Archive for the ‘lace/shawls’ Category

southern sun

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016


once we had a few days to settle in after being away at the sheep and wool show, we got down to the intense work of discussing recipes and cooking up dishes for our pairings club menu. there was a lot to cover over the week i’d be there and we wanted to make sure we included a variety of interesting, seasonal ingredients as well as unusual picks from more far flung places. get any two cooks into a kitchen together and food ideas will soon start flying, books will be pulled form the shelves, and favorite chefs will be mentioned. there was so much to squeeze into four courses!


and so many dogs to help with that.


because i got to bed earlier there than i normally do at home, i was awake at dawn and spent several quiet hours knitting to start each day—it was heavenly.


katharine’s yard was busting out new and more beautiful blooms each day


and all manner of birds visited her feeders as well.


the hydrangeas were absolutely stunning—in the most perfect of stages, some still had that fresh, new green color i love. the tornado just missed getting them, all escaped unharmed by staying in their buds throughout.


at home we are at least a month out from hydrangea blooms—which i adore—so this was a real treat for me.


day by day my sweater back grew while i enjoyed these peaceful hours. it was just what the doctor ordered after two solid months of nonstop activity here at knitspot central.


on saturday we took a ride downtown to walk around old wilmington and see the beautiful homes, churches, and waterfront attractions.


this church is a marvel of roofing finesse—i can’t even fathom how those slates are installed (the angle is almost vertical), but they were recently replaced after a bad storm tore most of them down, so it can’t be impossible. i SO want to climb up to look out those windows, don’t you?


i loved seeing the temple of israel synagogue with its moorish design and patterned windows.


we hit the small farmer’s market at midmorning to search for a few ingredients we were missing for our last menu recipe.


it was filled with flower stalls, plant stalls, and those filled with early vegetables and fruits.


katharine made a beeline for the peonies (her favorite) and snagged a beautiful bunch of nearly unopened blooms. i scored a small container of the most awesome freshly ground roasted peanut butter i think i’ve ever tasted—just miraculous (yes, peanut butter can be!). we ate that with apples later on that day.


i also spotted a dog collar that just had to be peppa’s. she may not be a knitspot fan yet, but she will be. as soon as she learns to knit.


next we made our way to the cotton exchange, a pre-civil war complex of brick buildings that now houses shops along its cool interior passages, while maintaining some of the historical elements from its earlier days.


the rabbit warren effect of the conjoined buildings work in its favor—one can duck in and out of the heat to visit retail establishments or linger in the less populated stairwells to admire the architecture.


i really enjoyed this painting which is a study by ronald williams of the 1873 painting by edgar degas named the cotton office in new orleans. i didn’t really realize degas had been to the american south and painted there, but now i know he was; while the original was composed in degas’ studio, he combined elements he picked up from his travels in new orleans with models from his own family.


nearby, an old cotton bale sits on a wagon that was rolled to a spot just under the scale attached to a ceiling beam.

on the way back to the car we took the “walk of fame” over tiles memorializing well-known performers, athletes, and other distinguished natives of wilmington.


we had plans to go to another local attraction later in the afternoon, but stopped home to grab some lunch and get the flowers into a vase of water—it was a hot, muggy day. peppa seemed quite proud of her new collar; maybe it will inspire her to knit or at least to join ravelry?


once refreshed, we headed to the airlie gardens to enjoy some of the seasonal blooming plants and a 467-year-old oak tree.


the oaks were indeed magnificently bearded with moss that waved in a brisk breeze and made light shows with the sun pouring through.


all over wilmington the magnolias were opening that day; most were just barely popping out of their husks but a few were fully opened to plate-sized flowers.


several weddings were taking place at once in various garden areas from a spot under the old oak to one at the gazebo end of this path to the old church housed on its grounds.


the jasmine arches were breathtaking and we felt lucky to have seen them at their peak moment.


