Archive for the ‘book reviews/events’ Category

the lace lessons

Thursday, October 13th, 2016


for quite a few months we’ve been steadily working on a new book of little nothings scarves and variations and finally now—it’s ready to purchase!

The Lace Lessons is meant to be a useful resource for lace knitters, particularly those who are taking on lace for the first time or struggling to enjoy its allure. While not a formal manual encompassing the whole vast subject of lace knitting by any means, the “lessons” are in the designs themselves—the kind we absorb by example and by doing, and not always related to actual knitting.


The design included are all new, fresh additions to a collection of designs I call “Little Nothings”—a series of simple scarf patterns which has been extremely popular with readers and users.


Each piece features only one overall stitch pattern, like a swatch that is large enough to wear—just enough of a scarf to drive off a chill or add a spot of color to an outfit. These small, lightweight accent pieces work up quickly, travel well, and make excellent learning projects.


for several of the designs, i’ve created new variations as well, that take the motif into a different direction, such as a triangular scarf/shawlette or cowl.


most are one-skein projects—usually one four ounce skein, but some can be knit with just two ounces of yarn, like the mini neckerchief shown above!


the book starts out with a few very simple designs that should be manageable for new lace knitters, in sport and DK weight yarn with simple openwork motifs and lots of solid background.


we fondly call these “husband scarves” because they have unisex appeal and can be knit in a variety of yarns. as is my custom, the patterns include both written and charted instructions—making it a great resource for teaching yourself to knit from charts if you desire.


but we all know they are not just for men—they can be worn by anyone and in a slinky shiny yarn like our new deco—completely feminine (you’ll be able to see this yarn in person at our rhinebeck events).


after the section of husband scarves, the book offers a group of fancier scarves with more openwork, that can be knit in more delicate yarns.

while visually complex, most of these are surprisingly easy to work and offer both a relaxing and engrossing lace experience. with just a little organization, it’s easy to be working steadily along on one of these in no time.


wherever possible, we’ve chosen to show the designs in alternate colorways, sizes, yarn types, and/or yarn weights. our knitspot ravelry group already has a KAL in place, an extension of the test knitting group. they are a completely entertaining and fun group, but also extremely knowledgeable; please join us there to knit a scarf or two!


the judith scarf for instance is knit once in this fine silk yarn to create a delicate, but really sexy lightweight scarf that feels fantastic against the neck.


then again, we knit it up in our own chebris mohair/merino lace yarn for this spectacular large, airy scarf/wrap. same number of stitches to cast on and still just one skein, it it completely transformed when knit on bigger needles in this yarn that blooms with a pretty halo of fiber to upholster each leaf shape.


and luce stellare, knit above in a dark shade of fine merino/silk lace yarn is wonderfully transparent, nonetheless.


if you’re hesitant to work with such a fine yarn, these designs are flexible enough to work in an alternate—try a heavier yarn on larger needles for your first time out and once you get the hang of things, graduate to smaller needles and yarn for the next piece.


the book includes instructional sections about how to substitute yarns and needles, what to look for when creating an alternate fabric weight, and a general guide to working with our bare naked wools yarns.


there is also a section about washing, blocking and caring for your finished project, so you can show it off to its best advantage.


the designs in the last section are inspired by the landscape, culture, and art i found so impressive in my recent alaskan travels. i was so excited that i even set right to work on swatches in my cabin at night.


this set of mendenhall scarf, taku cowl, and tongass creek crescent shawl, for example, represent reflections on the terrain of the glacial formation we saw during the trip.


another cowl and scarf were inspired by the fantastic woven and painted hats created by women artists of the haida culture.


the collected patterns may be purchased in eBook from in both our knitspot pattern shop (click here to purchase or view more information) and in our ravelry pattern shop (click her to purchase if you want the book in your ravelry library).


the patterns are also available for individual purchase if desired;  you can find all of them in our ravelry pattern shop or in our knitspot pattern shop.


erica has also concocted kits for each one, including several with exclusive hand dyed yarns—click here to browse the selection of kits in our online shop.

