweater fits nicely in a more body-concious way that shows off one’s curves; i like them both! since it knits up so fast, i may even make one for myself in the smaller size, with maybe one or two inches of ease, to wear with nice slacks and skirts when i teach.

hehe, barb was NOT laughing the other night when she saw my progress; she even said that as much as she made fun of all my swatching, it was looking like my sweater would be done before hers. i’m not gloating (yet); anything could go wrong . . .

i’m sure that a little friendly competition was all she needed to get her back piece off the needles and start her seaming.


speaking of wednesday and knit night, we had the most fun and productive day in the middle of our week, over at bare naked wools boutique.


the staff from natural stitches yarn shop in pittsburgh cam for a field trip to take an all-day sweater fitness class (for some reason, darling yvonne is not in either of the two photos i have—drat). they arrived around 10 am and we got to work; it was a really great class. the morning half was full of information, talking about and touching fabrics and yarns, swatching (of course) discussing all the material factors that go into a successful sweater, etc.

then we used the afternoon to take measurements, talk about the important principals of sweater fit and various sweater constructions, work out how the measurements relate to the pattern, and then choose sizing. we ended by going over some ways to make adjustments as needed.

in between we had a lovely lunch and afterward, they stayed for knit night! barb was in seventh heaven, with a full house to talk to, haha. we all agreed that knit night is a lot more fun with more people. in fact we all had so much fun that none of us took many photos.

we are definitely doing this again. and you’re invited—seriously, any time you and a small group of friends want to plan an outing like this, just give us a ring or write an email telling us what you have in mind. we can seat five to eight people for a small group class.


in other knitting news, i also finished my mass transit cap, yay. just in time; it’s been really cold here and i can use a warm hat.


the good news is that i love the way it looks and feels AND it fits pretty well around my head; it could be a little smaller, but it’s alright.


a view of the back and the top shaping.

the bad news is


i made it a bit too long, darn it. stupidly, i knew i was doing it too; i just wanted “to be sure”.
HA, as if having a teeny tiny head for fifty-five whole years made me a rookie at it. dummy me.

i can fold it over and that looks pretty cute


for a while—but it doesn’t stay that way and it feels a little heavier than it ought to (because there’s nothing to hold it up!). i think i’d like it a lot better if i took out the top shaping and reduced the depth by at least an inch, maybe two.

but since it could also be just a leeetle bit smaller, i might just knit another one and find someone who will fit into this one (and who doesn’t mind being my hat twin).

good thing i’m a patient person. NOT.


it was so cold in my office today that i wore a long knitted wrap, the new hat (even though it’s big),  and my favorite fingerless mitts that my friend susie knit me long into the morning. and it was still only 62 degrees up here after the heat had been on for hours.

i looked ridiculous, but i couldn’t think of any better solutions. some day, spring will come, i just know it .  . .

in the meantime, we have a couple of exciting events to look froward to in just the next few days.


lillian has been hard at work labeling the new better breakfast yarn so that we can begin rolling it out onto the website on monday. she’s working as fast as she can, but says it’s awfully distracting


mmmm. david named this new shade mocha.


today she learned about the term, “yarn ho”. i think she’s got the concept down.

but don’t try to help her out—she becomes uncharacteristically crazy.


i think this is her honey badger approach to appreciating better breakfast.

next saturday, we are hosting an open house for valentine’s day—a little event for kids and parents to come in and discover knitting. we’ll have half hour knitted bracelet lessons, spinning demonstrations, and a photo booth.

and the week after that we’ll be meeting up for a knit night at deli ohio in downtown canton.


come have a sandwich or salad fro late lunch or supper and join us for some knitting. there will be room for a few smaller spinning wheels as well; those are bound to draw some attention!

that’s all i have for now; i need to go off and ponder a solution to my hat. but laura will bring us another designer spotlight tomorrow and i’ll be back on sunday or monday with a sweater update for sure. have a great weekend!