our main mission was to visit the bottle chapel, designed by Virginia Wright-Frierson and completed by a group of wilmington artists in 2004 as a memorial to minnie evans, a self-taught folk artist who was the gatekeeper at the gardens in her later years, from 1948 to 1974.


minnie sold her artwork at airlie through exhibitions she held on the grounds, sometimes with her paintings spread out right across the lawn.


the bottle chapel design, built from over 4000 bottles, metalwork armature, and concrete, incorporates figures and fauna of the type that appeared in many of minnie’s paintings, which were inspired by life in the gardens.


up close the surfaces created by every type of bottle imaginable ripple and unfold in waves of abstraction


stepping back you can see the larger compositions pull together from those elements.


the chapel has a definite relationship to a southwest or mexican style of architecture, though i’m not sure yet why. it was a real treat to be able to take it in on a sunny day when the bottles sparkled with light.


the lively kaleidoscope of color was repeated all around as we walked the paths to the exit; even in the tiniest of hidden places.


one last treat was the cemetery behind the old church housed on the grounds, with graves from the last century—so poignant.


there is even a mystery grave for an unknown person. it was interesting to see that each grave had both a headstone and smaller foot stone; i can’t remember seeing that before.


one small headstone caught my attention and i pointed it out to katharine—martha b, are you reading the blog today? i’m not trying to creep you out, but we thought this was kind of cool.


on the way home we ran an errand at the asian grocery where we got sucked in to walking the aisles to poke around in row upon row of unusual packages and ingredients. i desperately wanted to buy this breakfast cereal for the promises made on the package alone—who wouldn’t want to?—but i saw that the third ingredient is wheat so i left in on the shelf.


at home, the dogs had the right idea—time to lounge around and rest; we were tired! we didn’t cook that day so we ate an early dinner of yummy leftovers from our week’s work and planned our last recipe test for sunday. and evening of knitting and watching TV followed.


katharine swatched for her own illas cíes pullover project while i continued work on my sweater back until my head began to droop.


sunday was a work day—in fact dessert day! and if you think this is a dish of blueberries well, i’m just going to let you think that, because what we made is a secret. the day flew by in a flash and our evening was sort of the same.


pretty soon it was monday morning and the end of my visit—boohoo! over coffee we evaluated katharine’s sweater swatches (she’s knitting her illas cíes in ginny sport, color georgia—she was smart and bought some before our spring ensemble went live).


i put the finishing touches on my back piece and then cast on for a sleeve to knit during the plane trip home.


the dogs were alert that something was about to go down so they hung close all morning. they’re so sensitive, it’s really cute. we had a few things to do before heading to the airport, but eventually it was time to say goodbye and get on the plane.


well, thought i’d get more knitting done but i started dozing during my second flight and that was that.


back home i hit the ground running the very next day—there is always much to do after i’ve been away for a while and this time i was gone over a week. david has made good progress on preparing the garden and now we had everything in place for planting, yay. that was our weekend goal.


next to the garage, the poppies are popping—i saw the first one on wednesday when i got back from getting my hair cut (much needed, haha). now this lone pink one has been joined by a red one.


that afternoon i took out the finished pieces for the salt & pepper top i’d completed in NC and prepared them for seaming by pinning and steam blocking.


i wove in all my ends and started seaming at knit night that evening and finished before going to bed.


on thursday i woke up with a raging sore throat and a small fever, probably contracted during my flight—too much burning the candle at both ends lately as well. so i made an executive decision to stay off the computer and away from the office. instead i doctored myself and listened to a book while working on my neck and armhole finishes.

except for a short bit of harvesting in the garden . . .


the spinach and asian greens i planted in march really took off during the week i was away and now there are plenty of stir-fry greens to be had. not to mention a carpet of volunteer cilantro from seeds that blew across the path from where it lived last summer.