and if you are coming to rhinebeck, please visit our booth at the indie untangled event on friday evening, where we will have all the scarf samples on display, with kits and individual patterns available for purchase (including our new deco yarn).


and if you can’t make it to that event, please join us on sunday at the marriott hotel in kingston for the bare naked wools popup shop, from 11 am to 9 pm; we will have ALL of our luscious yarns on display, tons of samples, patterns, and well, fun! please stop by to say hello and browse our beautiful wares.


i hope you will enjoy this new collection; it is a wonderful resource for gift knitting and inspiration. many thanks to all of the dyers, knitters, and models who contributed to the production of my book; it wouldn’t have happened without you!


total mass

Friday, September 23rd, 2016


oh, there is nothing like new england in the fall and this past weekend, i was lucky enough to be an instructor at the first WEBS fall retreat, which took place in the heart of the berkshire mountains.


not at the store (though we did get to spend some quality time there!), but on the beautiful UMASS amherst campus, in their teaching hotel and conference center, surrounded on all sides by views of new england.

and very fun people.


even though this was my third weekend away this month and i barely got out of ohio with my pants on straight, i was thrilled to be there with one hundred enthusiastic knitters, the ever-attentive WEBS staff, and my fellow instructors (who know how to make any event fun).


with just three days at home between waterloo and amherst and long to-do list to accomplish in that time, it was with a huge sigh of relief that i sank into my seat on the plane and pulled out my current knitting project.

i started this little eyelet cardigan in our chebris lace yarn (now available in this delicious frappé shade) while still in canada and knit most of the first sleeve during my plane rides home. but i had not touched it since and was eager to get back to work on it.


by the time i got to amherst, i was nearly all the way through the sleeve cap. what i love, love, love about this project is how quickly it is knitting up, compared to my previous two garment knits—much smaller in size and without cabling to complicate things, a very relaxing and mindless knit (just what i needed).

heh, or so i thought; apparently i was so exhausted that i forgot how to count to seven and had to rip back to the start of the sleeve cap. then i did it again while we knitted at the dinner table that evening. oy, vey!

third time was the charm, however and i finally got that piece off the needles.


of course, there were all sorts of distractions playing havoc with my focus, haha, like the trip to WEBS on saturday night instead of knitting. and these two honey badgers with their tricks . . .


or these guys . . . it was such a fun group that no one even minded the line stretching to the back of the store all evening. of course there was serious stuff going on too, like classes . . . an i was such a focused teacher that i forgot to take enough photos of them.

on saturday morning, we knit mini double happiness shawls and everyone did really well.


then in the afternoon, we blocked them, along with blocking several other types of projects, like socks, cowls, and sweater pieces.


my little DH was knit ahead of time in chebris lace as a test knit for my pattern; once off the blocking wires it is as light and airy as can be (which is why i’m knitting a lace cardi in the same yarn).


many of the students in the blocking class left early, exhausted by a whole day of intense classes and late night knitting on friday. but i stayed behind with tina to stretch and block her triangle shawl, which was knit from handspun alpaca yarn that her daughter brought back to her from ecuador. i’m not sure what pattern she used, but the shawl is exquisite—some of the fluffiest alpaca i’ve ever seen, with the charming texture of spindle spun yarn. she couldn’t be happier; the shawl blocked out much bigger than she expected.


on sunday morning i had a last breakfast together with the other instructors and then spent some quiet hours knitting in the lobby with kate atherly while we waited  for our shuttle to the airport. we were each designing something and quite happy to knit side by side without too much chat. just lovely!


i used the time to cast on (three different times, oh well) for one of the cardigan fronts and once i was settled with the right stitch count, it was off to the races. i had that front piece done by the time i landed in ohio that evening. have i mentioned that i love this cardigan?? so quick, so light, so pretty . . . or it will be, once it’s blocked.


admittedly right now, the pieces look like so much crumpled paper, but trust me, they will come to life with silky-soft goodness and glow, once they’ve had a hot bath, a spanking, and some serious pinning and steaming.


i know you can’t feel this, but the fabric is a lit-tle too pettable; i have to be careful not to wear it out.

