A Constant Exploration

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, projects

BNK_package

Things are just a fury at headquarters and everyone is excited to ship the first installment of Bare Naked Knitspot 2014. The girls are busy making brown paper packages of a special yarn Anne has carefully selected to kickoff the club, while Anne puts the finishing touches on the ebook chapter (there are still memberships left. Signup here!).

I can never decide what is my favorite part about the club – the varying natural yarns, the designs, or the extensive chapters about the history of the fiber. And of course the design notes! It’s pretty special to get a glimpse into a designer’s world and see how the exclusive design came to fruition.

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You can print the chapters out and read them at your leisure, or enjoy browsing them on your tablet or computer. I love reading the digital chapters on my iPad. They’re beautifully laid out with breathtaking photos of the animals, farmers, mills, and handknits.

We constantly get comments through email, the blog, facebook, twitter, ravelry, instagram, about how much knitters enjoy the club. Whether they are new knitters or lifelong knitters, or something in between, they tell us they always learn something new from Bare Naked Knitspot. I think it’s pretty remarkable that Anne can create a club package every month that appeals to knitters of varying taste and skill level. It’s an extraordinary feat!

I was recently chatting with a few clubbies who are experienced knitters and their enthusiasm for the club was intoxicating. Michelle sparked me to start saving the comments when she said,

I’ve been knitting for 8+ years and I sign up for Knitspot clubs because Anne’s patterns are peerless.  She thinks of everything and makes sure her patterns are (virtually) error-free. They are also so fun to knit!  Anne’s taste in yarn is also impeccable. I have become more comfortable with new fibers and blends I never would have tried without her inspiration.

I wanted to capture the excitement of clubbies and share it with knitspotters, so I asked them to finish three sentences about the club.

As an experienced knitter, I continue to sign up for Knitspot clubs because

Anne’s patterns are always at the top of my list when it comes to knitting, and I don’t want to miss out on anything that she is doing!  I also enjoy our virtual clubhouse in the club [ravelry] groups. Everyone there is so amazing. Hattie

Anne always designs projects that expand my knitting skills and my knowledge of how fibers behave. Judi

in every shipment I am introduced to yarns that I rarely would have found on my own.  Many are from small regional mills, or even spun exclusively for the club. Anne Marie

there’s always something new to me, or a new twist on/new way of looking at something i already knew. Cherie

I know that I am guaranteed to learn something new each month when I download the new chapter. I wait until I am going to get some uninterrupted ‘me’ time and self-indulgently read and re-read Anne’s words. Helen

How long have you been knitting? What have you learned from BNK?
I’ve been actively knitting for about 10 years now, and I learned that I actually like natural/undyed fibers!  I was always drawn to bright colors and handpainted yarns but this club has really shown me that sometimes simple is best, and that there amazing blends out there that I should branch out and try! Hattie
I’ve been knitting for  40 years and i learned  about incredible yarns that I would never have had the opportunity to use. Judi

I‘ve been knitting since childhood and learned so much from BNK.  What I really love is learning about the different fibers and how each is suited to a different purpose. Then after obtaining all the knowledge from reading the chapter, you get to try the yarn out for yourself.  I think that’s why I keep coming back to the Bare Naked Knitspot clubs.  I’ve been in other clubs where you just receive yarn and a pattern, as a member of BNK you also receive an education. Anne Marie

I’ve been a knitter for over 40 years, but only recently have I come to think of myself as a “knitter.” A “knitter” knows how to knit, a “knitter” understands the process;the relationship between fiber and needle and stitch pattern. Reading the chapters and knitting with the various fibers has taught me about the process and relationships of knitting.  Cherie

I’ve been knitting for more than 40 years and I learned to appreciate the strengths of a whole variety of fibres that I had never even considered working with from BNK. Helen

A club based solely on the exploration of natural fibers appeals to me because…

it really puts the focus on the beauty of the pattern and yarn with no distractions.  And especially when they are Anne’s patterns, since she does a lot of great textures that really complement the natural yarns that are featured in the club. Hattie

it expands my knowledge of fibers. Anne does an amazing job of telling the story of each fiber and pairing it with the perfect design. Judi

more and more I am interested in where my purchases come from and how they are manufactured.  Anne’s chapters give so much information, from the history of the fiber, to the procurement and spinning process for the club yarn, to the best uses for this particular yarn, and finally to insight into Anne’s designs.  On top of that there are always several patterns from which to choose. Anne Marie

I used to knit with any yarn I bought at the store. Even though I have know-how to knit for many years, I am really a ‘newbie’ in the matter of natural fibers. I want to learn all that I can about this craft I love, and the ‘story’ of each month’s fibers helps me to do that. Cherie

I find it fascinating to really get to know how a particular fibre will behave and what is perfect for one pattern might be a disaster for another. I would never have started thinking about what fibres I choose for my knitting without this guidance. Helen

I’ve been reflecting on BNK as well. I learned to knit in 2006 and I never turned back. I was always hungry to learn new skills, tackle new projects and learn about fibers. I had been in a few clubs, but it wasn’t until Knitspot clubs that I felt I had an enlightening experience. There have been so many aha! moments. Being a clubbie, I feel as if Anne is holding my hand in the way she writes her patterns and through her words it’s as if she’s constantly saying, “you can do this!” And she’s right. I have become a better knitter through her clubs and I have made so many things I am proud of.

