get my goat

anne wrote this at around evening time:


when it comes to appearance and behavior, i think goats are my favorite fiber animal. i love their light, springy movements and delicate features; i’m amused by their funny faces, made all the more mischievous when topped by a glowing halo of curly fleece.


last spring we were lucky to be able to explore mohair fiber in our bare naked knitspot club. and while mohair yarns are plentiful throughout the knitting universe, undyed mohair yarn is scarce—and nonexistent in the quantities we required for our club.

as you know, all we need to hear is that something doesn’t exist and we set off to make it happen. and so it was with our quest to provide a quality mohair yarn that any knitter could love.


and so we began asking about mohair farms through friends and at shows; this research eventually led us to pinxterbloom farm in eastern pennsylvania, home to john and jeanne frett and their gorgeous flock of angora goats.

in addition to his angora goat enterprise, john  is a professor of landscape horticulture at the university of delaware and director of the university botanic garden.


at the peak of the season, john’s herd numbers between seventy and  eighty goats, with as many colored goats as he can breed (breeding for color in goats is not very straightforward; for more in-depth information on this topic, please my BNK 2014 eBook).


by diligent breeding, john has managed to develop a representation of about 25 to 30 percent colored fleeces; these range from reds (brown and fawn fleece) to black (gray and black fleece).


interestingly, the reds are darkest close to birth and grow lighter as they mature, often ending up with pinkish, creamy white fleeces.


during our visit to the farm in december 2013, we got to tour the barns and grounds to meet all the adorable residents. john talks about his goats as if they are people; it’s not always clear at first that the characters in his stories are animals.


john names each new generation after a plant genus; the first born is given the name of the genus (this year it is redbuds, so the first is named redbud) and then each subsequent kid is named for a species in that genus. in march of this year, when i wrote to inquire about kidding season and the availability of fiber, john wrote:

Kidding is finished for the year. Five colored buck kids, 4 brown and one black, and five doe kids, one brown and 4 white. They are off to a great start. This year all of the kids are named after redbuds an early flowering small tree native in this area. Some of the names are, Cercis, Racemosa, Silaquestrum, etc. They are a great source of amusement and inspiration; watching them leap around and dart in and out of the barn is energizing and soul lifting.


after a look around the place, we headed indoors to and down to john’s basement workshop, where fleeces are sorted and skirted to make them ready for sale. some will be sold to hand spinners at retail wool shows and the rest will be sold on the market for use in making textiles.


john runs us through the process of sorting, skirting, and measuring the staple length while determining the grade and weight of each fleece. whatever isn’t discarded in placed in a bag and marked with this data, as well as the name of the animal that produced it.


there was a good stock on hand the day we visited, with some fleeces left from the previous season and some still left to grade from the fall clip.


as the work progressed downstairs anne marie and i wandered upstairs to talk to jeanne, who showed us the beautiful rolags of hand-carded mohair fiber (she gets pick of the fleeces each year!) as well as some of the beautiful items that she and john make from their handgun mohair yarns. jeanne teaches classes in natural dyeing and uses her soft hues in colorwork projects such as mittens and hats.


jeanne does natural dyeing, handspring, and knitting; john is a weaver and has a big look on which he can produce blankets and other fabrics.


we left that day with about 225 pounds of fiber ranging in grade from kid to young adult and in all shades—white, red, steel gray, and black. we drove it straight to sweitzer’s mill for drop off, planning that the largest portion—150 pounds of white and tan fiber—would go into our club yarn, a 60/40 merino/mohair blend in a heavy lace weight.


the darker fiber—including 25 pounds of kid mohair—would be spun afterward into the first generation of our cabécou brillant sport yarn—in poivre (more about this lustrous blend later).


the club yarn—chebris lace—turned out lovely and as soon as i had sample skeins in the house i began work on the design we’d be shipping with it.

the 2-ply heavy lace yarn had a bouncy hand and while a bit bumpy in texture, offered great stitch definition. with such a generous yardage (750 yards per skein), i had plenty to knit a shawl project that could be a triangle or square, sturdy enough to be worn every day, but with a wonderful bold edging to show off some knitterly skills.  i kept the main portion of the project in simple garter stitch, which showcases so well the rustic qualities of the yarn but also lends balance and drape to the final fabric.


the mohair content helped the yarn block out to a beautifully consistent surface, with crisp points accented by a soft sheen. the result pieces were the deliciously soft and cuddly capricorn triangle and amalthea square.


the triangle is simple, soft, and warm, but also dramatic when you want it to be. it makes a special gift for a new mom—something to toss for those walks between bed and nursery, or when sitting nighttime vigil with a fussy infant.


and it works equally well for running errands out and about. the pattern includes several sizes so it can be tailored to any function or frame you like.


on the other hand, the square shape of amalthea is generous enough to perform all sorts of roles—baby square, sofa throw, nap blanket.


the garter fabric is sturdy and highly functional for these tasks while the grand edging gives it some fancy flare.

the patterns for capricorn and amalthea are now available for purchase in the knitspot pattern shop or in our ravelry pattern shop.