the small clump of hardy spinach that lived through the winter and began filling out again in april had quadrupled in size and was even beginning to bolt a bit, so they needed attention before we lost them. i cut off all the large leaves, which filled a good sized basket, yay. david is downstairs cooking them now into a pasta dish that he makes very well. and still i left behind plenty of small leaves to grow in; we’ll probably get another picking out of that clump. meanwhile, the new spinach plants are growing rapidly, though they didn’t germinate as plentifully as i’d hoped.


by late afternoon my sweater finishes were all done and i put it into a hot soapy bath to soak while i took a nap. of course, i didn’t wake up in an hour or so as planned, but slept til the middle of the night! no matter, it was fine to rinse and wet block at that hour.


the neck of the salt & pepper top is devised to be loose enough to slump a little at the front, forming a very short cowl (or you could go crazy and make it long! in the last sample i knit,i didn’t support it as it dried and i think that allowed it to shrink back a bit. so this time i supported the neckband with a rolled up washcloth to prevent it shrinking back.


much better. don’t be afraid to change or tweak these details to your liking—your finished sweater should be just what you want it to be. if you prefer the neckband sucked in and flattened all the way around, then pick up fewer sts around that lower curve and/or use a needle one size smaller.


sometimes i knit a neckband or sew in a sleeve two or three times until i’m satisfied; it’s not that the pattern isn’t “right” but that for my personal knitting style and/or fit preferences i may need to tweak it. better to spend a few extra hours getting it right than to have invested lots of hours in something i won’t wear because a small detail is off.

it’s true that sometimes i just want to finish and not fiddle, but if it turns out to need changes, a day’s rest from the project will usually reignite my interest in making it perfect, especially if i really like it overall. i’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, but that’s a whole other blog post.


and right now i kind of feel like this dead monkey toy (peppa’s, i believe)—still not 100 percent. so i’m going to stop now and take up my knitting for some quiet time. see you in a few days!

here, there, and everywhere

Saturday, May 14th, 2016


what a month! i have literally been all over the the map and filling every moment with some important task or other—and i have so much to tell you as a result, haha!


well, you all know by now that we recently exhibited at the maryland sheep and wool show and then followed up immediately with the release of our spring ensemble collection.


but i would like to back up and show you some of the gorgeous knitted samples that have been the real show in my eyes. we couldn’t put our beautiful booth displays and collections together without a considerable contribution of fine knitting to show off our designs and yarns.


i don’t think one person came to our booth at maryland that didn’t notice whatever barb was wearing that day—in the two weeks before the show she knit this cute striped amalfi coast skirt AND a janet guthrie top in our hempshaugh fingering yarn. she also packed along the costa figueira jumper that she knit just before that.

SO many visitors to our booth made a beeline for “barb’s outfit” each day. believe me, we won’t leave home without her now!


another eye-catching sample on display was this stunning ponte di rialto square, knit by vanessa with two skeins of our cabécou brillant lace, the champagne shade. this beautiful design by romi hill was part of our january ensemble and can be knit in fine lace yarn  or a slightly heavier weight, such as better breakfast fingering yarn.


many people wonder how to wear a square shawl—the answer is that there are a variety of ways. with a super lightweight fabric like this lace sample, the piece can be draped in layers for outerwear or used as a light blanket or umbrella in a shower.


lightweight lace is surprisingly (and efficiently) warm when layered up in folds—it traps air to reflect back our own cozy body heat.


when the shawl arrived at knitspot headquarters, it was yet to be blocked—vanessa always saves that part for me, haha. it looks very crumply and somewhat homely coming off the needles, but that is easily remedied with the magical process of blocking.


i put it in a soaking bath right away, but wasn’t able to actually pin it out til a couple of days later. no matter—undyed natural fiber is safe to sit in water for an extended period.


it was well worth the wait—when i finally had a little time to stretch and pin it, it was a spectacular 60-inch square of lace finesse. this piece is not only a work of art, but one of considerable generosity; thank you vanessa!


