Archive for the ‘book reviews/events’ Category

mixing it up

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016


did you know that knitspot turned ten years old this year? it’s been so fun, i can hardly believe a decade has passed—wow! i have so enjoyed getting to know and understand our readership—and one thing i’ve learned is that, while knitting might be your first passion, you enjoy your time in a variety of ways. also, that you are endlessly curious about how i spend mine and where i find inspiration.


how many times have i shown my most recent cooking project and you all responded back to tell me about your favorite version or to ask for my recipe? or, having asked where i can find a way to make gluten free, beet free borscht, you deluge me with possibilities (just kidding about needing that one, ok)?

you are the best, most interesting people i know and it has endeared you to me. and we are about to embark on a new adventure together, one that embraces several of our favorite pastimes, explores the process of inspiration, and celebrates the culmination of, well, knitting our lives to each other.


i’m talking about our upcoming pairings club, which gathers all of our loves in one package. pairing me, pairing you; pairing fiber, pairing food, pairing naturals and chromatics—we are gonna do it all.

the idea for this club really came from you—i know you like variety! in thinking about ways to introduce something new into our club offerings, i thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit—i hear you when you say you’d like to do a bare naked knitspot club again, but i also see that you love a dash of color in your knitting life. i hear you when you say “just give me a subscription to ALL your yarns” or “i don’t know here to begin!”—it can be daunting with so many tempting choices.


if you are curious about our bare naked wools yarns, the pairings club is the perfect way to sample them—we’ll be including four of our custom spun yarns, one in each shipment. to up the fun factor, we are pairing each BNW selection with a compatible hand dyed yarn from favorite color fiber artists. each shipment will include TWO yarns—one natural yarn and one hand dyed yarn to work some knitting magic (we’ll be including goodies too!). the contents of each shipment is a surprise, so it’s like getting a present in the mail just because—times four.


with yarn in hand, you’ll next discover what we’ll be knitting. soon after each package arrives, you’ll receive word that the eBook download is ready, with beautiful photos and pattern (often multiple patterns) for a project that takes advantage of working with two colors.


projects will vary in technique—could be stripey or worked in blocks of colors, could be slip-stitch, could be stranded color work—each will be different; you won’t get stuck with projects of just one type or ones that are overly fussy.


in the ebook—which is updated with each installment—i’ll share my inspirational process, talk about the fiber characteristics of the yarns as they relate to the project(s), and the steps that take me from there to a finished design. we take pains to provide tons of beautiful photography to support the project.


designs and yarns span a range of weights and accessory options in keeping with the time of year that they are introduced. skill level is generally intermediate; if we do tackle something more challenging, you will be supported by our renowned ravelry clubhouse group (more about that in a bit!)


now here is where we’re throwing in a new curve. to keep up the fun and energy between the bi-monthly shipments, we’re going to cook and eat together! you like food, don’t you??


think foods inspired by knitting in color—like peach pie with crumble topping, caprese salad, beans and wild greens, pasta with roasted tomatoes—vibrant flavors and colors that bring our fiber combinations to another level. the actual food course will be a surprise too, but be assured that they will be flexible and easily varied to suit your taste.


our recipes will take advantage of seasonal garden offerings and local specialty foods. in this effort i have enlisted the help of my dear friend, knitter and professional chef, katharine wainwright.


i recently spent a week at her lovely, vivacious home, where we prepped and cooked and photographed the days away in a flurry of club-centric preparations. we’ve come up with a four-course menu we think you’ll enjoy from start to finish, especially when you prepare it together with us.

we will peel, boil, and whip up some fun and good flavors; in the clubhouse, we’ll chat about how to work the recipes and create variations to suit your taste/diet.


which brings me back to our wonderfully hilarious, swinging’ knitspot clubhouse, led by the dynamic duo katJ and kim3, along with josée. these three amigas keep the club chatter lively and timely, with the focus on fun, fun, fun. i can’t say enough how many friendships have been forged and advanced knitters made with the love and help of our clubhouse support—it’s the besets; you should join us.


lest you think that we are all fun times and no foundation, let me introduce the behind the scenes heroes of the club—ericadavid, and lillian—who are working hard here at knitspot HQ to keep those packages coming, provide support as needed, and correct the rare mishaps that occur. we are all about each and every one of you having the best experience we can provide.

still have questions about how it all works?  for more in-depth details, see our club essentials page here or general club FAQs here (must be a rav member to use this link). and be sure to check out our clubhouse chat threads to get the skinny from our veterans if you’d like to ask questions before committing—they will happily fill you in.


as for me, i hope i’ve talked you into joining us—i sure hope you will! see you in july, yes?