as you can see in the photos above, i’ve now got a third piece to join the first two completed ones—on monday i was so brain dead from the previous couple of weeks that i gave myself permission to knit for most of the day, only breaking for one short meeting at the office and then for a nap later on. and still i got another full piece completed before dinner; now there are TWO fronts.


and a respectable stack of little sweater pieces.


this morning i cast on for the back piece and got through the hem lace sections before forcing myself to put it away (i did have knit night tonight, so i was able to bring it back out and add a couple of inches during that time). just look at the gleam on that yarn, wow. mohair is so pretty anyway, but such soft and well cared for mohair?? priceless!


and because it’s knit in laceweight yarn, it all smooches down to a little package that fits into a slim project bag which i can take anywhere. what’s not to love?


one of the things that has made my time at home so busy in between trips is our local yarn discovery tour. we’re open for extended hours during the yarn crawl and the shop has been very busy. it all ends this saturday though—if you live anywhere in the vicinity, please stop by and visit. there is a free pattern to participants and door prizes too.


we’ve picked up a few new faces at our open knit knit night on wednesdays through this event, which we are happy about; always great to have a full house on knit night, right?


after i wrote my blog on wednesday, i did indeed steam block the rest of my dock and cabin sweater pieces. i ws a little anxious about how that yoke would fit together, so i decided should just block it and see.


now it’s looking much more like the right shape, phew. i’m sure it will be fine.


second sleeve also got steamed to match the first and everything is ready to be joined up with the fronts as soon as those neck and button bands are complete.


an event-full month

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016


hello, did you wonder where i had disappeared to? it’s been a month filled with travel and just a few days at home so far—i hardly recognize dear david after being away so much!


almost as soon as we got back from visiting my family over labor day, i took off again for waterloo, ON to speak at knitter’s fair and teach at shall we knit? on the way i knit on the last piece of my dock and cabin sweater—the remaining sleeve—which i had started on my last day in albany, but hadn’t worked on much in the days i was at home that week.


by the time i got off the plane i was just a few rows away from binding off and would finish it up that night, once i was settled in my room after dinner. woo-HOO; this sweater is big and somewhat slow going (for me), having been interrupted numerous times in all sorts of ways. i am thrilled to have the pieces done and ready to begin seaming (more on that later).

i was last at knitter’s fair about five years ago and the event, now in a new venue and with more participants, has grown even better than it was back then. this is an indoor retail show—no animals—with shops and indie producers making up the vendor list.


the shall we knit? booth was packed with yarny goodness and even had a feature corner for our bare naked wools yarns, some of which which karen carries in her shop.


for the fair, she brought in a trunk show of additional yarns that she doesn’t normally have on hand and showed them alongside some beautiful sample knits (i especially love that caïssa sweater in stone soup DK, clasped with a jūl closure (upper right of photo); i might need one of those myself.

i think the doors opened at 9 am or so and by the time i got there at 11, the aisles and booths were thronged with fiber enthusiasts. i was to give a talk at 1 pm, but needed to do some yarn research for the lace scarf book, so i took a walk around the floor to see who was there and i found plenty of familiar faces.


like our friend kim of indigodragonfly with her gorgeous skeins of hand-dyed yarn, yum . . . i may have found a skein there that i couldn’t leave behind . . .


it’s chameleon sock; i couldn’t resist this iridescent, muddy gray/green/black with the color name we are all just living in idris elba‘s world (wow, you got that color name so right) everyone on hand agreed that i should not, could not leave it behind—it is SO me. kim knows me too, too well, right down to the fact that i’m a luther fan. that skein was lying in wait for me . . .


and then quite, quite unintentionally, probably because my wallet was already open and it was so close by, i also grabbed up a gobstopper just because. just because i love it to bits, that is, with its wheat and corn colored center, rimmed with perfect blue greens—a quintessential autumn palette of non-autumnal colors; exactly what i wanted without knowing it.


