that’s me—the blockhead

Posted on 15 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects, yarn and dyeing

i had the best day today—i ignored the computer almost entirely from the time i got up in order to spend time on one of my favorite activities—blocking. i had a pile of finished and unblocked items sent to us from sample knitters, plus my newly-finished DK shawl, which i’ve decided to name krokos.

the day promised to be brilliantly sunny, if not quite warm—it did get up to 50 degrees, but spring is just beginning to break here and the winds ensures that the air remains pretty cold. still, i did not want to miss getting outside in the afternoon, so i got going on my list of indoor duties as soon as i got up.

the gray shawl in our breakfast blend DK was first into the soaking water. this yarn really blocks out a treat; i just love it—look how smooth and silky that fabric is!

and the stitch definition is so crisp—it really makes for a dramatic display of this simple, linear composition.

the design is a variation on the peu de pluie design, but now that i see it blocked, it also reminds me of a bandanna print, something like the susanna shawl. as with any shawl, it can also be knit in other yarn weights, so i plan to include instructions for using our fingering yarn as well. this would be stunning in the espresso colorway and super snuggly, too.

once i had that shawl blocked, i put a second one on to soak, poured a second cup of coffee, and went upstairs to finish seaming the sticks and stones pullover that barb knit up in stone soup DK. i told barb if she knit the pieces, i’d do the finishing work.

i’d been working on this for the last several evenings, having completed the neck trim and gotten the sleeves sewn in. so there wasn’t much left to do—just the side and underarm seams and i got those squared away in less than an hour.

once they were done, i steamed everything nicely for the finishing touch, then put it on the dress form to see how it looked.

wow, that fabric is lovely. i just had to try it on now . . . i was already wearing a gray v-neck, but that was abandoned in an instant for the new one.

(i do love this sweater; it’s knit from handspun alpaca and i wear it very often)

but there’s nothing like a new one, right?

it’s perfect! and so soft and comfy; i’ve ben worried about this yarn being prickly, but it’s not. it has plenty of merino content to help keep it so.

the cable detailing at the side seams and armholes really pops in this yarn, too. i thought it was very defined in the original yarn, but here, it’s even more so.

barb’s knitting is beautiful, isn’t it? i am so lucky she likes to knit sweaters.

once it was seamed and i knew it fit well, i wanted to wash the whole thing—i like for all finished knits to have a good soak, so as to lose those last remnants of spinning oil and really bring out the shine in the fiber.

and as long as i was going to wash it, i decided i may as well wash all the other neutral sweaters in my drawer—i won’t be needing them much longer and it’s best to put them away clean. so i scoooped up seven sweaters, bagged them in mesh, and put them in the washer to soak while i blocked the second shawl.

this one is a new sample of the sheltie triangle design that shipped with our barenaked 2012 club in may last year. to prepare for the eventual release of that pattern package, we asked our dear friend vanessa to knit a new one in our breakfeast blend fingering yarns, using burnt toast as the main color, with oatmeal and earl grey as the contrasting colors. sigh, i’ll never tire of this very old, very traditional, and very classic  hap shawl. i find them mesmerizing.

O.M.G., this yarn does luscious garter stitch; it just rolls over the contours of the shoulder. LOVE. i can’t wait to show you what it looks like draped on the dress form. next time, i promise. you’ll see all of these in draping mode.

now, not only did vanessa knit this charming shawl, but she knit the stranded apples in clover tam from the same month

the tam took a bath along with the shawl and while it was very wet, i inverted it over a wide pasta bowl to support it until it was dry enough to turn right-side up. alpaca is slow to dry, even with the heat on, so i reshaped this piece often to fluff the fibers, which encourages air circulation through the fabric and improves the loft, which in turn, speeds up the drying process.

once it’s dry enough to hold it’s shape without sagging from wetness, i invert it over the bowl and let the sides hang down so it doesn’t take a crease. that way it will have a nice round shape when it slouches on the head. it will also have the freedom to shrink back to its correct size as it dries.

once i had the hat and shawl blocked, the sweaters were ready to come out of the wash.

i laid half a dozen out in one spot and the other with the shawls. this is such a good thing to have gotten done. washing sweaters is such an easy task; i really should get all of mine done soon, while the heat is still on to dry them quickly and thoroughly.

that’s my new sprossling in the upper right corner, that anne marie knit. i’ve worn it several times to teaching dates and public events; it’s light and cozy and stretchy—perfect for spring.

