neck and neck

anne wrote this late at night:

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in between preparing for the pairings club and the fall/winter ensemble, we’ve had an exciting summer project going here at knitspot HQ—we’re producing a book of all-new lace scarf designs.

this project is actually several years in the making—i started working on a slightly different version in 2010, which was going to be part compendium of existing patterns with some new designs added and a lot of text.

but i had to put that project aside for sheer lack of manpower; david and i were still doing everything ourselves at the time. earlier this year i noticed a big trend toward the old lace scarf patterns in our sales and i thought it would be a good time to dust off that project and get moving on making it a reality.

i decided to forego the idea of compiling older pattern into the book and make it all new designs, keeping it to a number that was manageable for a fairly short production timeline.

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we are able to use some of the samples from the previous conception of this project; the designs that were new have still not been published. those are mostly knit in hand-dyed selections from artist collaborators i’ve worked with over the last decade.

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but in the years between, we have started producing our own yarns, so each design will now be represented in both hand-dyed version as well as one of our bare naked wools selections.

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a couple of designs will be interpreted in several shapes—such as this pair, which share a stitch pattern but are produced by different constructions.

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there were just a couple of designs that i wanted to see in varying formats; it’s not necessarily right for all the designs and i didn’t want to bring that level of pressure to the project.

the set of swatches above was knit for a series of three separate designs, all using the same stitch pattern, but in different types of yarn.

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this book is really about the spirit of the little nothings first and foremost—fun, simple constructions that are more or less an extended swatch, but also happen to be incredibly pretty. the design process is subject to my whims and interest at the moment; it’s very much off the cuff. some pieces beg me for more interpretation and some don’t.

we know from watching hundreds of knitters work with the existing patterns that they offer a lot of freedom to put one’s own stamp on the design or to expand it into an interesting variation.

and we also know that there are lots and LOTS of knitters who, at the end of the day, just want someone else to do the math so they can enjoy the knitting.

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the book will include general information about substituting yarns into the patterns, scarves into cowls or stoles, working with different fiber types, and blocking. to get you started, we’ll provide examples of how we changed the size of a sample or substituted yarn to create an alternate look.

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please excuse the fact that some of these samples still need to be blocked—i plan to have a couple of big blocking days in a week or two, shortly before we photograph everything so they all look freshly primped.

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as i mentioned earlier, the original project was put on the back burner due to lack of manpower for production. but back then as well as now, we had SO much support and help in one area and that was the test and sample knitting. thanks to our super-supportive ravelry mothership group, we’ve gathered a crack team of knitters who have produced the beautiful pieces you see here.

i want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for making this all-new set of samples possible. more about them individually in the book!

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for now, take a minute to go over and browse the little nothings knitting thread; you will be treated not only to additional photos of samples in progress, but to discussion about the yarns we’ve used.

and of course, they can’t do anything without a healthy injection of funny chit-chat, so i highly recommend it at the start of your day.

i myself got totally sucked in when my swatch for one of the designs took on a life of its own to become and actual sample.

one minute i was knitting a small triangular test piece and seemingly in the next moment i was casting off a scarf—how did that happen?

with all of the patterns done now and the sample knitting nearly complete, i am putting together the “general guidelines” pages. with three weekends of travel in a row and the next installment of the club to go out in two weeks, i’m a little nervous about finishing everything but hoping that the rest of the knitspot team can handle the photography and other details without me.

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and still trying to figure out how to shoehorn the new tencel blend into the script—hopefully we can!

are you excited? i think it’s going to be lots of fun going into the holidays to have a whole new collection, where you can share your projects and yarn choices and enjoy the company. because not everyone is a sweater knitter, right? and we are very very glad there are all kinds.

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so keep your eyes on the blog, our rav group, and our newsletter these next few weeks—we will share progress as things pull together. it won’t be long!

shimmery

anne wrote this in the early evening:

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i might have made a midnight run to the shop last night to dig around in the boxes that arrived yesterday from the mill—the ones that contained the test production batch of a new yarn we’ve been working on.

it’s not spun from silver, but it just might make people ask . . .

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and i might have rolled off an ounce or so right then and there to swatch with while we watched TV. you know, just to see how it knits up. it’s still damp in this photo; i soaked it this morning and laid it out to dry, but couldn’t wait to take some pictures.

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it was even better after drying—so slinky and shimmery, but it also has body. and do you see that stitch definition? sigh—yarn is completely fascinating isn’t it? you change one thing and it make an entirely new experience.

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i probably knit it more loosely than i should have for this particular fabric; i was trying to see if i could get the same gauge on the same needle as i do with the chebris lace or stone soup fingering yarns. i’ll need a smaller needle for that. but . . . wow, huh?