another generous contribution of knitted prowess was this outfit of the amalfi coast skirt, knit by our dear friend cherie and the costa figueira vest, knit by our good friend kristi. both pieces are shown here in the millet shade of hempshaugh as we had intentions of photographing them—along with the square shawl—as a wedding outfit.

while that plan went astray when we couldn’t coordinate good weather with a wedding party of models on the same day, we were still able to photograph it as a wonderfully summery outfit that will be perfect for a hot weather party later in the season. come june and july, we’ll be looking for a combination like this to wear . . .


and guess what? i finally finished up the physalis shawl that had been on my needles since february, in our stone soup fingering yarn. there is absolutely no reason it should have taken this long except that i kept getting distracted by new designs.


still, a few rows or a half hour of morning knitting at a time and it is now done. i even got to block it right away; my favorite part. i just love how those spaces between the leaves open up along with the mesh body.


it’s a total transformation.


we displayed this shawl at the front of our booth with the cream outfit above and it got SO much attention—the organic forms within knit in the rustic tweed yarn, made for an incredibly realistic (and dramatic) portrayal of leaves, vines, pods, and bark.


i love this shawl—it’s so me; it’s really fun to knit and much faster and easier than it looks.


i’ve knit it three times now and each one is my favorite, haha. from front to back in chebris lace (truffe), stone soup fingering (granite), and cabécou brillant lace (champagne)


just before maryland and the ensemble release, erica and i had a date to spend the weekend with the miami valley knitting guild in dayton. on the way, we stopped off to visit our ohio mill for the afternoon. i love this photo because you can really see where all the gorgeous shades of our better breakfast yarn come from—carrie and robbie can tell you in minute detail about the coat of fiber each animal produces, haha.


carrie does a lot of weaving and showed up this awesome rug that she made using the fiber that comes off of our hemp blend in the dehairing stage.


she makes this really cool tubular yarn from it that she weaves into rugs. it’s so pretty made up, isn’t it?


after a nice visit with them, we moved on to meet up with our friends at the guild. we set up a popup shop with yarn and samples so they could preview a few of the ensemble pieces.


over the weekend we did some classes together in sweater fitness and finishing; it was a really great weekend. thank you miami knitting guild for a lovely opportunity to meet and work with you!


back home everyone else was working to get ready for maryland—we even pressed doug into service, packing patterns and yarn to go into the truck.


we pretty much stripped the shop bare and took every spare skein along with us.


i love that our truck has a camel on the side that kind of also looks like an alpaca.

setup went like clockwork with everybody helping and before long, we had an adorable booth filled with yarn goodness and pretty samples—ready to show customers on saturday and sunday.


on friday night we ate at a classy joint, haha. but a well deserved break for all of us; it felt as if we had not paused for weeks.


and we had a terrific show—many many thanks to all who visited our booth and introduced yourselves to us. we just love meeting readers and customers and ravelers at our events. it makes the whole journey worth it; thank you all so much!

speaking of journeys, just wait til you see where i am now; i will catch you up in the next post, hopefully tomorrow.

Spring Ensemble 2016

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016


Firstly I want to thank the designers that have collaborated to create these lovely creations:

Bristol Ivy

Rich Ensor

Andrea Rangel

 Janelle Martin

General Hogbuffer

Anne Hanson (a special kiss for Anne)

Spring Ensemble, a mindful approach to styling and presentation, making our knitwear a functional part of your daily wardrobe. We have taken great care to ensure that the items in this collection are indeed wearable and not merely esthetically pleasing, although they are beautiful. The collection debuted at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past weekend, the reception has been extraordinary, I can not sufficiently express how often I heard the words, beautiful, lovely, wonderful spoken as festival attendees admired the well dressed manikins in the booth. Barb and Anne were particularly fetching in their Ensemble attire. The reactions have been just great at the Maryland Festival, a successful debut as it were and we are admittedly very proud of this collection, and we are so happy to be able to share it with you. I hope that you like it.