and in the lower left corner, the new sweaters knit in stone soup DK look like barb and cherie themselves having a chat, haha. i actually think that little moorit brown sweater just above the rene, would look really nice in the stone soup yarn. i never published that pattern, but i may have to write it up now for this yarn.

speaking of which, guess what we got on friday? three big boxes with more stone soup—a reorder of fingering yarn in pumice plus a new test batch of DK and fingering in a second color which we are calling granite

so from left to right, lot #2 of pumice (compare to lot#1 pumice in the background), then the fingering in granite and far right, the DK in granite.

i’m so excited about being able to make different colors with this yarn, now that we have a recipe. i’m hoping we can do a marble, a slate, and maybe a sandstone or travertine (or both, haha). it’s so cool that the shades can be manipulated from mixing colors that we have no control over.

erica and emily should be coming over in the next couple of days to count it, label it, and enter it into inventory; once all that is done, david can put it in the shop.

in the meantime, we will enjoy spring—like i said, i was determined to get outside to day as well, so once i got all the sweaters laid out, i changed, laced up my running shoes, and headed out into the sun.

and wind—wow, it was chilly for such a brilliant day. my legs felt like cement most of the way, but finally loosened up for the last couple of miles.

still, it was really pleasant to see all the flowers that have been hiding under snow until now. and when i got back, we went out on our bikes to do our shopping and errands, something we haven’t done in months, due to the cold, snow, and wet.

and that pretty much brings us to the present moment—it’s time for me to leave the computer now so i can relax a bit with david before i conk out.

i got SO much done today and i felt so productive and happy doing it—i need to get back to spending more time with my hands on wool and less time at the dang computer. i guess it starts here, doesn’t it?

with that, i’m even going to leave it unproofed til tomorrow; it’s after 12:30 am and i want to knit now, please.

happy spring holidays to all; i hope you have a wonderfully chocolatey day!

sky cap

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in patterns

last year, we launched the first bare naked knitspot club with the sky ladder pattern package—a multi-sized pattern for rectangles that could serve a variety of purposes from scarf, to wrap, to blanket.

i knit the baby sized blanket as my prototype, with the plan of using it for modeling shots, along with karolyn’s test knit of the petite wrap. my good friend debby had a brand new grandson (graham) and her daughter, hannah agreed to model for the club chapter (look how beautiful they are!).

i had not seen the baby yet and i wanted to bring a little gift. so with one day to go before the shoot, i grabbed my blanket leftovers and cast on what seemed to be the right number of stitches for a one-month old human head, but honestly, i was in completely uncharted territory (for me).

well, it wasn’t bad—it could have been a little bigger around and a little less deep or more slouchy, but it was a start and we used it for photos.

then i went home and worked on the sizing til i got it right. and while i was at it, i wrote up additional sizes that would fit just about anyone (eight altogether)

now if you happen to be at a loss for what to put in those easter baskets for non candy eaters, this could be your answer—it’s fun and takes almost no time to knit and you can make a little one out of leftovers. or a bigger one out of one skein of sport yarn or light DK.

the brim and body of the cap are worked in fun cable and lace patterns, but the top is all garter stitch. the hat has nice body, but is really pretty lightweight, so perfect for this time of year, when you never know what the weather is going to be like.
(heh, well, unless you live here, where we know it will be cold . . . )

or maybe you’re knitting sky ladder and you’d like a little side project to go with it—something more portable that has some shape.

this cap is baby tested and has come out a winner. yum-ilicious

and for some, it brings out their silly side; what’s not to love about that?

shown just above in adult size large, knit in mountain meadow wool cody sport, a deliciously soft and bouncy 2-ply merino in color natural cream.

below on baby padraig, the 9-month size, knit in bare naked wools stone soup DK, color pumice.

(we’re excited; our second color of this yarn should arrive today and be up in the store as soon as emily and erica can count and label it)

to purchase pattern or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the knitspot pattern shop. or purchase the pattern in our ravelry pattern shop.

sky cap is of course, also included in the BNK 2012 eBook, collection—12 terrific accessory patterns, each one multi-sized and suitable for gifting or keeping; many will have universal appeal for women, men, and children alike. purchase the eBook collection from the knitspot club website or in our ravelry pattern shop (it takes a few seconds to view).

another fun thing to do—click here to view the sky cap or sky ladder project pages to see more examples of these patterns knit by ravelers and photographed on a variety of people and in alternate yarns.

well, that’s my easter egg offering; hope you enjoy your weekend and that wherever you are, mother nature finally wakes up and does the spring thing!