Sunday, June 26th, 2016


finished up the seaming on my illas cíes pullover on thursday night and snapped a couple of photos the next morning once i’d pressed those last seams (sorry about the hair; in my excitement, i didn’t do anything with it). you might be able to tell that it was still a little short at this point; i had purposely kept it that way because i know how much the hempshaugh yarn will gain in length, once it’s washed. it already feels really nice against my skin—nearly weightless, soft, and dry—just what i hope for in a summer sweater.


after clowning around a bit with the camera, i immersed it in a nice bath. as usual with our natural colored yarns, a hot sudsy soak is best to remove any remnants of spinning oil and allow the fibers to soften and bloom. hempshaugh is especially respondent to this treatment, as the hemp fiber tends to be slightly stiff until well soaked. while quite soft right out of the skein, it will become even more cuddly with every washing for a while—one of its most endearing qualities.


right out of the bath a couple of hours later, its shape has softened so much as to be a bit alarming. don’t be, no matter how bad it looks—with some brisk reshaping (see my craftsy class or my blocking DVD for technique), this fabric takes on a super smooth look in no time and will benefit from further reshaping as it dries. barb and i have also discussed the strategy of using VERY judicious amount of gentle machine drying (like ten minutes or so) to get the drying process started and we both agree that it can work, but you have to keep a strict eye on it and promise to employ at your own risk. you know what i’m going to say—try it with your swatch first!! (you did make swatches and keep them, didn’t you?)


i didn’t do that here—just laid mine flat this time to dry. i used a ruler and my schematic to push and pull all the parts of the sweater into the recommended measurements. the fabric tends to grow lengthwise and narrow a bit widthwise after soaking, but by tugging the side seams in opposite directions until the chest, waist, and hem were the right width, the length shortened accordingly. i reshaped those gangly sleeves the same way, by pulling horizontally along their lengths and they shortened to the right length. the hemp fabric dries really fast in my experience, so i checked back every hour or so to pick up the garment, fluff it, and reshape—especially toward the end when moisture evaporates more quickly.


i couldn’t be happier with the results; the fabric is soft and dry but still has plenty of body and i don’t feel it will stretch out over time. i wore it with a t-shirt and linen shorts, but i gotta tell you, wearing it makes me want some hemp shorts more than ever. gotta get those on the needles next.


emily and i took it along with another item for a photo shoot at a nearby lake yesterday; it was hot and humid, but both of us were wearing garments knit in hempshaugh fingering and neither of us even broke  a sweat.


you might think that with all that softening in the fabric, i’d lose the stitch definition, but you couldn’t be more wrong—the heavy embossing in this stitch pattern is crisp and clear—maybe even better for being cleaned.


the length is perfect now—just to the top of my pockets, about an inch longer than when it was just OTN. i am 100 percent satisfied with this sweater; i feel lucky to be able to say it. you know what i mean—even when VERY satisfied, there is often a thing or two you want to change “next time”. but this time, not; i am completely happy and i know i will wear this piece a lot. and didn’t emily do a great job photographing it?

i’ve taken my time getting started on my shorts as i needed to work through my strategy for construction. while i knitted my other projects these last couple of weeks, i’ve been going back and forth about whether to knit them in the round, or in pieces. pieces appeal to me more because i can add stability with seams, but working in the round will make it easier to do the waist casing and the leg hems that i desire, as well as work the bifurcated architecture. decisions, decisions . . . i’ve got to make them soon.

with the pullover and the club surprise off the needles (oh yeah, i finished that too on thursday night!), i am turning my focus to a couple of sweaters i have underway for the winter ensemble as well as the next secret project.


i’ve got one sleeve done on this twill stitch pullover that i’m knitting in kent DK; i’m knitting several sizes larger than usual, so i’m feeling those extra stitches and inches. i’ve got to step up my pace if i’m going to get through all the designs i have planned. i need to decide on a cable for the side seams and have been dawdling a bit over that.


the plan is for a classic pullover/cardigan with overall subtle texture and cable detailing. currently it’s slated to have cables around the armholes and down the front of the cardigan as well. so it can’t be a huge cable—in fact, it will need to be rather petite so as to fit into the smaller sizes reasonably.


years ago i knit a sweater for myself with the same overall stitch pattern and used this cable on all the seams. it’s perfect for this style, but i think it might be too wide for the new design . . . and possibly too subtle for the kent DK. i’ll be doing that research today, as soon as i wrap up this post.

my ensemble submissions includes a skirt that can be worn with this cardigan to make a modern day suit—won’t that be adorable? if i had to wear a suit to work, that’s the kind i’d want.


a couple of weeks ago, while erica and i were at TNNA in DC, we met with author hannah thiessen, who is writing a book about wool and knitting that includes our yarns. over the next couple of days we got to talking with her in depth about her work in the knitting world (hannah has been managing projects and promotion for a variety of companies in our industry) and before long we all hatched a plan to bring her into our company to help out in that area as we go through some necessary updating of our site, our look, and our marketing efforts.

we feel hannah is a terrific fit for us and we want you to love her too! she’s smart, funny, organized, and super excited to work with all of us. you’ll be seeing her in our ravelry groups (she’s hannahbelle) and as a contributor to the blog; i know you will make her feel welcome and included. remember she is here to help make your knitspot experience as wonderful as possible; she, like us, values your feedback and participation, so don’t be shy.

and that’s pretty much all i have for today—it’s much too lovely outside to linger; i need to eat some lunch, look at some cables, and after that, we are going for a nice, long, bike ride in the country.