what i was really supposed to be doing was looking for a red yarn for the lace scarf book. oh and i found a few. the two on the left are from georgian bay fibre co; they have the softest ever BFL yarn. i am dying to make something with one of these skeins soon, just so i can wash it and feel it’s flannelly bloom afterward. and the skein on the far right is a quiviut/angora blend; i can’t remember the vendor’s name just this second but it’s delish and on its way to a sample knitter to become a scarf.


before leaving home, i had washed and blocked the scarf samples that had not been previously stretched. i was only home for three days that week, so i did two batches on two different evenings and got them all squared away. all i needed was to decide on the last skein of yarn and i thought a red would fit the bill.


with those shopping errands complete and several red options under my arm, i headed for the speakers area to set up my trunk show and get ready for my talk.


i was a little nervous, but as the seats filled up and i saw the high percentage of smiley, welcoming faces, i relaxed and enjoyed the event. as with every other visit i’ve made to the kitchener-waterloo area and talks with their guild members, this one was a delight. thank you to everyone who took time away from an exciting shopping day to sit and listen to me!


after the talk i took one more spin around the show to let the adrenaline drain away and this time, i found a tiny booth with some seriously gorgeous romney wool yarn that i could not keep my hands off of. look at the gleam on this skein! i don’t even know what i’ll make with it, but i can’t wait to find out, haha.

the next day was filled with classes at shall we knit?. first, yarn voyage in the morning, which is always such a treat to teach. i think most times, the students love it too; there is so much to know about everyone’s favorite subject—yarn!


then in the afternoon, we had a shawl project class for edmonia. a more relaxing and low key class, we worked our way through the pattern for a tiny doll-sized version of the piece, practicing all the stitch patterns and construction techniques. another good day—but i was so engrossed in my work all day that i never took a photo, not even of karen’s adorable destination shop. sorry . . .

the next day i was heading home; i had a lot to do in the few days i would be there before my next trip the following friday. i love my stack of finished pieces; so satisfying!


at home, my main priority was finalizing the september pairings club chapter (spoiler alert in that link!), but one evening i took a little break to block the two front pieces so i could graft the little yoke that runs around to the back.


once joined, i was now able to pick up all around the front edges for the button bands and neck finish. before i started though, i checked to make sure that the yoke would fit into the back piece, once it was blocked.



the geometry (? not sure if that’s the right word) was a bit of guesswork, but it looks like once the back is blocked it will fit correctly.


for reference, this is what the original looks like in back.


i have the old inspiration garment spread out on my workroom floor because i find myself continuously checking details as i near completion.


buttons for instance—once it’s ready for button bands, they need to be finalized and having the old sweater out will help me pick the right ones. since the stone soup fingering yarn in color pumice is a slightly different, cooler gray than the original, i’m going with black horn buttons for my new version. the thing is, what size?


the old sweater has one-inch buttons like these (from our shop) but when i lay them out on the fabric, they seem more dominant than i would like in the dark color.


these buffalo horn ones are nice; little smaller, streaked with shading, and textured, they are certainly in keeping with the yarn.


but then i also have these, which i purchased at churchmouse yarns some years ago during a teaching trip. they have a buffed surface with some vintage style cutwork and a shank at the back. i’ve been trying to find the right project for them for some time because i just love the look.

after consulting with mister style (that would be david) he agreed that these are the ones. the nice thing about using these buttons is that i can work a simple eyelet buttonhole to fit them, which is my preference; the larger ones would require a one-row button “slot”. not difficult to work but sometimes hard to get the right fit and i was running out of patience for this part of the project, haha.


so, i am now happily working through the neck and button bands; after a false start where i hadn’t picked up enough stitches (the bands were puckering), i think i’ve got the right proportion now. the rows are very long and worked in twisted rib, so it’s a little slow going, but i’m making progress and have completed the buttonhole row.


today i will block the back and sleeves to be ready for the final seaming steps, hopefully later tonight. soon you will see a finished cardigan.

in the meantime, i’ll be working along on the project i started while still in waterloo—had to keep moving through my queue. this one is going a LOT faster than the previous two sweaters; so fast that i can hardly believe it. more on that next time, along with photos and news of further travels.

now, i must attend to that blocking i mentioned.