desperately seeking springtime

Posted on 35 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, projects

well, the sun had a little trial run today, sticking its toes in the water and coming out for a few hours this afternoon. now though, it’s already back in hiding and another inch of snow is predicted for tonight.

i guess it’s all about small steps right now. i would like to say that we’ve had more glimpses of spring than just one sunny afternoon, but it isn’t true—it is still FREEZING outside with biting winds. yesterday i went running as usual, without giving much consideration to the cold  (because um, it’s supposed to be spring) and by late afternoon i was sore all over. i don’t think my legs like the wind, haha.

hard to believe that the temperatures will get all the way up to 50 degrees by saturday, the way they’re supposed to. i’ll believe it when i see it, haha.

since mother nature is not cooperating, let’s warm ourselves up with a little excitement—how about i announce the winner of the botanical knits eBook by alana dakos?

and it looks like that would be . . . . carol P!
i have emailed the winner to let her know; thank you all for participating.

good thing i have knitting to keep me warm and occupied. yes, i’d rather be working in the yard of an evening, but if it’s too cold outside yet, then knitting it will be. i have all manner of secret projects going on in various stages of doneness, but a few non-secret ones that are slowly making their way long the FO road.

all the way home the other day i wanted to knit in the car but motions sickness got the better of me and i spent most of the ride trying not to look at anything. but i did work on this cowl some during my trip and hopefully there is noticeable progress.

i left my DK shawl project home, but as soon as we got here i worked the last couple of rows and did the bind off. it still needs to be blocked of course, but it’s finished, yay.

i’m placing it on the growing collection of finished BNW knits, hoping to organize a nice big blocking and seaming party for myself over the weekend; i have several other FOs that arrived from sample knitters which also need to be done. i’d invite a few other people, but i don’t know anyone else who enjoys blocking and seaming as a recreational activity, haha.

barb knit this gorgeous sticks and stones pullover from our stone soup DK and brought it over a couple of weeks ago so i could seam it. i got some of it done before we went away, but didn’t want to truck the whole thing to albany, so it stayed behind.

the stone soup yarn blocks out like a dream, in lace and in regular sweater fabric. the fiber blooms a bit to make a soft, flannel-like surface, not too fuzzy. but even better is how crisply the pieces take a shape after steaming or wet blocking. the stitches fall into beautifully straight columns and the overall fabric squares right up as if it is reinforced, yet remains supple and soft to the touch. i think the combination of fibers has a lot going for it that way.

anyway, i’ll work on it tonight and tomorrow so it can join the rest of our beautiful samples which are queued up for photography.

we have quite a lovely lineup, waiting to be in the look book we’re preparing for our yarns. (see—i even received my lavender buttons from moving mud for the cocoa sprossling and sewed them on so i could wear it over last weekend. i love them. and the sweater was super-comfy, too)

speaking of this delicious pile of stuff, it’s time to marvel over another gorgeous sample knit by one of our readers—this time, a stunning rendition of the dovecote shawl knit by dear agnes in our breakfast blend fingering yarn

she knit this up in the earl grey color; isn’t that just the epitome of natural elegance?

this yarn is another that blocks out superbly—just take a gander at those points; they are breathtaking, right?? seriously, my knitting class gasped when they saw this shawl in real life.

this is such a fun design to make, too—it practically knits itself, yet it looks complex and intricate. just ask our test knitter, karolyn—it’s one of her all-time favorites; she has knit it numerous times.

thank you agnes; we are so grateful for your beautiful contributions to our community, our ravelry groups, and now our trunk show!

all of these beautiful knits and yarn make me feel like i’m in the middle of a celebration—because this was a real red-letter day for me in another way. to tell you about it, i have to go back a bit; i hope you don’t mind a little story.

on a gorgeous august afternoon in 2011, while out for one of my daily rides, i managed to lose control of my bicycle while racing downhill. i don’t remember this part, what happened exactly or why, but the first thing to hit the pavement, breaking my fall, was my mouth.

miraculously, i did not break any bones and my teeth, while shoved all askew, were mostly intact with just a few chips. my helmet was in tatters, my face was a mess of road rash from top to bottom and needed stitches in several places, but again, mostly minor injuries there. once we got the all-clear from the emergency room staff, it was time for the dentist to have a look. the verdict was that i’d be wearing braces for the next ten to twelve months.