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it’s a merino/tencel/cotton blend and i think it’s going to be a new favorite once i get to know it better. the sheen comes from the tencel and cotton—they provide the glassy quality that magnifies the color of the merino. SO pretty; can’t wait to see it in pale brown.

we are aiming for a blend that has some of the same qualities as our ginny cotton blend, but without alpaca. and with a more slinky drape for really nice lace pieces. so actually, it’s pretty different, haha.

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i had hoped to make more progress this week on my dock and cabin cardigan; i’m working up the big back piece and when i actually spend time knitting on it, it grows steadily. i can knit at least one row of blocks while watching TV for an hour or two and  i can complete two rows over the course of a day, given the right circumstances (but when does that ever happen?).

loving the texture; it has the power keep me engrossed for hours (when i’m not managing garden produce or testing new yarn, haha).

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my dear old friend, stone soup fingering is such a winner for this fabric (and many others, IMHO). i’m knitting in the original in color pumice, which is nearly an exact match for the original yarn and color this sweater was designed with. i am really going to enjoy wearing this sweater when it’s done.

we have a date tonight, after i finish up in the kitchen.

another thing that waylaid my knitting progress this week was preparing for some upcoming classes that i’ll be teaching in september, at shall we knit? in waterloo and at the WEBS fall retreat in massachusetts.

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i knit up this trio of adorable mini shawls to test the patterns we’ll be using in class.

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the weekend after next i’ll be teaching an edmonia shawl class at shall we knit?, where we will work up this funny, swatch sized version. funny because the edgings are so disproportionate to the body when i shrank it down to a bite-sized piece. it’s so cute though, in a kind of goth way.

still spots left in the shawl class if you want to join us. i’m also teaching my yarn voyage class, which is nearly sold out.

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then at the WEBS retreat, i’ll be teaching the double happiness shawl and a blocking class. the retreat sold out long ago, so unfortunately that ship has sailed, but how cute it this mini in the ginny sport yarn (color georgia)?

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i’ve also knit one in chebris lace (color charbon), which has yet to receive its final dressing (because we will block it in class), but you can already tell how sparkly and light it will be when it’s stretched; just look at that gleam in its eyes—mohair is like that . . .

between now and then though, david and i are taking a trip to albany to visit with my mom and the rest of my family for a few days. we plan to relax a bit, see some movies hopefully, and on sunday we’ll be attending a big picnic with her extended family and enjoying lots of terrific italian food in the bargain.

naturally i am planning on foisting a great deal of garden produce off on her for the event (no worries, i’ll help her cook it all).

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our green beans have finally decided to start producing and i’m picking a pound or two every other day or so—a good amount; not so much that i’ll grow to hate them and not so little that searching the vines is a disappointment.

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(two different days’ take). i was worried that i wouldn’t be happy having grown a different variety this year, but i have to admit, these are delicious. and the perfume that wafts out when i open a bag of them from the fridge is simply amazing, like jasmine.

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tomatoes actually slowed down for a few days during some very hot weather over the weekend but have rallied back with a strong output yesterday and today.

so i am heading straight to my kitchen after i finish writing this to get to work. i need to get everything i have on the countertops (oh yes, there are many more in other places beyond the frame of this photo, haha) cooked and put in the freezer before we leave, except for a reasonable number that i’ll bring to my mom (i’ve got other vegetables to shower on her as well).

i didn’t forget that i promised a post about the upcoming lace scarf book and i’m working on that; i want to include some especially delicious teasers so you won’t be able to get it out of your mind, MWAH-ha-ha-ha! but you could always take a side trip to the test knitting thread in our ravelry mothership group and peek in on what’s developing.

now, time for me to tackle the mountain in my kitchen—see you next time.

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lacy days

Hannah Thiessen wrote this in the early morning:

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I will fully admit that my own relationship with lace is a bit shaky. It’s not a technical problem — I can follow the charts, make all the stitches, and read the directions. I know where to place my stitch markers and how to be careful with a double yarn over. Even the delicate weight of the yarn, the small needles and blocking aren’t my issue. So why, whenever I cast on a lace project, do I find myself hopelessly muddled, or plodding along happily only to find that my counts come out all wrong?

Some part of it for me is definitely related to patience. Primarily a sweater knitter, I tend to prefer large swathes of endless stockinette, broken up by interesting construction — the turn of a collar, the quick development of a sleeve in comparison. I like to be able to put on a movie and knit for an hour or two without thinking too hard. Lace doesn’t always allow you to do that. Lace patterns require more attention, a more intimate relationship with your project and materials. There’s something special about that. You gather up your pattern, your tools (highlighter, stitch markers, pencil, row counter.) You sit down and read through, then begin to follow the directions. It’s meditative, and absorbing, and at the end, your finished piece is a show-stopper. I can’t think of too many things that are potentially more rewarding than a beautiful piece of lace.