Purchase downloadable Spring Ensemble patterns on Ravelry or in our Bare Naked Wools Boutique.

See the collection of Spring Ensemble kits in our luxurious yarns.

Spring Ensemble Lookbook.


Our staff (Erica, Andrew, Doug and Lillian) have worked really hard on this project, thank you, your efforts are very much appreciated, especially Anne who has literally worked ceasingly these last 10-12 weeks, probably to the detriment of her well being. And alas a big thank you to all of our proof readers, tech editors, test knitters and models. A huge undertaking for such a small company, Knitspot/BNWs is boss.

Now the yarns, they are spectacular on their own (Bare Naked Wools Better Breakfast, Hempshaugh, Ginny, Stone Soup, Chebris, Cabécou and Ghillie), all natural, no dyes or chemicals, nor harsh processing. Bespoke yarns created by Anne Hanson, whose knowledge of wool is incomparable (says I) and allows us to produce really excellent yarns – there are no short cuts taken or use of inferior fiber, just really good quality wool. You have seen our mills at work, their passion, commitment and attention to detail when creating yarn. We have also shared video in recent years of some of the goat and sheep farmers we purchase fleeces from and again their love of their animals, translates into better fiber. Much of our fiber is local, as are the mills, and we are striving to make these percentages even greater. If a particular yarn should be out of stock just now, either pre-order (if option permits) or get on the back in stock list.

Here are some of the Spring Ensemble patterns:


Estlin Pullover by Bristol Ivy


Salt & Pepper by Anne Hanson


Costa Figueira by Anne Hanson



Arques Sock by Rich Ensor


Arundhati Shawl by Andrea Rangel


Zwickel Sock by General Hogbuffer



Dust Devils by Anne Hanson


Gibo Auja by Janelle Martin



Cardita Cowl by Andrea Rangel



Janet Guthrie by Anne Hanson


Chevi by Anne Hanson



done and done

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016


isn’t that a sight? this was the beautiful view from my window as we took off from newark last tuesday evening on my way home from ottawa. just look at that streak of sky with the last of the sunset—gorgeous.

before i get into the nitty gritty of my week, i just want to give a shoutout on a few upcoming events for the next two weeks:

i will be teaching this weekend (april 30 and may 1) at the miami valley knitting guild in dayton, OH. this is a great opportunity to take sweater fitness or a finishing class (or both!). they are hosting a meet and greet on friday evening that is open to all (a small fee is required at the door); erica betz and i will be taking along a popup shop of yarn and patterns that will be available throughout the weekend.

our spring ensemble collection will be coming next week!

and then NEXT weekend (may 7 and 8) we are heading for the maryland sheep and wool show, where we will have a booth in the center aisle of the main building. if you plan to be there, please stop by to fondle our yarns and say hello; we would love to show you around! all of our spring ensemble pieces will be available for viewing, along with patterns and yarns to knit them.

signups for the pairings club open to all on sunday may 1—just six days left for currently enrolled clubbies to take advantage of their discount on full membership or extra yarn upgrade (you can use your discount twice as long as you do it before may 1).


back home, the weather has been steadily warming by the day and even the nights are temperate for the most part (except of course on the day of our cleveland photo shoot; more on that later).


adorable little plants (may apple and fritillaria) are popping out for their once-a-year show; it’s important to notice them now because they won’t be back til next year.


i just love taking little breaks to look around the yard—plants like the may apple and hosta show visible growth in just a few hours. if you don’t take notice today, they will be all grown up by tomorrow.

of course it’s not at all the case that i have hours upon hours to play in the yard, haha—when i got back from my trip i hit the ground running toward the next goal, which is getting our spring ensemble published and my blue shawl blocked and out in the mail.


you might remember that just before i left, i decided it was done, but that i hadn’t cast off. i left it home while i was away and got right to work on the bind off the night i returned.