Before I left for England on January 12, I wanted to make my best friend something special. It kills us to live so far apart and I wanted to her to have something with love and happy thoughts worked into each stitch. Almost like a hug from abroad when she needed it. I labored over the selection of an accessory while rooting through my stash. And then it hit me! With my knowledge of how pattern and fiber worked together, I knew I could knit the April 2013  yarn with the March 2012 pattern of BNK.

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Sky Cap knit up beautifully in Bijou Bliss. And with some troubleshooting with gauge and size, I knit the size 2 Toddler, because I knew she would like less slouch in a hat. I was pretty proud when all my calculations worked out and I could admire it blocking before I left.

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M was so moved by my gesture and she graciously agreed to a photo shoot when we were at Royden Park with our babies.

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She put a cute outfit together, complete with Hunter boots. I just love that British girl!

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A big thanks to Anne Hanson. I couldn’t have done this without you my dear friend!

There are a limited number of BNK 2014 club memberships left. Won’t you join us?

Super secret packages of artisan fibers begin shipping in just a few days. Signup here so you don’t miss your exploration of the natural world…

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sugarfrost

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in patterns

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do you know what time it is?

time for a shot of bright, spring color, that’s what! i woke up this morning and decided we needed one around here, so before i run off to catch my plane, i’m releasing this pretty lace little nothing; it’s time.

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especially if you are, like many midwesterners this week, sequestered to the house until the frozen world outside thaws a little. here’s one last little sweet thing to celebrate selfish knitting month.

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what better way to warm up than to put a gorgeously bright color in your hands and dream on the warm spring days when you will be wearing it.

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this pretty scarf, infinity scarf, or stole in lace weight yarn will fill your winter evenings with light—it’s a great ravellenics project too; probably the perfect size for most intermediate knitters

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and just the right amount of challenge. join our team; we’d LOVE to have you with us! if you’ve never tried a project with nupps before, this is the perfect way to start—just a few and you can knit your first ones in the company of our awesome ravelry group, either for the olympics or with the ongoing KAL.

or say you have never attempted a provisional caston before—you could try it on the infinity version of this scarf and our group will have your back! then when it’s time to graft the scarf to form a loop, you can work through it step by step using my FREE craftsy class on grafting.

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the pattern includes instructions for a flat or infinity scarf, plus the stole. you can knit it with straight edges (right) or with a pretty point ell edging (left).

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(sigh; erica and emily look simply stunning in these photos, don’t they? this was their first time modeling for us and they totally rocked it. we had so much fun.)

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shown above, the stole with pointelle edging in miss babs alpacaita, colorway winter rose

shown below, the infinity scarf with straight edges in the same yarn and colorway

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the pattern includes instructions for three sizes and two edging variations

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

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sugar frost is also included in the FIFC 2012 eBook collection—14 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).

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another fun thing to do—click here and here to view the project pages for sugarfrost. see more examples knit by club members and photographed on a variety of people and in alternate yarns. or better yet, join us in our swingin’ FIFC clubhouse or knitspot mothership for a KAL!

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speaking of club knits, we put heart and soul into creating wonderful packages with which to surprise our members each month. signups are underway for the soon-to-begin-shipping 2014 bare naked knitspot club—a celebration of the under-discovered side of the fiber world in all its natural, undyed glory.

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we scour the globe to find interesting yarns and the fiber story behind them, beautifully photographed and fully researched. each yarn selection is paired with a design that shows its character off to best advantage and sometimes we throw in a cool goodie for fun.

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our partners are all small business owners who care deeply about their role in putting farm fresh fiber products into knitters hands.

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all of this delivered right to your door, six times per year—what could be better? if that sounds fun to you, come join the flock!

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coldmaggedon

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in designing, projects, yarn and dyeing

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it finally stopped—today is the first day since last thursday that we haven’t had any snowfall. of course, it’s probably too cold to snow now, haha. but this past weekend? it was a shovel-fest. poor david.

sigh; i was supposed to be on a plane to san diego right now but for some mysterious reason, my flight was cancelled. it must be due to snow and bad weather somewhere else because here, it couldn’t be a more beautiful day. cold yeah, but not the craziest cold i’ve ever seen and not like in some places (although i just checked and it’s colder here than in maine, new hampshire, northern new york, montreal, toronto, and alaska (where it’s 33 degrees and raining; how crazy is that??).
that’s pretty cold, and not like our usual at all.

fortunately we have heat and knitting.