last summer we started working with a small mill in ohio and eventually they took over the production of our mohair yarns. with the new mill came the opportunity to spin a finer laceweight yarn, so we ran some tests with our luxurious cabécou blend.

this yarn turned out SO beautifully—i just love the fabric it makes.


hattie knit this stunning pine and ivy sample from just half a skein—isn’t it incredible?


the way it catches the light; it takes my breath away. the yarn is fine, but has plenty of grip so it’s a pleasure to knit. it will work with such favorite designs as the alhambra scarf, campanula, and nightingale wing stole.


and we also have it spun in the popular sport weight for more substantial wraps and sweaters


like this morning glory wrap, the gnarled oakwood wrap, obstacles, or stonewall.

more experimentation resulted in the expansion of our chebris line as well, with variations in sport and worsted weight.


the worsted weight is so light and poofy; perfect for featherweight blankets, oversized jackets, and soft, delicious caps.


it’s a knockout in cables—wow.


the sport weight makes excellent blankets, too. its lofty, bouncy hand—a direct result of using high quality fiber and handling it carefully—allows all of these yarns to be knit on larger needles than you’d expect. it almost seems as if the more room you give to each stitch, the more the yarn will bloom to fill that space. i love that!


well, i could run on and on, but i’m sure you’re tired of hearing me talk, haha. how about a few more photos to dream on over the weekend?





What could be better?

laura wrote this around lunchtime:

It’s not so secret that I really like the yarnz.  And I’ve been really lucky to work with some fantastic blends.  Yarn snob?  Yes.  And proud one at that.


Better Breakfast is very special to me.  I really don’t need to wax poetically about it to you guys; if you’re visiting the blog regularly, you see that all of Anne’s designs really do this yarn justice.  It caters to her aesthetic so beautifully, time and time again.  The alpaca gives your garment drape while the merino gives you added warmth.


We’ve recently added three new colors to the collection.  And like I said, why should I sit here and gush on and on when YOU can gush on and on at all the pretty YaRn PrOn photos!!



Better Breakfast - Waffle

NEW!  Better Breakfast – Waffle

Better Breakfast - Sugarfrost

Better Breakfast – Sugarfrost

Better Breakfast - Poppy Seed

NEW! Better Breakfast – Poppy Seed

Better Breakfast Hot Chocolate

Better Breakfast Hot Chocolate

Better Breakfast - Muesli

NEW! Better Breakfast – Muesli

Better Breakfast Warm Coals

Better Breakfast Warm Coals

Better Breakfast Milk and Honey

Better Breakfast Milk and Honey

Better Breakfast Daybreak

Better Breakfast Daybreak

Better Breakfast Biscotti

Better Breakfast Biscotti

Better Breakfast Americano

Better Breakfast Americano


And you know, because sometimes I scout The Ravelry, just to see what all of you guys are making.  (Because it not only helps to feed my own yarn cravings daily and dare I say, it curbs the addiction when I can’t get needles in my hand.) I found this gorgeous gem and had to share it.  The photography is beautiful!  It literally makes me want to stop blogging (Sorry, Anne… just being honest) and cast on a Love Me Two Times!!  (Shiny things, damn them.)  :)

*Note* – Did you know that the Love Me Two Times KAL is going on RIGHT NOW?  If not – well, now you do!  The folks over there are having so much fun and you’re more than welcome to join us!  The KAL will run through the end of June and if you finish in time, you’ll be entered for a chance to win prizes!




Speaking of KALs, The Mister’s is another KAL that Anne recently created.  This one doesn’t have any deadlines. It’s a laid-back, knit-at-your-own-pace KAL.  The pullover version would be wonderful for someone’s first attempt at knitting a sweater, and I definitely recommend for you to join the KAL if you’ve had a sweater in mind for quite some time.  The knitters in our forums are SO helpful and they are absolutely full of suggestions.  We’re so lucky to have all of your support!  Thanks to all of the Knitspot and BNW fans out there!  You truly are the best.


The Mister’s by Anne Hanson


Mz Knitspot looks so comfy in this boyfriend size sweater!




Happy Monday, guys!  Have a s’marvelous week!


lauren’s first fiber show

Lauren Friedman wrote this around lunchtime:

lauren wrote this in the afternoon:

My name is Lauren and I’m the new design assistant here at KnitSpot working on social media graphics, advertising and some photos. I have really enjoyed the last few weeks of working here, everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. I’m currently a junior at Kent State University studying Visual Communication Design.




My first fiber show was a great success! I had a ton of fun meeting everyone that stopped by our booth and learning more about yarn, fiber, knitting and patterns. As someone who has no knitting background, I was very interested to see how everything worked and how the fiber was actually put together. The first day we were at the show, it started out as pretty overwhelming considering there were so many people around, but as the day went on I warmed up to the atmosphere and really enjoyed getting to socialize with the customers. As a graphic designer, I spend a lot of time in front of a computer and sometimes miss out on connecting with our customers face to face – so this was a great chance to get to talk to everyone, listen to what projects that have going on and what they’re interested in. Another thing I loved about the show was walking around and seeing how everyone’s booths and what they sell compared to what we sell at BNW. I learned so much about the different types of yarn, the different weights and how it matters what type you use for each pattern.