long on love

Sunday, September 4th, 2016


here we are in albany, enjoying a weekend away from home. even though these times away are far to short, ti’s still nice to get a few hours extra sleep each night and slow down the pace a bit.

always before we leave there is a mad dash to tie up a bevy of loose ends in an attempt to get a little ahead of the game for our return.


by wednesday night, i had almost everything done—i had picked all but the last minute vegetables and cooked whatever was sitting around in the fridge and on the counters . . .


first, all the tomatoes got cooked down and puréed


to make a base for my favorite italian stew, ciambotta. almost everything in this pot is form our garden, yum! the only ingredients we didn’t grow are the carrots and celery. i made it with all my preferred ingredients—onion, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, celery, carrot, potato—and also threw in some slices of larger okra, since it is plentiful and i’m looking for any excuse to use it.

omg, this came out ssooo good! it’s the first time i’ve used our potatoes this year and they taste aMAZing. i uaully put in extra since i love the potatoes in this dish.

i boxed up a big carton to bring along to my mom’s and left one at home so we can enjoy it when we return.

by wednesday night i was 95 percent ready; i just needed to bake some fruit bars after knit night and pick the last of the vegetables on thursday morning.


but i even got a little ahead of schedule when no one showed up for knit night. i knew barb was away but none of the others came, probably due to the torrential rain that came down just about the time we opened.

back across the alley i scurried, turned on the oven, and started mixing ingredients. even an extra hour feels like a bonus when preparing to leave for the weekend.


the next morning was bright and cool and i was up early to strip the garden of as many beans, okra, tomatoes, chard, and other ripe items as i could. these tomatoes could sit and ripen fully indoors while we were gone. and my mom just loves fresh produce, so we packed a big box of tender green beans, chard, and all the rest.

off we went!


i drove the first half and then david took over. the first thing i did after taking over the passenger seat was to pull out my sweater back and get going on adding some inches. hehe, then i fell asleep—it happens on every trip; become hypnotized by the road and fall asleep for a stretch. but not for long, just enough to rest my eyes and soon i was back at work.


between then and the next morning i added two more rows of blocks and had just one more to go before starting the armhole shaping (and a considerable reduction in the stitch count, always a bonus).

yesterday was mostly filled with errands and cooking, but after supper, i picked up again. having brought just one project to work on has been a good thing in this case and i’m making excellent progress toward a finished sweater.


i’ve completed the armhole shaping and am working my way up to the neck shaping; it won’t be long til this back piece is complete. i brought an extra set of needles so i could cast on for the final sleeve piece and have something extra-portable to take along for knitting at the picnic on sunday. i am determined to finish this sweater very soon and if i can get the pieces all finished over this weekend, i’ll give myself extra points, haha.


today was the big day—our first family picnic in a number of years, but what a great day we had for a good turnout of at least 150 people. four generations of my mom’s family (on her mother’s side) got together to eat and have fun, as we had nearly every labor day weekend of my childhood and young adulthood. above is the oldest living generation—my mom and her surviving cousins (there used to be a lot more!), children of the the original nine sisters and brothers of my grandma’s generation.


it was really nice to see so many of my cousins removed again (second generation) and to introduce them to david and other new members of our family. there are actually a LOT more of us than are represented here; a lot of my generation couldn’t make it this year.

everyone contributed information to add to the family tree, so we should know soon to what number we’ve grown since we started having the annual picnic in the 1960s.


this is the third generation—children of my cousins and second cousins. the fourth generation are all babes in arms at this point, and for some reason they did not have that group line up for photos.


my mom’s family has always been very camera happy—we have an excellent collection of family photos that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. they never minded spending a little money on capturing the good times and life’s milestones. this display is made up of photos form past picnics—i noticed that it almost never rained, haha.

i did bring my knitting and work don that sleeve that i cast on, but truthfully, there was so much to do and so many people to hug and talk to that i didn’t get much done. still, it was nice to have a little quiet time to sit with david under the trees and knit while we watched others play volleyball.

we’ll be heading home in the morning; i will catch up with you later this week once we are there. hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend and are heading back to work refreshed.