For some knitters, the frustration of lace is related to the materials — tiny needles and tiny yarn. If this is a common problem for you, give the same pattern a try with a more comfortable weight of yarn. Most lace patterns scale up easily (especially scarves, shawls, and stoles.) This makes another common challenge — wrong-side lace knitting — a little easier to tackle, too.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little lost when it comes to the concentration and attentiveness portion of lace knitting, and that’s okay. I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret “secret” — practice is key. Luckily, we’re not alone in needing practice, either, and the Ongoing Lace KAL in our Ravelry group might be just the place — and the pace — you need to get going on your next lace project. To make your selection simple, we’ve gathered up all of Anne’s amazing lace patterns into one bundle. Join us with your projects in this group and on Instagram, and tackle something new along with your sweater knitting this Fall. Even better, knit lace in it’s most beautiful format with some of our favorite lace yarns from Bare Naked Wools. The colors are beautiful, timeless, and it’s easy to follow a pattern in a natural neutral that doesn’t make your head hurt.

I’ll see you there!

fluff

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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well, i have lots of photos from the fiber festival that i think you’ll enjoy, so i’m going to hold off one more day on delving into the scarf project in favor of adorable animals and the like.

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saturday dawned dreary and ugly but i was excited to get to the fairgrounds and open up for the day! i love the sheep and wools shows because there is so much to see and do and so many different kinds of knitters and spinners about.

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sally was the first visitor of the day to our booth, which was smart because she wanted a sweater quantity of kent DK in mussel shell. sally just finished knitting herself an illas ciés pullover in ginny sport, but it was too warm to wear it that day.

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our friend cherie arrived right at 9 am to help us out for the day and once we were settled and in a groove, i took the opportunity to run over to the mohair show to see if i could find some fleeces for making our chebris and cabécou yarns.

just a couple of days earlier, carrie from our mill let me know that she was using the last of our silver fleeces that she had on hand (thank you everyone for your poivresel griscarbon, and dragée love!). i told her i could look and see if anything was available while i was at the show.

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i was fortunate to arrive just as the mohair fleece judging was getting underway; what a great opportunity. there i was with all the goat farmers in their rugged jeans and boots, wearing my little cream salt & pepper top and matching amalfi coast skirt, hee-hee—the picture of summer and just begging to be splattered by an ornery, four-footed passerby. but i didn’t, for once, end up a mess.

instead i learned an incredible amount about what makes a great fleece; the judge is particularly interested in colored fleeces, so we all got a real education on that alone. i was not very confident about being the purchaser that day—i know something about nice wool, but i am not an expert like our mill owners are and i was buying for them in this case; yikes!

my strategy usually consists of sticking to ribbon winners if i can—i figure you can’t go wrong with a winner, right?

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but after hearing the judge speak for an hour about fleece characteristics in minute detail, i was armed with knowledge. also, the director of the goat show took me under her wing and introduced me to the fine producer who snagged that there blue ribbon as well as several others.

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turns out they are overloaded with fleeces that they can’t seem to move; not only that, they know our other producer john and have purchased goats from him in the past—which means that at least some of their genetics are the same as what we already spin with (by now i was pinching myself to make sure i wasn’t dreaming and texting furiously back and forth with carrie).

you have to understand—we have at times spent days and weeks on the phone and internet searching for a supplier of colored fiber to tide us over til the next shearing. and here were eric and gabe with a whole herd of brown and silver goats. and they live just over the state line from us in western PA. what a coup!

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i think i saw gabe do an actual double take when i asked how much per pound if i bought all the colored fleeces he had in his stall, haha.

as it turned out, i decided to leave some of the fleeces with him until carrie and robbie could assess the five or six that i purchased—i prefer to let them decide what they like and to deal with the farm directly. that said, it looks like we are about to expand the range of warm brown tones in our mohair lines. YAY!

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friends, meet your (mohair) makers. yes, these are the very goats; just look at those locks . . .

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on the way out, i saw a family who had fleeces in the judging i just attended—aren’t they adorable. i am especially smitten with the little, little boy and his little, little goat—he can’t be more than five years old and i bet he’s even younger—they should win a prize just because they’re SO darn cute!

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can’t help it; i love the sheep too!

back in the booth, cherie and david were rocking it, chatting up knitters and being helpful in every way. the early afternoon was incredibly busy and were just hitting our stride when the fire marshall announced that tornadoes were touching down within a radius too close for comfort. everyone was asked to leave the building and head for the basement under the grandstands—yikes!

we were allowed to stay in our building but we all had to go into the bathrooms for safety. yes, ALL of us in the bathrooms. first it was for 15 minutes and then that stretched into 45 somehow. after that we were allowed to wander out into the main space again, but the giant overhead door of the building was kept closed to keep out the lashing torrents of rain. hoo boy.

that pretty much killed our afternoon; we sat and knitted and waited for the storm to pass and after about three hours, it did. by then though, most of the fairgoers had gone home . . . and soon it was time for us to do the same.