fortunately, a fresh, healthy meal is growing right outside the back door—earlier, i spent five minutes picking a bowl of baby greens to have at the ready for just this time of day. we tried some new ones this year that are delicious—mibuna greens (for a bit of spice), yukina (tat soi) greens (hearty and delicious), and crunchy vitamin greens, with baby chard also in the mix. i can’t help but look forward to lunch. i’m trying to keep healthy and eat right because i’ve been noticing that my legs are pretty tired after running and biking lately.


ok, now i’m really going . . see you later!

fruits of summer

Saturday, June 18th, 2016


SO nice to be home again—and to be in one place for five weeks straight. with summer in full swing, it’s time to enjoy what the season brings us. dogwoods were in full bloom when erica, emily, and i went to one of our city parks this week for the final immersion club photo shoot.

if you are part of the club and haven’t downloaded the chapter yet, you must go see—emily is gorgeous modeling our last blue project. and if you missed out on the blue club, please consider joining us for pairings—it promises to be lots of delicious fun.


speaking of delicious, it’s that time of year again when there are so many yummy foods right at our fingertips that we can hardly manage them all. first up, strawberries and you have to get those right away if like me, you want to freeze enough for winter. so the day after i got home from DC, barb and i got ourselves to a grower and i bought two flats. at home i set up a production line to get them washed, topped, and into bags to freeze. i remembered to keep some aside for a pie; i like mine with rhubarb and i plan to bake one or two tonight.


we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw they also had peaches in from south carolina—last year they were available much later. i bought some to eat, but i know now that i should plan to be freezing a batch before long, if they are coming in early everywhere.


with so many distractions pulling me this way and that, i am trying hard to stay on schedule with my knitting and design work (but summer fever lurks at every turn!). when i left for DC, i was up to the armhole bind off on this pullover project in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, so i left it behind to save space in my bag. once home tho, i was determined to finish it up so i could wear it. last night i blocked the pieces and today i started the neck finish during our morning sweater knitting class.

wait til you see it done—the fabric is surprisingly shimmery. it’s going to look great with my shorts (that i haven’t started yet, HA!).


our garden is exploding with goodies as well and growing faster than we can keep up with. the greens grew about a foot while i was away last weekend! believe me though, i am thrilled—it wasn’t that long ago that we had trouble growing plants this thick and lush. they are badly in need of more thinning—a task for early tomorrow. the good thing about getting that job done is that we will get to eat some baby greens this week.


not that we’ve been starving; we’ve been eating from the garden as often as i have time to cook. here we have asian greens, thai basil, and cilantro . . .


with snap peas, garlic scapes, spring onions, and mushrooms (those, we bought). with some ginger and tofu, we’ve got a fantastic stir fry meal; you can’t eat fresher than that, mmm.


and here’s another fresh item—a new little scarf pattern, in stone soup fingering yarn (mmm, SO soft and squishy). aren’t those little leafies adorable in the marble shade? i had two other projects packed to take to DC but i cast this one on just before we left—you know, in case i needed it. well, lucky me because guess what?? i DID need it (thus reinforcing my compulsive overpacking of knitting projects for travel). see, i would have preferred to work on those other projects but everywhere we settled down to knit, it was very dark. and those projects were dark too, so they just didn’t work for me. thankfully i had this one along and made excellent progress on it. and now i know the pattern by heart so i can take it even more places; it will be finished in no time.


this is one of the darker projects that got sidelined during my trip. it’s a sweater for david and for the next ensemble collection too. it’s a remake of a favorite sweater inking him years ago, this time in the mussel shell shade of our kent DK. it’s the perfect guy sweater in the most subtle of patterns that looks like woven fabric. just enough texture for him, just enough entertainment for me not to slit my throat from boredom—it’s a win-win.

funny, i had hoped to knit, oh, at least two sleeves over the few days i was at the trade show (dream big, i always say). as you can see, i did not (i know, what was i thinking??). in fact, we barely sat down the whole weekend, logging over eight miles each day; when did i think i was going to knit? most of my scarf knitting i did in the car on the way home, knowing i had to have something to show for myself this week, haha.


well, i’m home now and happy to be here for a while. i met with my sweater knitting class this morning and they are rocking right along on the whitfield shorty—the perfect first sweater project; it has all the parts and shaping of an adult sweater, but in a manageable size. paula is having so much fun with hers (and is so far ahead) that she even bought yarn today to make a second one. go team!


it wouldn’t be right to complain about all the knitting i have to accomplish and then run on and ON about nothing so i’m going to stop now, but i wanted to share this one last photo with you—isn’t it cool? it looks like a group of druids gathering on some misty scottish moor, but actually, it’s just a garden area in our park on a very humid morning. so pretty.

sights and sounds

Monday, June 13th, 2016


we’ve been traveling again!


over the past few days we’ve had the wonderful fortune to see, taste, and experience one of the most diverse cities in the world.


we’ve got so much to share, from stunning architecture and decor


to otherworldly art


and design (and designers).


a fun aspect of our trip was that we had some free time to explore the city we were in and we made the most of it.


today we head home full of ideas and inspiration.


and while maybe just a wee bit tuckered out,


excited and looking forward to what’s next!

see you when we get there!