then blocking. it is a larger shawl—25 to 29 inches along the center back before blocking—and about 34 inches once it’s relaxed and stretched. but super light and airy; it won’t weigh you down at that size.


the fabric is just lovely—plenty of gloss to highlight those shifting stitches in the large leaves. that’s what a nice measure of silk will do for you! this sample is knit in spirit trail nona, a 2-ply merino/silk/cashmere blend in a heavier laceweight. i’ve used the aquarius colorway for mine.


i love how it looks against the dark charcoal of our counter top. it would be beautiful with a dark dress as well. because well, my counter top is unlikely to go out dancing any time soon.


this shawl would be really pretty in silver or white as well as a wedding shawl, maybe in cabécou lace or chebris lace.


the top of it would look stunning over a bare shouldered dress and the bottom frames the bodice beautifully around the waist and lower back.


and totally scarfable too for everyday looks!


while the blue shawl dried, i knit late, late into the night to complete my second sample in better breakfast fingering yarn.


the knitting goes pretty quickly because while it looks elaborate, it is actually very straightforward and does not involve a lot of fancy stitchwork. AND the WS rows are all in purl (except the edging which is garter). i know you like that.

since i was just starting the hem at the point that i blocked the blue sample, i had time to make a couple of very minor adjustments to the pattern.


i started this shawl last friday (4/15) on my way to ottawa and i finished it this past friday morning (4/22). there were even a couple of days that i didn’t work on it. the hardest thing about it was picking a name—i went through about a dozen options that were already in use multiple times on ravelry. finally, erica betz suggested pothos and miracle of miracles, there was only one other (sock) pattern using that word. so i jumped on that one.


this baby went right into a hot bath as soon as it was off the needles and i blocked it that afternoon. we wanted to use it for our photo shoot on saturday. good thing our BNW yarns dry quickly!

this time i blocked the hem scallops a little differently, but you could do it either way; for pointy leaves, use pins only on the hem (no wires) and stretch out the flower ‘petals’ into points (see blue sample above).


i am always surprised at how light and drapey the fabric of this fingering yarn is—i knit this shawl on needles two sizes bigger because of the change in yarn weight, but it blocked out to about the same size. that’s because the BBF has more body and bounce, while the silky lace yarn does not, so the blue shawl relaxed a lot more.


the BBF version is a bit warmer but still airy—it doesn’t feel heavy although it looks much more substantial.


i think this one would be pretty over a dark coat or dress—but it also looks great with some of our hemp skirts and tops—that warm waffle shade is perfect for spring and summer.


and a great bathrobe shawl for those summer mornings when you want to hit the deck first thing with your coffee.


done just in the nick of time, this baby got packed into the car early saturday morning for ride to cleveland and some urban exploring. we had a list of sites to visit, starting with lakewood park, which is on lake erie.


considering the warmth of the previous week, it was laughably windy and cold—literally too gusty to photograph some of our lighter pieces. we did get some excellent shots of our slightly heavier garments and lots of shawl pics, haha, since all we wanted the whole time was to bundle up in warm layers. this feather light stole in chebris lace felt scrumptious when i could get it to stay put.


the next stop on our photo safari was the abandoned observatory of the case school of science—a wonderful old building in the center of town that is completely open and accessible.


adorned with many original features, it is far less creepy than you’d think.


we all admired this zodiac floor piece, which while completely available has remained in place. i think it’s awesome that no one has selfishly stolen it, despite obvious attempts. it’s nice that it’s still there for all to share and appreciate.


the observatory tower is somewhat intact as well, though much of it is open to the light


which makes an interesting photography space.


i couldn’t resist a selfie.


just wait til you see how we featured this honey doorway in some of our photos.


we couldn’t help but notice the juxtaposition of this urban landscape with the natural one outdoors, just coming into leaf with bright spring greens.

and what’s that i see on the balcony railing?


clearly, someone else thinks like we do.