HA, well it’s now twenty months later and finally, finally today i walked out of the orthodontist’s office with the chain mail removed from my mouth. no more painful adjustments, no more railroad tracks. i feel like bikini season has begun for my teeth!

my smile is a little different now than it used to be. i will always have a couple of scars and some nerve damage around my mouth, but i am grateful and thrilled to consider myself “all better now”. and thankfully, still in love with my bike.

tomorrow we are releasing the sky cap pattern—a fun, quick knit that could be the perfect item to tuck into a little easter basket for kids not yet of chocolate eating age.

scenes from the weekend

Posted on 14 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, lace/shawls, projects

mmm. while i’m not usually a big fan of pancakes, these were really good. and with fresh maple syrup?? stop it!

it’s been a nice weekend here in albany. we arrived friday evening and had a nice dinner with my mom at home, then watched a couple of old movies while preparing for the release of our new stone soup yarn and the adorable sky ladder shawl/blanket pattern. emails and texts flew back and forth between me, erica, and david right up to the witching hour of 12 am, when everything went live. then we fell into bed to get a little shut-eye before starting a new day on saturday.

the main reason we’ve been here is for david to set up my mom’s new computer and first thing saturday morning, he got to work, transferring everything from her old PC laptop to the iMac she got from a neighbor (we’re all relieved that she’s finally going to be on the same platform as the rest of us; so much easier to troubleshoot from afar).

while david worked away on that, i did some pattern corrections, wrote up a couple of new patterns, and cleared out most of my email boxes (though the ones requiring more serious consideration i left for next week).

it was super cold and windy all day, but i was determined to go for a run; we’ve had terribly wet and snowy weather at home that has kept me inside for too  long. i don’t care how cold it is, haha—i am sick and tired of the stationary bike.  it was nice to get outside and run in the neighborhoods nearby; i love seeing so many pine and birch trees in between the homes. and of course once i get running, the cold is not even an issue for me.

after that we went to my niece’s tennis match and i worked on one of my cowls for a couple of hours. this one i am naming sculling, because the stitch patten reminds me of rowing. i’m knitting this up in the burnt toast color of our breakfast blend fingering yarn—a kind of warm, toasty brown that i think will look great with blues, grays, and purple.

between spectator sports and the long ride today, it’s finally looking like something is happening here. the stitch pattern is very easy to memorize and keep track of, so it’s a good traveler.

my sister’s family came over for dinner last night after tennis and we got to have a nice visit with them. anika and arjun even brought cupcakes that they made; now that they are getting bigger, they are a lot of fun.

this morning i got up early and went for another run before we took off for north country, joined by my aunt helen and anika. we stopped off first at the cemetery so my mom could put palms on the graves, which anika has been asking about. we showed her all the family plots and she said, (i kid you not), “there sure are a lot of dead people around here!”

finally, we were on our way to lunch. we drove through troy, stillwater, schaghticoke, and into beautiful washington county, to our destination at mapleland farms. i love it up there; the old farms are so beautiful and the sight lines across the hills to the adirondacks in one direction and the vermont hills in the other are just spectacular.

when we arrived at mapleland farms, the sugar house was packed and the crowd was buzzing. we stood on line for a bit, but finally a table opened up and we got busy on some lunch.

which was AWESOME—the pancakes, cooked up fresh by two family members in the back were so tasty. on maple weekends, they cook a lot of them—it is all you can eat and one of the servers told us they cooked 291 plates yesterday alone.

i know we had plenty at our table—the pancakes are plate-sized, so i could only eat two, but some boys across the aisle managed to put away three platefuls. whoa.

the focal point of the sugar house is the evaporator, where the maple sap is cooked down. the sap house has been run by the campbell brothers since the 70s and their story is both charming and inspiring.

here’s a shot of david campbell preparing barrels for filling with finished syrup—the syrup used at the tables is drawn from these barrels for serving—you can’t get fresher or more yummy than that.

there’s mary jeanne, who runs the battenkill fiber mill, helping out at the checkout counter for the weekend. we grabbed a few maple sugar items to bring home while paying for our lunch—some sugar for baking and eating on oatmeal, some maple roasted nuts, and for the kids, some maple sugar cotton candy.

then we we were off for home. we had hoped to spend some time with mary jeanne today and maybe visit a couple of fiber farms in the area, but she was really busy, so that will have to wait for another time.

we rode home on a different route through saratoga, mechanicville, and clifton park; by late afternoon the clouds had cleared and the sun was warming everything up. we all got a little sleepy from eating our fill of sweet stuff, but that doesn’t hurt as a once in a while thing, does it?

now we’re all back in our respective homes, except for us—we head out tomorrow for ohio. and for this evening, i think i’ll leave you now to relax and knit the night away.