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i washed my new waffle creams hat, which i knit in stone soup DK and it turned out a treat—so soft and cuddly and it fits perfectly, too. just in time to put it through its paces; i love the slate shade, which is the darkest color we have so far. since i’m home today after all, i will wear it out this evening when i go to yoga class; i’m going to try to get the pattern written up, too.

here are a few shots of it on my head; i don’t carry it off as well as sarah would, but i’m still keeping it, haha. she can knit one of her own (ok, that’s NOT gonna happen, but maybe her mom will do it).

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while i’m on the road, i’m going to knit a second one in the marble shade to test the pattern in an alternate size; we had this partial skein all wound up in our leftovers bag and having a second hat for the gifting box will be one step along the path to next christmas, right? i think there is even enough in that ball to knit david’s size—the hat is surprisingly light and takes less yarn than i thought, about 150 yards for my size.

i guess my out-of-proportion excitement over a dumb hat tells you something about the kind of winter we’re having around here.

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but soon, soon, i will be in another mindset entirely. since i was supposed to take off this morning, i am completely packed, even my knitting.  i have lots of secret knitting to do, but some public projects as well. in fact, traveling to a kim’s is a good reason to resurrect some projects that have been languishing.

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like my arts & anne sweater in sea pearl—i am almost ashamed that i haven’t finished it up. you are probably sick and tired of my promises that i AM finishing it. it’s not as if i’ve been spending the time instead eating bon-bins and watching telly, but i actually do WANT this sweater to wear, so i’m going to try like crazy to it done on this trip.

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here’s another project that i really need to get going on. when we had a test batch of our december club yarn—festivus—spun up, everything about it was great except that the mill made the incorrect yarn weight. so we have about 80 generous skeins of this wonderful fingering yarn. it’s the perfect thing for a squishy, soft valentine’s day scarf. i started swatching eons ago and there it lays, half swatched.

time to get that puppy out of bed and running around the yard, you know? it would be a really fun limited edition kit. the yarn is a bit of an adventure; this mill doesn’t do skein washing, so the yarn undergoes quite a transformation when it’s washed. i like it unwashed for knitting because it’s smoother and easier to cable with. but then later, i love how it puffs and become airy-light; perfect for a warm layer around my neck (and yes, there will likely be a matching cowl or infinity version).

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i’m also bringing along my op-art cowl, which i’m knitting up in worsted weight spirit trail verdande. it’s coming along just as i imagined; i can’t wait to get it off the needles to show you. this is the wild blueberry colorway; it’s actually darker in person with just highlights of that bright blue, which are so pretty against the deeper midnight color.

i have the same color in both sunna and bite as well, but on this trip, i’m going to bring the vavavoom color to cast on a pair of armwarmers.

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it’s always nice to have at least one project going in a bright color for knitting at night or when the light is low. i should actually cast these on before i head out tomorrow so if i want to knit them on the plane, i can.

i am SO excited to see kim and to feel the sun. i wanted david to come along but he begged off this time; he probably wants us to have some girl time. alright then, the next time i see you will be on the other side; stay warm!

the difference a day makes

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, food and garden, projects

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yesterday morning we woke up to a nearly identical view of the the previous day’s sunrise—gorgeous orangey blue streaked sky with the sun trying to peep through. as nancy and i chatted over coffee though, a peachy veil gradually screened out the sun, turning in just a short while to a gray, fuzzy mantle, the fingers of which began to creep toward us through the streets and between the buildings.

is that fog i asked?? then i realized—it was the snow they’d predicted to begin at noon. and i’m not kidding when i say that it literally crawled its way across brooklyn from the east to invade every nook and cranny the city had to offer.

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it was a fine, icy powder blown sideways by the wind and yet by 10 am, enough had collected to coat rooftops, standing cars, and sidewalks.

nancy and i had a special lunch date with cathy and agnes at nobu, so nothing was going to keep us indoors—neither of us had ever been there and we were excited to go. so we worked for a few hours in the early morning and then pulled on our boots to brave the weather. just then, i got a text that my flight the next morning was already cancelled. i quickly rescheduled (thank goodness we were still indoors!) and out the door we went.

this is where NYC really has the advantage; no matter what the weather, you can travel underground by subway to get wherever you want to go—and quickly. the subway hardly ever shuts down; it’s truly the eight wonder.

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we arrived at nobu just at noon and were immediately transported from the outside hustle bustle to a serene interior—hushed, but not too much so. it still felt very relaxed, cordial, and welcoming; the staff couldn’t have been more naturally nice.