Thanks to Laura and Erica for making the weekend a blast and teaching me more about knitting and fiber, I asked them a lot of questions through out the weekend and they were sure to answer everything!

This show definitely made me want to learn how to knit; I think it would be great to sit in on one of Anne’s open knit nights here at the shop to try to pick up on some things. I’m excited to go to shows in the future, especially once I get the hang of knitting, I’ll get to shop more!

seams like a good time

anne wrote this in the early morning:


(i just love the shadow of my funky little chair that appears in this photo!)

i finished knitting my triticum sweater pieces on tuesday night, but it was a little too late to get them blocked.


so up early on wednesday to steam the pieces and put them together; i had the iron fired up by 6:30 am.


it’s really important to block these sweater pieces before they go together so that the lace panels can be stretched and opened up fully. it’s ok if later, they pleat up again in the wash; they seem to hold their blocked shape pretty well (depending on the yarn choice).


you want to block that lace fabric so that it will drape in a nice sweep down the front of the garment and not just sit there in a crumpled fashion, you know?


this particular sample, knit in our stone soup fingering yarn (in the marble shade), is a good example of the fabric you are trying to get in this sweater. while it appears that i am stretching the pieces beyond a reasonable amount for a garment, it is by this method that i will achieve the light, airy, and open-grained fabric i want.


it really should be semi sheer when you hold it to the light. part of that is how loosely it is knit and part of it is achieved in the blocking process.

the samples i knit with better breakfast fingering (porridge) and spirit trail tayet (midnight rendezvous) relaxed and opened up much more easily, due to the fiber content and relaxed twist of those yarns.


stone soup fingering has a tighter twist and needs a little more coaxing to open up like that—one reason i like to knit it into a looser fabric on bigger needles than you would expect (in this case size 6).


once it’s soaked, it blooms and softens a lot and the openness is supported by the expanding fiber network within.


the final fabric has all the integrity of a heavier, firmer fabric with strong, even stitches and a smooth surface, but feels feels much lighter and more breathable—perfect for temperate weather, yet very durable.


(the same goes for shawls and lace accessories by the way; SSF is a workhorse yarn that is, at the same time, soft and delicate).


once my pieces were steam blocked to size, it was time to start assembling them into a garment.


the first thing that needs to be joined are the two lapel extensions that form the back collar; this requires grafting. i always enjoy the special little pattern that a center back graft creates—it’s a unique feature that will occur only once in a garment and whether it’s the back of a shawl or the collar of a sweater, i love planning how it will turn out.

do not allow the prospect of grafting to cause you anxiety or allow you to avoid this project altogether—i will be there to help you. just log in to my free craftsy class on grafting and take it step by step. you will feel so great about mastering another knitting technique (and your fears about it).


once the lapels are grafted together, the collar can be stitched to the back neck and the garment can be viewed on the dress form for the first time—so exciting!

from here, the sleeve caps are sewn into the armscyes and those seams are steamed and shaped (see this post for more detailed information and photos about seaming triticum or my craftsy finishing class for in-depth finishing instruction).

after that the underarm and side seams are stitched up and that’s it—triticum has no added button bands or neck finishes, so once the seams are sewn it’s done.


by wednesday evening the work was complete; i finished up the last of the seams at knit night. but it still needed a good bath and after a quick dinner with david, into the wash it went.

i let it sink into a big tub of hot sudsy water, which lifted all the remaining spinning oil and dust from the fiber. once freed of this film, the scales on the wooly fiber open up and bloom, allowing water to penetrate. it is this process that transforms a dull looking yarn into a soft, clean, springy thing of beauty, alive with light.


it really does look like carved and polished marble, doesn’t it?

after a good wash and rinse, i laid the clean garment out to dry. it’s been humid here this week so i was again very glad i had gotten it done by wednesday night—it would have a full two days to dry if needed.


this yarn has wonderful wicking action however, and by noon the next day it was completely dry. it actually dried faster than i was prepared for—i meant to go back when it was halfway there to stretch the lace a bit more before it was totally done.

no worries, i can steam that out this morning. normally i wouldn’t even fiddle with it much, but this sample will be going into the fashion show at TNNA tonight, so we want it to look its best.


my other incentive for getting all my work done before thursday is that my good friend and fellow designer, rosemary hill arrived yesterday for a pre-TNNA visit. we were able to have a really lovely day of knitting and talking about all things under the sun—from designer shop talk to yarn to trends in the industry to yarn to business and back to yarn (it is SO great to count one or two friends among colleagues that i can really talk to and share information with).

we will be traveling downstate in a few hours with erica B. to begin our weekend at the show; if you see me there, please stop and say hello.

laura and lauren will be storming the blog this weekend to bring you a couple of fun posts and i’ll be back next week to talk about new stuff.