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sunday morning was clear and sunny; one good thing about the storm was that it left the world shiny and clean and about twenty degrees cooler. speaking of fresh breezes, cherie arrived wearing her costa figueira vest that she knit in stone soup fingering yarn (marble)—isn’t it great? she’s trying to decide whether to add the armhole trim or leave it off—i think this might be a good chance to have some fun and tell her what to do take votes to help her out. tell us in comments which way you think she should go.

sunday was really relaxed—foot traffic was a bit slower (i think a lot of people still dont’ know that this building is filled with booths to shop in). that said, it gave us a chance to walk around the show, visit with friends, and do a little shopping of our own.

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and i actually made some purchases, like these handmade cherry buttons from our friend mark at indian lake artisans; he makes them from scraps cut from his yarn bowls. these are only available in their show booth, so it’s a treat to be able to buy some and there were just enough of these for a sweater.

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across the way at kimmet croft fibers, i succumbed to a couple of skeins of unbelievably soft angora/merino blend in a pretty natural shade. janice also dyes some of her yarns and offers beautiful kits for the patterns published in “poems of color”. she’s a really sweet person and we enjoyed being neighbors all weekend.

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in my travels through the barns that afternoon i again fell victim to yarn—yes again! my friend chris at briar rose fibers had some lovely silk yarn which i just had to buy; isn’t it a wonderful color? it’ll make a beautiful gift or a shawlette for me. and i wanted to lick up something for my mom to knit with, as she SO enjoyed a recent project that she knit with briar rose abundance (i’ll show you that in a sec).

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after looking around a bit i decided on the sundance—a gorgeous fingering blend of luxury fibers (sorry i don’t see it on her site, so i can’t link it). the purple skein is for my mom and the dark, overdyed oddball skein is for me. it’s just so me; i couldn’t leave it there.

several years ago when my mom had a knee replacement surgery, chris sent her a large bundle of abundance to knit an hourglass throw during her recovery. unfortunately, the surgery and anesthesia really knocked her for a loop in terms of concentration and it was quite a while before she felt like knitting again.

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she also had a couple of WIPs to work on for grandchildren, so she put off starting to complete those projects. it was just this past spring that she finally cast on, but once she did, she knit that blanket really quickly. isn’t it pretty? when we go to visit her in a couple of weeks i’ll help her block it. she was concerned because it seems small, but a nice bath will fix that.

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oh, i sidetracked myself there for a minute, sorry! all good things must come to an end and before we knew it we were breaking down the booth and packing up to head home. it’s a little like taking down the christmas tree after a wonderful holiday season, but it has to be done.

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my tonic is to save a treat for the very end—the purchase of kettle corn to take home; i’m a secret addict. which is why you don’t see a photo . . . and can i just say? the michigan fiber festival has the best kettle corn i’ve tasted so far. not that i can be considered an expert by any means; i haven’t tried that many. but of the ones i’ve tried, this one is the best.

the trip home was good—no rain, no traffic, and just my honey by my side. late as it was when we got in, we unpacked the truck so as not to have to do it in the morning. it’s better that way.

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because i drove the first half, i didn’t get to knit in the truck, so i was determined to knit for a while before head to bed. i finished up the armhole section of my sweater front to the shoulder

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stopping just short of the shaped neckband. i had hoped to finish that up last night but ended up tackling a much bigger chore and didn’t get to knit at all.

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yes, monday morning came like a runaway train and i bet you can imagine what awaited me in the garden after a few days away.

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we had a lot of everything, even a good bowlful of green beans. seriously, this wasn’t even from looking very deep—although i did make sure to clear out as many tomatoes as i could find because i don’t like the smell when they rot.

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it took me over an hour just to wash and prep them all for cooking; this is a (not very good) panoramic photo of my kitchen when the last one was rinsed—as you can see, not much countertop space to spare!

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i set aside the romas and cherry tomatoes to develop a little more ripeness; these i will roast in a day or two.

last night i focused on cooking the ones that were cracked or developing soft spot; i cooked some on top of the stove and roasted some in the oven.

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by the end of the night i had another dozen cartons of puree for the freezer, plus a batch of juice (i’ve been freezing tomato juice; it’s SO good!).

i’ve still got a large number of more solid tomatoes that need to be cooked as well as the romas and cherries, but everything is under control for the moment. i would have liked to get to some of them today but i am also behind with my desk work so i buckled down to that all day instead.

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thank goodness there is knitting to look forward to—and that’s where i’m heading now. i’m in need of a comfy seat and some relaxation with my favorite sport.