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i love the design inside, using all natural materials but not trying to recreate the outdoors exactly; more like what i’d see in a dream about the outdoors.

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don’t cathy and nancy look stunning? and they are just this beautiful, inside and out. we were soon joined by agnes who missed getting in the photo, unfortunately.


soon the parade of food began and we were treated to one vision after another of tasty dishes which arrived at our table as beautifully arranged presentations (that sashimi was particularly gorgeous and delectable; i could eat that all day, i’m not kidding).

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outside our window, the snow just piled up and pedestrian traffic thinned to a trickle. i began to rethink the afternoon i’d planned, moseying around downtown to poke around in some galleries and maybe a shop or two (we were dangerously close to century 21).

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and at the end, the kitchen sent a lovely trio of desserts, which of course brought our friend kimkimkim to mind, knowing how much she’d approve.

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this dish of bananas sautéed in some sort of whiskey sauce with toasted pecans and ice cream?? stop it.

oh what a meal—seriously, i enjoyed every morsel. i could eat this kind of food every day.

soon we realized that we all better get moving if we were going to get to our respective destinations. once outside, it was clear that the snow was getting more serious; i decided to forego my afternoon out and head back to brooklyn to knit a hat and watch the snow fly from nancy’s cozy sofa.

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one of the project i’d packed for this trip was the waffle creams hat i started with such great enthusiasm during the polar vortex, only to be sidelined when nan and the boys went home and my january chapter deadline drew near (hey, this is what happens; what can i do?).

well, what i can do, since everything is on the needles and set to go, is pack these sorts of projects in my travel bag and get on top of them during my trips. which is exactly what i did. while nancy was gone, i made myself at home on the sofa facing out the glass wall to watch the snow, played my current audiobook on my phone (i’m working my way through the series),  and settled in with my snuggly hat project.

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here is the last photo i was able to take before it got dark. the snow was so fine and the wind blew it about so, that even i was fooled—it didn’t look like much. but you can see at the top of that dark red building on the right, it is piling up pretty high against the fence.

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for the next four or so hours it was full steam ahead on this hat. i’m knitting with our stone soup DK in the slate shade; we had a large ball of it in the leftovers bag that i grabbed and it was plenty to make this generous slouchy cap, so i think it’s safe to say that nearly any size can be knit from a full skein. i got almost all the way through it before my eyes started to close and finally had to put it down just before closing the top.

before climbing into bed, i also noticed that the snow had stopped, seemingly mid-gale. one minute it was blowing around to beat the band and the next, the sky was clear. amazing.

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at 7 am this morning the sky was streaked with soft blue and white and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. everything was stillness and light, so pretty. we heard that over a foot fell in central park and a bit more in the surrounding areas.

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i finished off my hat over coffee this morning, mmm. the fabric has a wonderfully touchable surface with the feeling of soft felt. and it’s not even washed yet; i know it will be even more cozy once it’s had a hot soapy bath.

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for all its softness though, the stitch definition is terrific; again, it will improve once it’s had a bath and the stitches find their final resting position within the fabric.

the design is based on my waffle creams socks, a combination of patterns that i’ve always had an affinity for—they exude a warm, “grandpa” feeling that i can’t resist (and which i take at face value will refrain from analyzing too deeply, haha).

in fact, the sock design comes from the memory of an actual “grandpa” sweater i used to own, which i found in a thrift store during the 1980s. i loved that thing dearly, but i lost it while traveling one christmas, to my great distress. one of the designs on my long to-do list is to replicate that sweater and now i have the perfect yarn with which to do it.

for part of last evening i also worked on my other current public knitting project (i have a couple of secret ones going, too).

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a new, squishy cowl i’m knitting with spirit trail verdande in colorway wild blueberry. i actually have some of each weight of this yarn base—the verdande worsted, the birte DK, and the sunna fingering, to knit a series of accessories.

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i’m using a combination of stitch pattern and yarn weight to play around with changes in scale—kind of like op art painting. it’s a long story, but i’ve always been fascinated with that genre, even though i never attempted to use that style in my own painting endeavors.

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this series of yarn has a beautiful sheen from the silk content and the twist, which leans toward a firm structure. i also have some in the vavavoom colorway; karolyn will be test knitting some of these new pieces with that color along with me. right now, i’m thinking about arm warmers, cowl, and a couple of other, multi use items.

and they will coordinate really well with my existing lacunae design for fingerless mitts and hat (my favorite, most-worn mitts). i’m excited.

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and just look at this beautiful sky now—who would even guess at the craziness that was yesterday if we didn’t have twelve inches of snow to prove it?

and with that, i must close—time to organize my suitcase, grab a shower, and maybe a quick walk before i head to the airport.

hehe, i just looked at the forecast for home; i’ll give you three guesses what we’re going to get later today in ohio, but i bet you’ll only need one . . .